By Haley Gregg, ANAD DCFASeptember 30, 2010
ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. Aca,!" The depotAca,!a,,cs North East Alabama Table Tennis Club played host to two pros of the sport when New Yorkers Robert Roberts and Will Shortz came to town Sept. 14 after finding the depotAca,!a,,cs club on the USA Table Tennis Web site.
The two cohorts were on an eight-day table tennis road trip through the South during which they stopped at various clubs to play, mingle and research. This was the 110th club Shortz, a business man and the editor of crossword puzzles for The New York Times, has visited throughout his table tennis career.
Aca,!A"This was great exposure for the Army and for the table tennis club at the depot,Aca,!A? said Mike Harris, depot employee and officer of the North East Alabama Table Tennis Club.
Shortz and Roberts currently live in the same town of Pleasantville, N.Y., and are members of the Rivertowns Table Tennis Club. Roberts was born in Barbados and represented his native country in table tennis at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Shortz recently purchased a building in Pleasantville that will soon be the headquarters for the new Westchester Table Tennis Club. It will have 18 tables, making it the largest club in the northeast. This endeavor is one reason, other than just having fun, for the table tennis tour.
Aca,!A"We are looking and comparing other clubs to see how they do things like lighting and flooring,Aca,!A? said Shortz.
Roberts will be the manager of the Westchester Table Tennis Club.
Table tennis has grown in popularity over the past decade in the United States. Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon opened up Spin in New York City last year. Spin is an upscale table tennis club where patrons can play, enjoy dinner and have a drink at the bar. After the success of the NYC club, two more have opened in Milwaukee, Wis., and Hollywood, Calif.
Aca,!A"I love the game because itAca,!a,,cs fast pace, love the strategy, exercise and I always feel like IAca,!a,,cm stretching myself,Aca,!A? said Shortz, the only person in the world to hold a degree in enigmatology, the study of puzzles, which he attained from Indiana University. Aca,!A"ItAca,!a,,cs good for both men and women, young and old year around. Also, I love the social aspect of the game.Aca,!A?
His unique profession has presented him the opportunity to meet numerous celebrities and appear on talk shows like Aca,!A"Oprah,Aca,!A? Aca,!A"Martha Stewart Living,Aca,!A? Aca,!A"The Late Show with David LettermanAca,!A? and Aca,!A"Late Night with Conan OAca,!a,,cBrien.Aca,!A? He also showcased his acting ability by playing himself in the popular TV shows Aca,!A"How I Met Your MotherAca,!A? and Aca,!A"The Simpsons.Aca,!A? In 2009, award-winning actress Sandra Bullock visited Shortz at his home to research her role in the movie Aca,!A"All About Steve,Aca,!A? in which her character makes a living by designing crossword puzzles.
After showing their skills and dominating several table tennis matches at the depot, the two men planned to stop off at clubs in South Carolina and North Carolina before heading home.
If you are interested in joining the North East Alabama Table Tennis Club, contact Mike Harris at 256-240-3671. The club meets each Tuesday from 5Aca,!" 9 p.m. for open play at the depotAca,!a,,cs Physical Fitness Center, Bldg. 206.