Sports are at a bare minimum right now, almost every league in the world is canceled or suspended thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. There have been a few UFC events and German soccer just returned, but besides that there’s been nothing to watch. Most importantly, there’s nothing to bet on. Everyone knows that one degenerate friend that needs to bet on something everyday just to feel alive. It’s been tough with no sports the last two months, but thankfully for myself and many others all around the globe there was a savior. That savior was the Moscow Liga Russian Table Tennis league.
Usually when you hear the names Vladimir, Oleg or Volkov you probably think of some evil Russian KGB agents, but not anymore when you hear those names it’s time to think of them as heroes. There are front line heroes right now doing the great work to keep everyone as healthy and safe as possible, and we’re all so thankful for them but these top tier athletes are first responders in my eyes too.
When the sporting world stopped I had many friends betting on basketball, soccer, and even spring training baseball. Once that was all shut down everyone looked for something to scratch that betting itch, and the Moscow Liga did that. One bettor (down $350) told me when asked why he’s betting on this obscure league at 2 AM, “It was the only thing that would satisfy my need of seeing a bet slip”. Another bettor told me (down $525), “I was getting tired of losing stateside so I thought I would look internationally, unfortunately it’s no different”.
These are the mindset of these gamblers, the need to have a little rush back in their lives, and nothing does that like cheering on Petrov and Kirilenko to victory in the early hours of the morning. One person texted me, “I’ll forever be grateful to Volkov for whooping Frolov’s butt”. This is the type of banter that would go on in the early hours of the morning as you watched the scores change on their shotty website.
Although many bettors are thankful for these warriors going to battle sometimes 10+ times a day, not everyone is always happy with the results. One bettor told me, “Oleg can suck me”, after apparently blowing a big lead to Yaroslav of all people. The competitive spirit hasn’t left some people, which is actually uplifting in the demoralizing times we’re in.
This league has given people the fire back in their belly’s, for weeks people were moping and hanging their heads just looking for anything to bet on, and for once the Russians are our allies. When I asked one bettor if he regretted getting in so deep on this league he joked, “I’m not sure if this league is real or if they just rig the scores, but either way I know after this experience that my grandkids won’t be attending college”. I promise you this league is real, and these men are some great athletic specimens, although I understand where the skepticism comes into play when you don’t actually get to watch the action.
When all of sports paused during this wild time in the world, we’ll remember the men that spent their days battling it out on the ping pong table. They may not get the credit they deserve, but they actually helped to bring on a feeling of normalcy during a time when nothing is even close to normal.
“We may lose every time we bet on these guys, but I’ll forever be thankful for having the opportunity to still have some fun while the world shut down. Until Lebron comes back I’ll continue to bet on these guys for getting all of us through this dark time.” A dark time highlighted by some table tennis athletes on the other side of the planet, who would’ve thought? Although this league may slip back into obscurity when this pandemic is all over, I believe every bettor will always remember how Russian table tennis helped to captivate the world for a few months in 2020.
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