Guest column Bob Flaherty: Double the pleasure at Pong-a-thon 2019

  • Bob Flaherty will host the third annual Pong-a-thon starting Friday morning at 7. gazette file photo

Published: 10/17/2019 3:22:17 PM

Double your pleasure, double entendre, double chin, double red cell donor, double-headed eagle, double whammy, Double Edge Theatre and double letter words.

“He was seeing double after the first double Scotch.” (barkeep, Happy Hour, Somerville, 1978)

OK, it’s a “doubles” day — no, not ABNER Doubleday, who invented baseball about as much as Al Gore invented the internet, but it’s a day to double up with friend, colleague, blood relative or muscle-toned ringer and challenge the WHMP duo Bill Newman and yours truly to a game!

The pings start ponging Friday morning and all day at Zing! Table Tennis in Easthampton, a benefit for the ACLU Immigration Protection Project of Western Mass. One of the earliest challengers will be the doubles team of state Sen. Jo Comerford and state Rep. Dan Carey, along with all three candidates for mayor of Greenfield.

All of this while President Trump doubles down on immigration and fantasizes about snipers, snakes and crocodiles.

“Double the lad’s bet for me, you toad.” (Alan Swann, My Favorite Year, 1982)

It’s a stop-on-the-way-to-work-put-your-money-on-the-table sitch and bring your game. Got no game? No prob. You’ll pick up the rhythm of it in no time, like your first time contra dancing. (Actually, I think I might’ve accidentally broken someone’s contra-dancing nose, now that I think of it.) But what I’m saying is even a klutz like me can play this game.

“He whacks a double and then gets hisself doubled off t’oid.” (Brooklyn fan, Ebbetts Field, 1951)

Members of the UMass table tennis team are expected to be there. Pay to take one of the Maroon and White as your doubles partner? What more could a person ask from life?

But anyway, if you’re like me, you’re beside yourself over the caged and torn apart families at the southern border and wish you could go down there and do something. Maya Laur, 17, of Wendell, did that very thing this summer, writing: “I stare at the barbed wire fence that cuts across the red-brown landscape and leaves a gash in the skin of the earth. In one eye I see Mexico, in the other the U.S. and in between is just space. If I were to close my eyes, I wouldn’t know where this country ends and the next one begins. It’s just land, I whisper, but America has turned that land into a hunting ground.”

The teen spoke before hundreds of Valley Jews at the very moving Tashlich ritual two Sundays ago on the Connecticut River, as did Chilean native Javier Luengo-Garrido, the coordinator of the ACLUM Immigration Protection Project.

He speaks of asylum-seekers as working, law-abiding citizens, sacrificing everything to keep their kids alive. Sending them back, he says, leads to almost certain death at the hands of the trigger-happy gangs and goons that control these countries.

“When these people appear before a judge to ask for asylum, they’ll be deported if they have no legal representation,” he says. “It’s a setup. It’s not like a court case here — no public defender will be assigned.”

The IPP provides such representation, accompanying them to ICE hearings, connecting immigrants with others.

Noel Abbott, founder and owner of Zing!, has never hesitated opening its doors for causes he believes in, this being his third Pongathon with WHMP.

“This brings out the strength in people of good will,” he says, quoting poet Clarissa Pinkola Estes: ‘“Do not lose heart. We were made for these times.’ Each of us in our own way does what we can.”

So what CAN we do? Post on Facebook? Write to Rep. McGovern? Tweet? OR PLAY SOME PONG? And DOUBLES pong may be the most fun one (or two) can have on a table.

And then there’s me and Newman. Beloved by some, despised by others, par for talk radio’s course. But despisers are welcome too — get back at these bloviators by clobbering them at the ping pong table! And what of the two (ahem) stars throwing down all these gauntlets?

Well, their combined age is 136, which, to put into perspective, is exactly how many years ago a British officer stole the game of “whiff waff” off the streets of Calcutta and made a tut-tut parlour game out of it back in Jolly Olde. That’s how old is Bill and Bob. You’re seeing double with fear, no doubt.

It all starts Friday 7 a.m. with me, Bill, Denise Vozella, Monte Bel Monte, Chris Collins and mayors, chiefs, pols, folks on their lunch hour and everyone else.

Or, if you’re up for some heightened competition, enter the Open Doubles tournament that very night and vie for the coveted, and often dreamed about, Pongathon Cup.

Or just take a stand a give ol’ Donald: H-E-double toothpicks.

WHMP morning host Bob Flaherty stages his 3rd annual Pong-a-thon Friday, Oct. 18, starting at 7 a.m. at Zing! Table Tennis Center in Easthampton. He’ll be joined by fellow radio personality Bill Newman for a day of table tennis, culminating in a special doubles tournament that evening. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Immigrant Protection Project of the ACLU of Western Mass. Details at

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