Hardbat vs Sponge in Table Tennis / Ping-Pong - Which is Better?

Do You Have a Soft Spot for Hardbat?

Woman Playing Ping-Pong
Was Ping-Pong Better in the Old Days?. Photo by Stockbyte / Getty Images
When About.com Table Tennis forum member dadsky posted some scathing claims about modern table tennis made by an acquaintance that favors hardbat, fellow forum member and hardbat advocate Scott Gordon posted an insightful and balanced reply, which I have reproduced below.

Claims About Modern Table Tennis vs Hardbat from dadsky's Acquaintance

  1. Rubber and blade manufacturers promise high-speed table tennis resulting from their "research" when hardbat table tennis (or classical table tennis) with crappy equipment offers a faster pace of play, more control, and cheaper equipment.
  2. Table tennis play as seen on TV, using those commercial rubbers, is dull - similar to Formula 1 races where the most powerful engine wins. Skill is not the absolute factor in winning.
  3. Play with rubbers and so-called ITTF Rubbers is boring - play rarely goes beyond five exchanges - while hardbatters enjoy up to a dozen or more exchanges with every point.
  4. Commercial table tennis is just that - commercial. And there are suckers born every minute who actually believe that table tennis using ITTF equipment actually makes table tennis more exciting. and it's both sad and funny that so many people actually purchase this ITTF equipment and give away their hard-earned bucks to these money-making table tennis equipment manufacturers. He describes equipment manufacturers as "vampires" for selling equipment at such ridiculous prices - $40 for a "piece of rubber", when condoms cost much less!
  5. Table tennis 50 years ago enjoyed a larger audience than table tennis does today.

Scott Gordon's Reply - Hardbat vs Sponge Table Tennis Rackets

Despite my obvious love of hardbat, I was raised on sponge, used inverted for 20 years before switching to hardbat, and the vast majority of my play is against sponge players. I think I am able to fully appreciate both styles and eras for their strengths. Maybe someday I'll write an essay (or even a book) about it, because table tennis is truly unique in having these two versions of itself that are SO different and so affect its history, development, and character. It is likely also a debate that can never truly end. Rather than try and list everything, I'll just make a few random comments.

Disdain for the Minority

Modern vs Past Ping-Pong Players

Hardbat vs Sponge - Which is More Exciting?

Influence of Table Tennis Manufacturers

Hardbat Misinformation

Continued on next page...

Table Tennis Audience Sizes

Ordinary Players Must Use Sponge to be Competitive?

Respect for the Table Tennis Legacy and Past Champions

The saddest thing about this "debate" between sponge and hardbat, is that it has separated the sport from its legacy. You don't hear baseball fans talking about how lame Lou Gehrig was... they talk about him with reverence. The world series is a big thing because it puts the winner in the company of the past greats. Table tennis, by contrast, has worked hard to distance itself from its own past, and rejected its legends as irrelevant. Whenever someone says ping pong is not a sport, we're fast to jump in with "oh no, that was back then... NOW we're really good, look at our fast paddles", and they just laugh harder. That, in my opinion, is a sure-fire recipe for guaranteeing our own obscurity. We should put all of the great champions in our glorious 80+ year history on the pedestal they deserve, and preserve, promote and enjoy the thrilling times they gave us. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening anytime soon.