I was selected to represent the state team in the

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sent me to a club to play league table tennis, and I started getting lessons. I was selected to represent the state team in the national championships when I was thirteen, and I went to the Maccabiah Games in 1993, when I was fourteen. The Maccabiah Games (sort of a Jewish Olympics) are one of the five largest sports gatherings in the world, bringing five thousand Jewish athletes from more than fifty countries to Israel every four years. Nineteen ninety-three was the first year that South Africa, which had previously been boycotted by international sports federations because of apartheid, was allowed to attend. We took a big contingent to Tel Aviv that year: a couple hundred athletes. It was the experience of a lifetime for me, just past bar mitzvah age and never overseas before. Playing in the junior-age class, our three-boy team—I was number one in singles—outlasted teams from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Mexico, and the United States. Israel crushed everybody, and took the gold medal; Australia won silver. My best friend, Lex, had also attended the Maccabiah Games, as goal keeper on the soccer team, and when we got back to King David, we both got special blazers to wear: blue with gold trim. After hearing of my past sports success, Rudy immediately fired off an e-mail to Ted Simpson, saying, “Springbok will be representing the New York desk at the Ping-Pong tournament.” Simpson wrote back: “Who’s Springbok?” In response, Rudy e-mailed him a photograph of a springbok, the actual animal. You had to be there, but I thought it was hilarious. So I flew to Boston on Goldman’s tab—the justification being that, while there, I could meet with Prakash and talk Israeli tech stocks—and met Ted Simpson. Ted was a VP in his mid-thirties, a salesman in the mold of Rudy, whom he physically resembled, right down to the bald dome, though he wasn’t as tall. Like Rudy, Ted was hardworking and thoughtful; he did what was right for his clients. He had nurtured deep client relationships in the Boston investing community, where the biggest players were (and are) Fidelity, Putnam Investments, Wellington Management, State Street, and The Boston Company. These mutual fund giants are some of the caretakers of Main Street’s retirement savings. The culture of Boston was much more geared toward long-term-oriented mutual funds (which managed retail money), as opposed to the high-flying hedge fund world. Simpson’s laid-back personality and dry sense of humor were a good fit for the environment in Boston and the type of clients he covered. The backstory of the annual Goldman Sachs Ping-Pong Tournament, Ted told me, was that the same guy, an Indian portfolio manager from Putnam, had won it five years in a row, and that winning the tournament was the highlight of the guy’s year. But from the moment I walked into Jillian’s—a pleasure palace replete with free-flowing alcohol, spicy chicken wings, bowling alleys, plasma TVs, and dozens of Foosball, pool, and table tennis tables—and saw my alleged competition practicing, I knew he didn’t have a chance against me. I’m not trying to brag. But competitive table tennis, like every sport, has its levels. Any number of
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