APPLETON, WI–The non-macho game of table tennis, popularly known as "ping-pong" for the bouncy little sound the ball makes, has somehow elicited tough-guy posturing and braggadocio from Appleton resident Tim Bergkamp, sources close to the 27-year-old revealed Monday.
"I don't know what the deal is," said Marty Zielke, a coworker of Bergkamp's at an Appleton-area Target, "but ever since we got that ping-pong table in the break room, Tim's been acting like he's Macho Man Randy Savage or something."
The table, brought in by fellow Target sales associate Jason Hersh after he decided to remove it from his basement rec room, has "brought out the competitive animal" in the mild-mannered Bergkamp.
"You should see him when he gets going. You'd think ping-pong was some kind of ESPN2 extreme sport," Hersh said. "He's all like, 'Time for a serious ass-kicking, Jason. Think you can take it when I bring the hammer down on you? Think you can handle the humiliation of another devastating defeat at the hands of the master?' Then, whenever he scores a point, he shouts, 'Boo-Ya!' and does this gloating victory dance, strutting back and forth and waving his arms in the air. I mean, it's ping-pong, for Christ's sake."
"No one can withstand the awesome might of the Ponginator's vaunted 'OverThruster' serve," Bergkamp told coworker Rebecca Stairs during a recent match. "Pretenders to the throne, beware!"
Stairs said she is mystified by Bergkamp's ping-pong bravado.
"How anyone could associate such alpha-male chest-thumping with a polite pastime like ping-pong is beyond me," Stairs said. "It's baffling. Speaking of which, one of his many nicknames for himself is 'The Baffler.' He says that's because no one ever knows where the next shot is coming from."
Bergkamp has given himself numerous other monikers, including The Human Wall, because no opponent can get the ball past him; the Harlem Pongtrotter, employed when he whistles "Sweet Georgia Brown" to psyche out opponents; and the aliases Cobra Verde, Cobra Rosa, and Cobra Negro, which vary according to his paddle's color.
"I like to start out slowly, lulling my prey into a false sense of security," Bergkamp recently confided to Stairs. "Then I turn up the heat with a little smack-talkin', which throws off their game. Then, once they're dazed and confused from the psychological warfare, I lock on the target and fire off a vicious volley of spin shots, from which my hapless victim can find no shelter."
"They've learned to expect no quarter, and none is given," Bergkamp said. "I deliver my enemies into the arms of their maker with neither remorse nor regret."
Bergkamp's obsessive drive to dominate the ping-pong table is not limited to the Target break-room. On weekends, he frequents Appleton-area amusement center B.Z. Bonkers, challenging unwitting newcomers to "a lesson in ping-pong pain [they] will never forget." In addition, he recently acquired a table for his own apartment, inviting opponents to "experience the thrashing of your soon-to-be-over life."
Last week, Bergkamp also began construction on "Solo Pong Station 3000," a makeshift half-table placed against a rebounding wall in his garage. When completed, the structure will enable him to play ping-pong even when alone.
"When I'm mano a mano on Pong Station 3000, that's when I'll face my worthiest adversary of all: me," Bergkamp said. "It's the proverbial irresistible force going head-to-head with the immovable object."
Though sometimes irritated, coworkers say Bergkamp's ping-pong-fueled bravado is mostly harmless.
"I'd never get that excited about ping-pong, but if that's what gets his rocks off, more power to him, I guess," said Karl Hiestand, Bergkamp's immediate supervisor. "I'll play him every now and again, usually when he asks if I'm 'recovered enough from [my] last beatdown for a rematch.' In a way, it's kind of cute how he talks all tough about it. It doesn't make sense, but it's sort of funny, I suppose."
When told of his supervisor's remarks, Bergkamp lifted his ping-pong paddle over his head in a two-fisted stance and said, "None, not even the Karl-Tron himself, can withstand the terrifying fury unleashed by Tim Bergkamp, a.k.a. King Pong."
Added Bergkamp: "There can be only one."