Since introducing Jackson to the table tennis club, I’ve had to warn him about gamesmanship on four separate occasions. Team Drumfeld has written rules that specifically forbid offences involving goading or distraction of opponents. Over-celebration is also discouraged. Although there are no written guidelines on winning gracefully, common sense should suffice: a ‘high five’ exchanged with a doubles’ partner is acceptable; a fist belligerently pumped in the direction of a vanquished opponent, Jackson’s customary gesture of triumph, is not.
Tonight, despite being repeatedly cautioned, Jackson persisted in using the ‘smash’, a shot forbidden outwith competitive matches. After watching him use the tactic to rout a much younger opponent, I decided to dish out a taste of his own medicine. Unfortunately, my own poor timing, affected, I suspect by lack of match practise and the onset of a heavy cold, resulted in his taking an early lead. I was further distracted by the running commentary he insisted on delivering. “The old master is bemused and humiliated,” he piped on extending his lead to ten points, all the while simulating the roar of an ecstatic crowd. Although I managed to reduce the deficit to seven points, I was forced to withdraw when I over-reached and stumbled, landing heavily on my knee. Rather than magnanimously accept a draw, Jackson insisted that the match had been ceded and celebrated with an exhibition of his full repertoire of offensive gestures.
This would have been obnoxious in any circumstance. The fact that his opponent was still grounded with a possibly serious injury rendered the offence unforgivable.