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Adam Bobrow on his love for table tennis

‘The Voice of Table Tennis’, in a candid chat opens up about his Olympics debut as a commentator

Saionee Chakraborty | Published 19.07.21, 12:37 AM
Adam Bobrow with Aruna Quadri at the Ultimate Table Tennis Season 2. Adam has under his belt over 100 international commentary assignments

Adam Bobrow with Aruna Quadri at the Ultimate Table Tennis Season 2. Adam has under his belt over 100 international commentary assignments

Adam Bobrow is hilarious. Click on his YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/AdamBobrow) and the American who is the ‘official ITTF commentator’ and popular globally as the ‘The Voice of Table Tennis’, will bring a smile on your face with his videos featuring the biggest of table tennis stars such as Ma Long and Lin Yun-Ju. The signature Adam antics liven up the mood.

The Tokyo Olympics will be his debut at the sporting gala. The Telegraph caught up with the multifaceted Adam who also has a bachelors degree in theatre arts from University of Southern California and quite a few acting jobs to his name.

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Adam Bobrow seems like a fun guy! Tell us the secret of your energy to start with...

Secret no more! I am a very curious person. I love people and I love learning. I am an extrovert so I get lots of energy from other people and being around people. I try to fill my life with the experiences I enjoy the most and table tennis plays a big part and I think that while not every experience is positive, I try to see the positive side of things and limit the amount of time I spend worrying about things I can’t control.

Tell us what attracted you to table tennis in the first place…

Well, my dad played with me from the time I was young, between other sports, and he made it super fun. The first time I played with a proper racket with professional rubber that could really spin the ball, the possibilities seemed endless. I realised that you can really feel like a wizard who makes the ball curve around walls and all sorts of mind-boggling tricks that seemed like magic. 

Did you play anything else as a kid?

Yeah! I grew up in a sports family… and from the age of four played baseball, at five started playing soccer and at eight joined a basketball team as well. I played all three for my high school as well. I enjoyed playing tennis from time to time and hockey. I also played chess, a variety of board games, word games and video games as well. But table tennis has stuck to be a constant.

(L-R) Adam Bobrow with Rio Olympic gold medallist and world number 3 Ma Long; Adam Bobrow with Aruna Quadri at the Ultimate Table Tennis Season 2. Adam has under his belt over 100 international commentary assignments

(L-R) Adam Bobrow with Rio Olympic gold medallist and world number 3 Ma Long; Adam Bobrow with Aruna Quadri at the Ultimate Table Tennis Season 2. Adam has under his belt over 100 international commentary assignments

You are called ‘The Voice of Table Tennis’. Do you have any inspiration when it comes to the commentary?

Tons! I really enjoyed the work of Vin Scully growing up, watching the Dodgers play baseball. I felt like he had an excellent balance of stories and entertainment when needed, and informative insight to bring the viewer into the game more. I also don’t recall him ever saying anything negative about an athlete or to discredit anyone. I also found the enthusiasm and energy from many of the commentators in the NBA to be quite thrilling. As a fan of stand-up comedy and a stand-up comedian myself, I find that a bit of humour or entertainment can make almost anything fun or enjoyable. As long as it’s not distracting from a moment, I think humour can add value.

What do you keep in mind while commentating?

Grab some water and a comfy seat… I do my best to get the names of the players pronounced correctly (or to their preference) so that family and supporters from their country feel respected. From thinking about what nicknames might help fans around the world relate to a player whose name might be challenging to pronounce… I try to build character for the players, to engage the fans and help them get emotionally invested in the athletes regardless of their native language. I want to help build stars in our sport. I believe that people have to care about what and who they are watching… or else you can’t watch for very long nor be very engaged. I also consider it my job to help create a rich context… to really find the underlying story and what really makes each match so important. This also requires me to do lots of preparation and study the game, the athletes and to constantly be updating myself and learning year round. Getting to know the players and coaches as people and incorporating whatever information I can is an important part of making sure that I am prepared to help people understand the intricate details of the sport while offering behind-the-scenes info and insight. I also try not to talk over the playing itself unless it seems really called for or it’s a replay. There’s more… but these are some of the core things on my mind.

Adam Bobrow with world number 6 Lin Yun-Ju

Adam Bobrow with world number 6 Lin Yun-Ju

Your humour is self-deprecatory. Is that also a way of keeping the pressure away?

Ah. Well, I think that life is quite fascinating and having fun is important. I am far from perfect, have tons to learn and I think if I take myself too seriously, I might end up disappointed when I don’t need to be. Of course this still happens sometimes, but I think it can be avoided sometimes by learning to laugh or make fun of yourself sometimes. Also, especially when you’re in the public eye, it’s really easy to be reminded if you ever get too proud. I guess I just try to pay attention to what I like about other people and how I feel when I behave a certain way and then try do what feels right in that moment.

You have to tell us about your colourful clothing...

Sure! It’s fun! Really! I feel great when I wear super colourful clothing. It also sends a message to others… usually that I am friendly. I prefer to stand out rather than to blend in or disappear. I also associate bright colours with life and health. Vibrant flowers, fruits and many things in nature are often healthy and have a glow that shows they are alive and thriving. At night, in the city, when I see colourful lights, to me it is a sign of life, liveliness and a buzzing energy that stimulates my senses and is a constant reminder that I am not alone. When I wear colourful clothes, I feel great. I hope that I can give a positive, lively energy to the world everywhere that I am or can be seen.

Who are the most fun TT players on the circuit?

Oh wow. That’s tricky. I like nearly all of the pro players I know and I guess some players are especially fun but often super focused when they’re in competition. Cheng I-Ching, Manika Batra, Lubomir Pistej, Petrissa Solja, Patrick Franziska, Mattias Falck, Miyu Nagasaki, Masataka Morizono… honestly, I could name tons of players that are just so much fun to be around. I think I really like my job because I am surrounded by people who are such a pleasure.

What are you expecting the Olympics to be like?

Well, this is my first Olympics and I expect it to be weird. From what I’ve read, it will be very strict and controlled, very cautious and unusual as I haven’t done any major events since the pandemic started. Normally I am a social butterfly and enthusiastic like a kid in a candy shop or a puppy in the back seat of a car with the windows down. I think this Olympics I will not be able to be nearly as social as usual or close to my friends who are pro players… but I love Japan and simply the opportunity to promote table tennis on such a major scale excites me greatly. I also think that this year’s Olympics, in table tennis specifically, will have many exciting and suspenseful matches. I can’t wait to be a part of it.

Do you have any memorable experiences from your days in India?

Soooo many. Every time I go to India I have new amazing experiences and I have been to India five times. My first time in India, I was there for a Sikh wedding and I stopped shaving for eight weeks and wore a kurta often… among other things to immerse myself. I went into a convenience shop and this little girl in a bright orange sari opened the door for me. I said “thank you” and she gave me the biggest and warmest smile. It melted my heart. We took a picture together and I still have it. That girl is probably all grown up now. That same trip I learned to play cricket and bhangra dance at a Sikh wedding. I sweat through all of my clothes… despite them being fancier than usual because it was a wedding. It was tons of fun. 

Do you sometimes miss playing table tennis professionally for a little while longer?

Just to be clear, I don’t consider myself playing the sport in a professional sense. I have competed around the world and still do, but I play the game because I love playing it and not for the sole purpose of win and lose like any professional though. While I compete, my aim is to entertain people and promote the sport in innovative ways, associate and popularise the game. If you ask me honestly, I must accept that there is a giant gap between my level of play and that of the pros but all of them have had real fun creating interesting and light-hearted content around their lives and the game itself for a change.

Tell us about your career in showbiz.... What have you enjoyed playing the most till date?

Well, it has been a very interesting and valuable learning experience. Starting off with commercial work, then getting into voice-over, TV and movies… the majority of my time as an actor was simply driving throughout LA and Hollywood for auditions. On the rare occasion that I would get work, it was always exciting, but thankfully, I enjoyed the process of going to auditions, auditioning and meeting other actors and making friends along the way.

My favourite TV role was on a show called The Mullets and I played a dancing, beatboxing, party entertainer called “The One-Man Party Machine.” The concept was funny and the experience of performing it in front of a live TV studio audience was really a thrill. The crowd liked the character so much that I was brought back for every other episode before the show came to an end.

What is your message for all your fans?

First of all, thanks for your support. Second of all, I hope that you live a life of few to no regrets… that you make the most of what you have, live boldly and be unafraid and see the silver lining in every situation. I hope that you feel empowered and unashamed to be yourself. Nobody’s perfect but if you live with an open mind, try to understand others and spread positivity and love… even if things don’t always work out your way, I think the experience of living life will be much smoother and more fulfilling. Tough times are temporary. Don’t forget to have fun and keep it high on the priority list. Life moves quickly, make time to enjoy as much as possible. (PS: This is also a reminder for myself).

Last updated on 19.07.21, 12:37 AM
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