Sunday, March 19, 2006

Do You Believe In Heroes?

I watched "Ping Pong" this afternoon.

This has to be one of the best sports movies ever made.

Set aside for a moment your doubts about whether ping pong (or as some would say, table tennis) is a sport or not. In this movie, it's not merely a sport, it's something that drives people.

It's just such an amazing movie.

Each of the five main characters has a different approach to ping pong.
Peko: Raw talent, unrefined, overconfident, devastated with a loss, yet plays for the sheer joy of it

Smile: Plays to lose, looks up to Peko, sees ping pong as a way to kill time, since "we're all going to die someday anyway."

China: Couldn't qualify for his national team, came to Japan to play, looks down on the other players

Dragon: Finds no joy in ping pong, winning is everything, cares only for his own results and not the team's

Akuma: dreamt of beating Peko, respects Dragon, worked incredibly hard to gain his respect, but doesn't have the natural talent for ping pong

There's a pervasive sadness to the film. It's hard to explain, really. On the surface, it's a fun, exciting, entertaining movie about ping pong. But just underneath the surface, you feel an aching sadness. A loss of innocence. A yearning for days gone by. A desire to feel the utter joy that one feels as a child and yet knowing that you can never quite recapture that emotion.

Akuma sums it up best: "Leave me alone for a minute. I'm going to cry."

And yet, Smile and Akuma both look up to Peko. They see him as their hero. They want him to play the best he can, because they've always worshipped him as a great ping pong player.

Watch the movie.

Enjoy it.

Feel that aching sadness.

Enter the hero.

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