Should Long Pimples Be Banned?

So im going to start with a disclaimer to this article. This article is not meant to offend anyone this is just my personal opinion.

Iv been playing for nearly 20 years and iv played against a multitude of styles and equipment and I can tell you the players I least look forward to playing are playing with long pimples both sides. Long pimples both sides is just a horrible horrible game to play regardless of who’s using them.

I have a good record against players who use pimples, there are only a couple of people nationally that I lose to with long pimples and they only use them one side so this isnt coming from a sore loser point of view this is coming from a “for the good of the game” and an enjoyment point of view.

Personally I just don’t enjoy playing or watching people that use long pimples regardless whether I win or not I just don’t look forward to the game, I do what I have to do and then get out of there! And the reason for this article is, a lot of people feel the same way, iv never heard of anyone saying they enjoy playing pimple players – in fact its always the opposite.

Now you might say who cares what I think about someone’s style or equipment, somebody out there probably doesn’t like the way I play and you’d probably be right. This isnt about people who use long pimples, its about the equipment itself. If enough people feel the same way and for the good of the game I think we should at least ask the question – should long pimples be banned?

So here are 5 reasons why Long pimples should be banned:

1) Too much variety with equipment / no consistencyNot only is there a plethora of different rubber options in each category, but there are many categories of rubber, each which affect play differently. We now have: Normal (inverted), Short Pimples, Mid length Pimples, Long Pimples and Anti Spin. Each play differently and have sub categories of their own. Whilst variety is a good thing, I also think too much of it can lead to chaos. Long pimples is just a step too far for me and completely reverses how you play the game. Its like playing upside down, sure its fun for 5 minutes but I dont want to keep doing it and switching between playing normal way up and upside down, thats lunacy.

Tennis is a good parallel. Tennis is by huge amounts more popular around the world particularly TV and media wise(apart from China) and there is no tennis racket legal or made that can reverse the spin of the ball and make it behave the opposite way. Rackets are very homogeneous with subtle differences, not huge ones, that equalises the playing field and gives the players a chance to shine and let their talent speak for itself rather than a racket.

2) Not great to watch – TV and spectating – Have you ever seen 2 players play with long pimples both sides? I have….. its horrendous. The rally rarely lasts, I have no idea who’s generating what spin and im not sure they even do, the technique is very unorthodox and im sorry but its just ugly. Players in the top echelons sometimes use long pimples as a defensive side I.e the backhand and defend with it with chops, that is a lot more aesthetic but its also rare, not many top top players use pimples, its in the lower tiers that pimples become more common and its just not fun or pretty to watch.

3) Bad Technique and the difference equipment makes So heres the biggest issue I have with the current equipment rules and long pimples. If I gave the worlds best table tennis players some bat I concocted with a lets say defensive blade coupled with the nastiest long pimples (no sponge) both sides, they would no longer be able to compete, they would drop through the rankings like a stone. I would even fancy my chances against them! They would have no power, no control over spin against players they play week in week out they would get absolutely destroyed. They would have to learn and play a completely different game with a different technique. This to me is not right. equipment should not make this much difference to a player. You should not be able to give them a perfectly legal high end bat that would impede their performance by a large amount and change their entire game.

Going back to the Tennis analogy this just doesnt happen in Tennis. I could give Federer any high end racket and he could compete easily, it would affect his game but not by much. Hell I could give Federer a cheap £10 racket from sports direct and he would still be able to compete, he wouldnt have any power but his game would still essentially be there, he would not have to adjust his technique too much, this brings me onto technique…

Long pimple technique is…. Just weird! Forget everything you were taught when you first started to play. To play effectively with pimples you need to play a completely different way… Chopping is similar to be fair but everything else is different. Strokes will become stabs, pokes and prods. I’ve labelled it bad technique but maybe a better description is “not pretty” technique.

4) Not enjoyable to play, no spirit of the game – so I would say 95% of people that use pimples use it on their backhand side. They generally use it because they struggle on that side to control the ball and this offers them an easy alternative to learning the correct technique Long pimples make it easier to return the ball when your opponent spins the ball and it also forces errors due to long pimple spin wierdness thrown back and the opponent. This is the table tennis equivalent of a rainy football away day at Stoke or Burnley where all they do is park the bus hoping for a draw. Its not pretty, its not exciting or good to watch but occasionally it does just enough to get a result. I would argue (as football fans who have travelled to Stoke or Burnley away would) that this is not really in the spirit of the game, taking advantage of a piece of equipment that does the work for you and designed to mess up your opponent is hardly winning the point, its more not losing the point. If long pimples didnt exist it would force people to stick with normal rubber on their backhand and I believe they would develop a decent technique. But all the while LP’s exist that wont happen.

5) Grass roots table tennis & the future – Im a bit worried for table tennis as a sport at the moment, numbers seem to be seriously dwindling especially here in the UK and whilst I dont think long pimples are solely responsible, I think they are playing a small role in making the sport less attractive, especially to younger players or players in general. Table Tennis is a hard sport to play and it takes a long time to be able to rally comfortably, read spin and be consistent, there is a lot going on with that little white ball! Then when you just start to get into league games somebody with long pimples turns up and suddenly you cant get a ball on the table – everything is reversed and they are just simply blocking the ball with a completely different technique to you and it looks like they barely have to do anything to mess you completely up. I remember first coming to grips with pimpled players and when you start out you have no idea whats going on, you think its just you and you become frustrated.

I think we should do everything we can to make table tennis easier to learn so younger people can persevere, see progress and stick with the sport and I believe banning long pimples should be one of those steps.

So what should be done?

I dont want you to think that im just bashing players who use long pimples, im not, they are legal to use so people use them – nothing wrong with that but I think the rules surrounding equipment need to be changed in my opinion to get some consistency. There needs to be some uniformity with equipment to make it enjoyable to watch and play for as many people as possible, this is how we keep table tennis alive and thriving. Nobody wants to come off the table thinking “what just happened”.

The world ping pong championships are an interesting experiment that has been going on for years now. All players in the tournament use the same bat – which is essentially a standard wooden blade with sandpaper on both sides (a little bit similar to very short stiff pimples – no sponge). And I gotta say its brilliant, the rallies are long and its just great to watch, pure table tennis or ping pong. This makes me think we need to get back to basics, our sport has been getting faster and faster for years. I dont using a standardised bat is quite the answer as if everybody had to use the same bat and a bit of sandpaper then manufacturers will be eliminated and there will be no money in the sport (sponsorships, merchandising etc). Plus its nice to have a bit of variation and difference in equipment after all.

I think a middle ground would be perfect. These are some of the steps I would personally take to make the sport easier to play, increase rally length and make the sport more attractive to play and watch:

  • Limit the sponge thickness to 1mm
  • Ban boosters and factory tuning
  • Limit rubber thickness (overall max rubber thickness (2.5mm)
  • Ban pimples
  • Make the plastic ball more consistent between brands (pick either seamed or no seamed balls)

What about short pimples and Anti spin rubbers?

I dont want you to think im prejudice against anything thats not normal inverted rubber, im not. I kinda like playing with short pimples, its similar to playing with the hard bats they play in the world ping pong championships and at least you can have good rallies. I think we need some uniformity with table tennis equipment whether thats banning pimples entirely or maybe even only using short pimples? Who knows some more research is needed. But I think its time for some consistency in equipment to make the game easier to play, learn and enjoy.

Should long pimples be banned?

Yeah….. sorry I think they need to be for the good of the sport. I think they are just too different to everything else out there, you need a completely different game to play with them and you need a different game to play and combat them. And lets face it, even people that use long pimples will admit that it not the prettiest of games to watch. Its not much fun playing them either…

More importantly though as I have mentioned throughout the article I think we need to re-assess what can be legal bat equipment within our sport, I think the diversity needs to be reigned in, in order to make table tennis easier to learn, easier to play, better to watch and most importantly fun.

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