The sports metaphor is a tired cliché, right? Well, if that's the case, maybe being a cliché isn't so bad. Actually, sports seem to be growing in rhetorical stature; more so than ever they are used as a microcosm for examining the larger struggles of life.
Possibly the most zany entry into the sport-as-microcosm category is Guido Mina di Sospiro's The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong. "There are two breeds of Ping-Pong players: empiricists and metaphysicians," he writes. "By adopting anti-spin paddles, empiricists declare explicitly who they are and what they stand for. Metaphysicians, on the other hand, are fascinated by the mysteries of spin." This is the world of TT (table tennis) for di Sospiro. What many Americans see as a basement game, he sees as an embodiment of competing philosophical views. This isn't you versus your little brother; this is Plato versus Aristotle.
What makes di Sospiros's outlandish claims palatable, even refreshing, is his bizarre way of telling the story. Coming to the sport in middle age, di Sospiro delves into the history of TT—a slow transition toward a sport dominated by spin. As this history unfolds in di Sospiro's telling we also come to know a multicultural world of players who hang around community centers and bonafide Ping-Pong clubs throughout the D.C and L.A. areas. Di Sospiro discusses the Tao with the Chinese players—as he admires their technique. He takes impromptu lessons from a Dominican pro. He contemplates a mind-twisting Sufi parable with a Lebanese stranger. The list of characters he encounters, each imparting a bit more wisdom than the last, leads di Sospiro on a personal journey that will end up forcing him to reconsider past actions and refocus his mission in life.
He is just as likely to quote Sheryl Crow as analyze the work of Carl Jung. Or shout the name of his favorite paddle: Kokutaku Blutenkirsche! When you're done, you just might order a Kokutaku yourself.