But what we found out last week trumps all of that by a long shot!
At first, we didn't think that much about a press release that popped up in our inbox last week announcing that Vallone would be playing in a celebrity table tennis tournament at Lincoln Center in a field that included author Jonathan Safran Foer (literally!), NPR contributor Will Shortz (puzzling?) and Judah Freidlander (that's more like it) from television's 30 Rock.
The event was organized to celebrate the launch of “Everything is Pong,” a colorful historical account of the sport by Roger Bennett and Eli Horowitz. Proceeds went to 826NYC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children develop their writing skills.
We were, however, a little confused as to how Vallone was chosen to join the tournament. All of our earlier praise aside, he's not exactly a “celebrity” on par with the ones we just mentioned. Then we read on and found out that in ping pong circles, Vallone is a bona fide A-list star!
Before he grew up and got a law degree and a seat in the City Council, Vallone spent his part of his summer working as a life guard and the other part locked in intense competition hunched over a 9 by 5-foot green table with a paddle (no doubt an arylate blade for better spin and feel) in one hand and his destiny in the other.
Vallone's father taught his three sons the sport, and all of the hard work and practice paid off for Vallone – he went on to become a championship player at Fordham University. In fact, the councilman was invited to play against the Chinese national ping pong team on ABC’s “Wide World of Sports.”
(A pox on you, YouTube! We can find video of pretty much every embarrassing public appearance by Lindsey Lohan and literally every time a baby laughs, but you can't get us footage of Vallone playing the Chinese national ping pong team?! We promise to you, dear readers, to make every effort to figure out how this match for the ages ended.)
Vallone credits a healthy sense of competition and quick-thinking abilities in part to ping pong – which he taught his young daughters, nieces and nephews. Well, apparently he wasn't quick-thinking enough, because didn't win! No, that honor went to Friedlander, who took home the trophy.
We're just going to assume that Vallone let him win.