TableTennista: when and how did you begin to play table tennis?
Adam Bobrow: "I grew up playing baseball, basketball and soccer. By the age of 7, I was playing table tennis on the driveway with my dad in between other sports just for fun. He had a very unconventional style (I still have never seen anybody play the same way he did… and probably for a good reason, it’s not especially effective). Anyway, he was the best player I had ever seen and it was a ton of fun to play with him. My whole family played for fun actually and my younger brother played tournaments for a few years.
Well, one day when I was 13 years old, I was playing with my 9-year-old brother but using a TENNIS ball and my dad said “Adam, don’t do that. You’re going to break the paddle.” I said “Yeah right, dad! Watch THIS!” and proceeded to hit the ball as hard as I could and CRACK! The racket was broken. I was embarrassed for being wrong and for blatantly disobeying my dad. I sheepishly said “sorry, dad. I’ll go buy a new one.”
Since I was so disrespectful to my dad, I felt like I had to buy the most expensive one in the store, so I did. I came home with a brand new $13 racket. When my dad saw it, he told me “oh! This one is nice.” I explained how I felt really bad and that’s why I got the nice one and he told me “this is much nicer than the one you broke. How about this: it will be part of the family collection, but you will get priority when it comes to this paddle?” I excitedly accepted his offer and asked “what makes this one better?” And that’s when he showed me how to spin the ball; topspin and under spin from forehand and backhand. That really opened my eyes to a whole bunch of possibilities that I hadn’t considered before and suddenly table tennis became quite interesting.
The next year I got my first tournament quality racket and while it was difficult to control at first, I was addicted to trying to play with it and just wanted to play more and more. I tried out for a team at 14 years old and didn’t make the team which really motivated me to practice harder and play more. I tried out again the next year at 15 years old, made the team, started working with a coach, got some medals at a competition and never stopped loving the sport."
TableTennista: How did you begin to be invited to play in tournaments?
Adam Bobrow: "Initially, my dad, who was an athlete, looked for opportunities for me to compete and so I got into the Los Angeles tournament scene (which is actually VERY active). It wasn’t until after I released a video being silly called Excessive Ping Pong Celebration that people started inviting me to tournaments, and hiring me to come to different parts of the world to play in their tournaments."
TableTennista: How or why did Gangnam Style's celebration begin?
A.B.: "Well, I was sponsored to compete in Vietnam that year and I once saw a picture of one of MANY beautiful places in the Philippines (Coron, Palawan) I decided that I needed to see it with my own eyes. As usual, I tried to connect with people who shared my passion, and met many table tennis people.
It turns out, they saw my video Excessive Ping Pong Celebration and wanted me to do it again live for them the next time when they brought me back to the Philippines. I thought, “well, that’s already been done now… I should do something slightly different…. What’s popular now??? OH!!! EVERYONE knows Gangnam Style!” So I decided I would do that and they had a Filipino TV news channel there recording during a special exhibition match. It was during a best of 3 match (first player to win 2 games) and we were already on game 3 and I wanted to do the dance on a point that was especially spectacular and had JUST MISSED a PERFECT opportunity.
I was really kicking myself and thought I would never get a better chance to do a celebration and that the audience and the TV station would be really disappointed… but Peter Francisco, who is a better player than me and an EXCELLENT showman, set me up as I was trying to circle the table with my backhand and I realized I had no chance and as I was getting near the umpire just decided to swat at the ball. Luckily for me it made it and it was that feeling of “it’s NOW or NEVER!” so I dropped by racket and the celebration was on. The crowd made it REALLY easy too as they were super supportive and seemed to be into it. The people in the Philippines are so warm, fun and friendly. They really know how to have a good time. 8>)"
Gangnam Style's Dance Video kindly shared by Adam Bobrow
Excessive Ping Pong Video kindly shared by Adam Bobrow
TableTennista: In tournaments, you don't dress like the rest of the players, you have an unique style. Can you tell us more about it?
A.B.: "Sure. Same in my daily life! 8>) I guess I think of clothing as an extension of one’s personality. Before we meet someone, we see them, the way they move and interact with people, the way they dress and we form an opinion (which of course can change and often does as we interact and get to know the person we once just evaluated from a distance). For me, I can’t claim to know much for sure (if anything). That being said, I would like to have as few regrets as possible in my life. It would be sad to be old and look back and say “I wish I had done **** when I had the chance.” So I try to make every day a fun, exciting experience.
I really love to stimulate the senses. See amazing sights, hear beautiful and exciting sounds, taste delicious foods and smell wonderful smells… and for me, I feel like a colorful person. I feel like bright and vibrant colors inspire good energy, positive thoughts and just make me happy to see… so why wouldn’t I bring that for others as well. It’s simply more fun… and honestly, maybe it will inspire others to go for it as well and have more fun with their clothing. Why not? I think some people might be afraid to look different or “silly”… but I think I can think of many worse ways to appear than “silly.” Basically, I dress how I like and how I feel and like everything, some people like it and some don’t.
The “Sexy Santa Shorts” specifically, well, in Los Angeles, I would see players from all around the world and a few guys had boxer shorts (underwear) that would stick out of their table tennis shorts. That made me think, “if their UNDERwear is longer than their OUTERwear… why not just play in your UNDERwear????” So before the US National Championships, I was in a Ross (bargain clothing store) and in the underwear section I saw a pair of velvet Santa boxers. They were REALLY soft and comfy and had some flair. And since the nationals were in December, it was the Santa time of year… so it seemed perfect. I ended up having the best win of my career in those shorts and while I am not superstitious, I simply thought “these ‘Sexy Santa shorts’ are TOO much fun. Why can’t I play in them during the WHOLE YEAR?!?!” So they became my regular TT shorts. Super light, super comfy and super fun… EVERY time. 8>)"
TableTennista: How did your life change after becoming ITTF commentator? Can you tell us about your experience traveling around the world?
A.B.: "Wow. Well, I guess it has changed in MANY ways. I got the travel bug (desire to travel) after my first time leaving North America. I went to India for 2.5 weeks and really connected with other people and was reminded that we really have so much in common with people on the other side of the planet. I think I realized that the world was not the way it appeared on the news or on TV and I just wanted to travel more. But as we know, traveling is not especially cheap so I was always trying to find ways to save money and to travel cheaply or use any skills that I had to cover my expenses. But EVEN IF I could get someone to cover my flights all expenses from hotel to food, etc., I would still be missing work and would have bills to pay. I thought it would be cool to find a job where I could get PAID to travel so I wasn’t missing work and could travel all around the world.
Becoming a commentator made that a reality for me. It has given me a chance to see many parts of the world, to explore and meet new and amazing people from all over… and I will say, in my experiences, there ARE amazing people ALL OVER. I am not saying there are no problems in the world, clearly, there are many, BUT, if a person experiences the world from watching the “news” I think they would be scared to travel and would miss out on some PRICELESS experiences. If people traveled more they would realize that people they thought were enemies, might actually make great friends. If I had a wife, kids or a girlfriend back home, it might be tough to be away from my home so much… but with my current situation, it works out quite well.
Being the ITTF commentator has also helped me see SO many elements of the sport that I wasn’t exposed to before. Seeing how hard the players work and what they sacrifice… seeing how INSANELY STRONG some of the players are between 150 and 300 in the world and how hard they have to work to break into the top 100, to seeing the details of their practice, physical conditioning, diet, focus, therapy and the uncertainty of not knowing if they will necessarily make the team this time around… it might be too much for many to handle, but these athletes manage to keep at it and continue pursuing their dreams.
It has also given me to the chance to befriend and get to know many of the players. I remember thinking just months before I got notice that I had won “The Voice of Table Tennis” competition, that it would be such a dream to meet the Chinese national team and my favorite players. Part of me thought that they were worlds away and that seemed pretty unlikely, and parts of me thought that anything is possible, I can make it happen, I just have to go for it, be solution-oriented and not give up.
Now, seeing the top players regularly reminds me that people are people. Whether you’re Ma Long, Waldner, Kobe Bryant, Britney Spears or any other celebrity… these are just people who work in a public profession and at the end of the day, have the same desires and fears as the rest of us when you break it down.
Also, commentating has given me the opportunity to grow in terms of learning to “pick my battles.” I think in any public profession, people encounter “haters.” While that is one of the few drawbacks and not especially fun, it has taught me to be wise about whom I choose to respond to and what conversations to stay out of. For the most part, I have met lots of really friendly and supportive people and it’s been a great experience.
In the traveling department, I have DEFINITELY had some wild adventures and crazy experiences… and I try to share the stories that I think people would enjoy the most on my facebook page. (Adam Bobrow's facebook page) I also try to post where I am going so I can meet people, play more table tennis and have good company while exploring."
TableTennista: For what we see on your facebook account, you are a friendly and easy-going person. You always have funny or interesting anecdotes about meeting new people. Can you tell us how is your way of seeing and enjoying life?
A.B.: "Awwww. Thanks! I definitely like making friends and meeting new people. I find that life is more fun and tends to work out better when I’m friendly, so it’s sort of my default mode. Funny things definitely happen in my life. Easy going? I could certainly be more easy going, but I am trying to not sweat the small stuff. While it might not appear this way, I think A LOT and sometimes, maybe too much. So it’s easy to get caught up in things from time to time, but I try to regularly remind myself of all that there is to be thankful for and I try to do what I want as much as possible and share with others and it just seems to make life more enriching.
I think I enjoy the absurd a bit. I love comedy and see comedy all around me. Sometimes, just noticing funny things and bringing attention to it, shining a spotlight on it can bring joy and laughter to many.
I am a very curious person and while in some areas of my life, I am in a position of authority or responsibility, I still feel like a child inside… and try not to bury that. I think my imagination is quite active and that inspires me and keeps things exciting. I believe in self-expression and respect. I try to keep an open mind and think there is a TON to learn in this lifetime.
I think humor and fun are two ingredients that should be present in almost everything. I try to make my life interesting for me by spicing up conversations, trying new things and asking myself “what am I waiting for?” or “why wait?” to motivate myself to go for things more and more. I think looking both ways before crossing the street makes sense usually, but most hesitation is based on fear and I am constantly reminded that our time is finite and precious… so I better make the most of it. My way of seeing life…???? …well, that’s a start. People don’t have to live their lives the way I do, but right now, it’s working fine for me. :)
I hope people took a bathroom break and remembered to feed their pets, kids and themselves somewhere in the middle of this … but Table Tennista, I wanted to say thank you for reaching out to me and as a subscriber, I want to thank you for promoting the sport and bringing interesting and insightful content to the world. :) "
TableTennista: Thank so much, Adam for accepting the interview and share you amazing and emotional histories with all TT fans.