Let There Be Pong: McMahon Hall’s Best Kept Secret


John Angles, FCLC ’11, returns a shot on the new ping pong table in the eighth floor lounge of McMahon. (Rob Beatson/The Observer)

Published: January 29, 2009

If you live in the confines of McMahon Hall, you’ve been, at one point or another, bored to death with nothing to do. You also know that living in McMahon sometimes necessitates some therapeutic tension relief. It turns out that a few McMahon Hall residents have found a quick remedy for these problems, and it comes in the form of paddles, plastic balls and a new ping pong table.

The eighth floor lounge is often an overlooked gem in the heart of darkness, McMahon Hall, at Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC). I was introduced to the wonderful world of ping pong by a few friends who are current McMahon Hall residents and very good ping pong players.

Doug Zambon, FCLC ’11, who lives in McMahon, told me to come with him one day and play some ping pong. This was more like an admittance to an underground table tennis subculture than a simple invitation to a ping pong game. There were 10-plus people in the lounge waiting and watching around the regulation-sized ping pong table.  Thunderous music engulfed the room as players and spectators alike listened and watched the bright orange ball bounce back and forth from competitor to competitor. It was an exciting battle of reflexes and skill.

The rules are simple: there are two players, two paddles, one ball and one table. Each player serves for five consecutive points and games are played until a score of 21 is reached. Getting points in ping pong is pretty much self explanatory—after watching for three minutes, just about anyone can follow most, if not all, of the rules.

All of the necessary equipment is available from the Office of Residential Life, located in the lobby of McMahon, or you can bring your own paddles and balls.

“I can play ping pong all the time now,” Zambon said. “I haven’t played since early in high school, and it was so fun and easy to pick up again.”

Though these matches may sound intimidating to those unfamiliar with the game, they aren’t at all. Games are as laid-back or as competitive as players want them to be. One ping pong wizard, Pat Kennedy, FCLC ’11, dislocated his right (and dominant) arm snowboarding, which was surely going to hinder his ponging abilities.

However, “Picking up the paddle lefty was a lot easier than I thought,” Kennedy said. “It came natural to me after playing righty for some time.” With a little bit of practice, he was winning matches again despite the injury.

Some players, including Zambon and Kennedy, have even begun organizing an informal tournament just to have a special event to look forward to, a welcome occurrence to avoid slipping into a mid-semester rut. On some days, hours can be wasted away playing ping pong until your eyes bleed, while other times, a quick fix is all you need with a short 20-point volley.  It has certainly been a great reducer of stress to know something so meaningless and fun is so close by.

Learning how to play ping pong was as much fun as playing it, once I knew what I was doing. The fact that anyone can play this game makes it a good time. It’s a quick transition from the mundane life in the dorm to the excitement of competition. We could all use a break from the ordinary; so why not take advantage of this free and very close source of escape?