The Seahawks moved two pingpong tables into the locker room this season. It has created intense rivalries, an important if debated hierarchy, trash talking and matchups between clashing styles. We’ll dive into all of that, because why not?
RENTON — The following is a conversation from the Seahawks’ locker room, which means it’s likely about one of two things: football or pingpong.
“Everyone who says I’m not in the top three on this team is the most blatant liar,” said tight end Luke Willson, at which point center Drew Nowak walked by. “And I’m about to smack Drew, too. You can tell him that.”
Nowak: “I beat you 4-0 yesterday!”
Willson: “What?! Bro, three games were in deuce.”
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Nowak: “I was still 4-0.”
Willson: “I had a lead in three games and just let it slip away. I’m one week away from being the best player in this locker room. Put that in your article.”
If it wasn’t clear, this article is in fact about pingpong, which means it’s about the Seahawks’ favorite pastime.
The obsession began before the season when the Seahawks moved a pingpong table from a backroom into the locker room. That created demand as well as a problem. The table was on the defensive side of the room, and the offensive guys wanted one of their own, so soon the Seahawks had two tables.
Now pingpong has become the soundtrack of the season (seriously, it’s in the background of almost every interview). There are so many lost pingpong balls around the locker room that kicker Steven Hauschka said they’ll find them years later. There’s been talk of a team-wide tournament. There’s also talk that some players paid more than $300 for paddles.
“Oh, dude, it’s out of hand,” offensive lineman J.R. Sweezy said. “Some guys get really into it. Dudes are buying paddles and special balls. It’s pretty intense — as you can see. We haven’t had a pingpong fight yet, so it’s not that intense. But pingpong arguments? We have at least one or two of those a day. After everybody leaves, guys stick around and play pingpong for an hour. And guys that sucked in the beginning are way better now.”
The whole setup has created intense rivalries, an important if debated hierarchy, trash talking and matchups between clashing styles. We’ll dive into all of that, because, why not?
The best rivalries
Richard Sherman vs. Doug Baldwin is a good one, mostly because they have a history and will bicker over anything. Nowak-Hauschka is the filet mignon of matchups in terms of skill, although Nowak-Willson is more entertaining. But the best rivalry is between defensive end Cliff Avril and safety Earl Thomas because Thomas is intense and Avril is laid back and because they always find a way to needle each other, like this exchange that interrupted an interview:
Avril: “You lost?”
Thomas: “I lost. Finally.”
Thomas: “I’m the best pingpong player in the room.”
Avril: “You don’t even believe that. We need to get a tournament going.”
Thomas: “Cliff, I’m not?”
Avril: “No, you’re not. You might not be top 10.”
Thomas: “I know for sure I’m top 10.”
The best trash talker
Hard to say, but Willson is the most relentless trash talker. He once lost 11 consecutive games to Nowak and still spent the next day talking about his greatness in the locker room.
Let’s go over a few things before getting to the rankings. First, 16 players were polled, which is a random number befitting a random article. Second, players were asked to pick their top five in no particular order. Third, many players tried to vote for themselves or for the guy next to them who was listening to their answer. Fourth, rookie cornerback Tye Smith might be the most honest guy on the team because when asked for the worst pingpong player, he threw himself under the bus.
The final tally:
1. Nowak (16 votes)*
2. Hauschka (15)
3. Willson (11)
4. Receiver Jermaine Kearse (8)**
5. Tight end Cooper Helfet (5)
Honorable mention: Defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs (4), defensive lineman Cassius Marsh (4), safety Kelcie McCray (3)
*The only person to exclude Hauschka was offensive lineman Justin Britt, who initially excluded Nowak before changing his mind the next day. “I revoke my vote for Hauschka and give it to Drew because I was wrongly informed of the true extent of this story,” Britt explained.
**The only contested rankings were between Kearse and Helfet, because at the time of the poll, Kearse struggled with Willson and Helfet. “I could beat Coop and Luke,” Kearse said. “I’ve just … there’s been games … I lost. … Well, OK, they’ve beaten me every single time.”
The best contrast in style
That would be Britt and Sherman. Britt is all power, every swing. He has no time for delicacy or nuance. He is trying to smash the ball and only smash the ball. Sherman plays pingpong like he plays corner: smart, methodical, lurking for mistakes.
The Ping-Pong Correlation Theory
As presented by offensive lineman Garry Gilliam:
Gilliam has prime real estate in that his locker looks directly at one of the tables. So he is as close to an expert as one can get when it comes to the Seahawks’ passion for pingpong.
“They get after it,” Gilliam said. “You see it every time they come in here they’re doing it! They do this all the time.
“Honestly, I think there could be a one-to-one correlation with the success on the team to when people started really getting into pingpong. You’ve got to finish the games so we learned how to finish. Hand-eye coordination, competitiveness, drive, team camaraderie. Some legit stuff comes from this pingpong.”