I was watching a little bit of the Olympic table tennis competition the other night and, naturally, it reminded me of prison.
I should probably explain that, huh?
Well, once I got out of Sheriff Joe’s Gulag and was transferred to the state prison at Florence, conditions improved in just about every way imaginable. Oh, it still wasn’t like an extended stay at the Four Seasons, which is what some people who don’t love mercy suggest whenever someone brings up poor living conditions in jail/prison.
Well, one of the little things they had there at Florence West prison was a ping-pong (or table tennis, if you prefer) table. These sorts of things were provided for inmates in order to break the monotony of beating each other up. So I played a lot of ping-pong.
Now, back at Itawamba Community College, I was sort of a ping-pong whiz. I wasn’t the best player on campus, but I was in the top five, for sure. But after I left Itawamba, I didn’t play ping-pong again and it’s funny how much your skills can diminish over a quarter-century of inactivity.
So when I first took up the paddle, I wasn’t much competition.
But the rust began to wear off. I was routinely beating my friends. I generally played people I was on good terms with, mainly as a safety precaution. You never know how a convict is going to react to getting skunked, after all.
After a couple of weeks, I was a dominant player. I even began to talk it around that we should put together some sort of ping-pong tournament.
Then one day I walked into the room where the table was located and saw two of Sheriff Joe’s most favorite people in the world - illegal aliens who had been sent to Florence.
Have you watched those Chinese players in the Olympics? Well, that’s pretty close to what I saw while watching these two inmates play. They were simply crushing shots and, more surprisingly, the ball kept coming back over the net somehow.
It was then I realized that if there was a tournament at Florence West, I’d be competing for the bronze - at best.
But isn’t that how it goes in life? Sometimes you fancy yourself pretty good at something, based on what turns out to be pretty limited information.
Poetry is a good example of this. So is singing.
I know a lot of people who sing well. In fact, I have an old high school friend, Jan Grissom, who became one of the world’s top sopranos. Unfortunately, I’ve not had the opportunity to hear Jan sing.
But I’ve heard some people who I thought were pretty good. I am thinking primarily of some people I’ve heard singing at church.
But there is a different level. I realized this when the contemporary Christian group Avalon came to sing at the church I attended. I was simply amazed.
Yes, there is a whole ‘nother level when it comes to singing.
It’s like that with ping-pong, too.