The Status Of The Dolphins’ Ping Pong Table Is In Flux
3:29 PM EDT on October 13, 2022
After losing two straight games, the Miami Dolphins have removed the ping pong table from their locker room—but that might be so they can get a better ping pong table.
The Palm Beach Post wrote on Sept. 29 about how the Dolphins' locker room ping pong table was a boon for the team, upping competition, encouraging players to try new things, and building team chemistry. The ping pong sensation, the article argued, wasn't just another example of a mundane fad taking over a locker room; it was a strategy to help the team win football games, the "brainchild of the Mike McDaniel regime."
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa said it brought "more competition into the locker room." Running back Raheem Mostert believed it built camaraderie. The article reported that receiver Tyreek Hill, a ping pong proponent, "purchased Olympic-level paddles for his new teammates that are engraved with their names and jersey numbers on the handle." The Palm Beach Post's story, coming a few days after the Dolphins beat the Bills to improve to 3-0, ended on an encouraging note:
"...the pingpong table has already gone above and beyond in serving its purpose. It’s become one of the true unifiers for the team, with different position groups, rookies and vets all interacting. In its own way, it has contributed to the successful start to the season.
“We’re just more happy for each other,” [linebacker Sam] Eguavoen said. “We’re just more involved watching certain plays happening. … We’re just so much closer as a team. Special teams wise, people are watching. Defense watching offense, offense is watching defense. Everybody's just more in tune now.”
Two weeks and two losses later, the team has evidently decided that the ping pong table is no longer serving its purpose.
"The ping pong table that had been added to the locker room this year has been removed, at the team captains’ request," ProFootballTalk reported Wednesday, adding that McDaniel said the captains agreed that it was an "unnecessary distraction." McDaniel praised his players for their leadership in the decision:
Tyreek and the captains decided that they wanted to take a step forward with all their opponent prep with regard to the team and with their preparation with our game plans in general. So he made the move to take the ping pong tables out of the locker room. That, to me, is leadership,” McDaniel said. “To me, leadership is acting, not talking. There’s a bunch of different examples from those guys and that’s why they’re captains. That’s why we rely on them. Because it’s about solving problems, not complaining about them. They collectively as a group of players wanted more time investment during the week on their jobs for Sunday.ProFootballTalk
It was fulsome praise from the coach, but his statement might have been based on a miscommunication. Dolphins beat writers reported today that Hill is doubling down on ping pong: He had only gotten rid of the ping pong table so he could bring in a better one. More camaraderie!
The Dolphins are not the first team to reevaluate ping pong as a distraction. Four years ago, Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone nixed the ping pong table in the offseason, and that team reached the AFC title game. Many teams in the past have gone through this cycle. But as the Washington Post reported at the time, history shows that the removal of ping pong table is just as often credited with helping the team succeed as is having the ping pong table in the first place:
NFL teams with ping-pong tables in their locker room are successful thanks to the camaraderie and fellowship engendered by the popular leisure activity, unless they are unsuccessful due to the excess laxity and distraction caused by such a heinous mind-melting goof. NFL teams that remove ping-pong tables are successful thanks to discipline, rigor and a focus on what’s truly important, provided they’re actually successful. Ping-pong tables drive playoff runs. So, too, does a lack of ping-pong tables.
In the end, the question isn't whether ping pong can help NFL teams win football games, but how useful it is to have a scapegoat when things get tough. In the case of the Dolphins, they are still without starting quarterback Tua Tagovailoa after he suffered a brain injury on Sept. 29 against the Bengals, and will likely start rookie Skylar Thompson this Sunday against the Vikings. Even if they added foosball and air hockey, it wouldn't change their situation.
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