USA Table Tennis

I hardly know where to start with Michael, for as the most ubiquitous of sportsmen he’s apt to turn up anywhere, doing almost anything.

For example, you could have seen him as Ringside Physician for the USA Amateur Boxing Federation. Or at a Fencing Meet in Orlando. Or tending to some poor fellow who’s landed wrong at a Pacific Northwest Judo tournament.

Some duties required of him as a physician have been more interesting than others. At a World Alpine Skiing Championships, when two male doctors demurred, Michael agreed to do sex tests on 57 female athletes. Of course the women loved him--he’d handled the matter with just the right touch. Afterwards, some of them, whenever they had the opportunity, affectionately "flashed" him, or at least pretended to.

Reportedly, Michael himself has prowess in a number of sports--is adept at water and snow skiing, and once, as a substitute #2 man, accompanied the Canadian bobsled team down that year’s wicked Olympic-course slopes.

Around some bend in his youth--no doubt because his father was a well-respected physician and surgeon, and his mother a registered nurse--he too decided to become a doctor (as would his son, Michael James III) and so interned at New York City’s St. Vincent Hospital. When, after he’d assisted in surgery, someone wanted his photograph, Michael with his typical dry sense of humor offered a shot of himself with a mop. Well, he did have some clean-up jobs.

Scott, as we all know, is a great teller of tales. Here’s my favorite from this New York period, or in fact any period, of his life.

One day he and a nurse were off duty at St. Vincent’s, relaxing for a few moments, with nothing to do. Seeing that the nurse had picked up thisHypnotism Made Easy book that had been left by a former patient, Michael thought it would be fun if he’d pretend to be the hypnotist, and the nurse his subject. So to that end he began reading passages, and imaginatively improvising, to the nurse who’d seated herself in a chair opposite.

Of course neither of them believed there was any hypnotic reality to their play ("Now nurse, you’re starting to get stuck in that chair") and both were soon giggling. Each thought the book’s suggestion that some sort of "Magnetism" was undeniably a factor ridiculous. "Now the glue’s hardening." Such bullshit, they said, and, as Scott read on, their giggling turned to laughter.

Then as Chance would have it, precisely at this moment, an accident victim was rushed into their room--an emergency. Turns out he’s a jeweler who, hearing a commotion going on outside his shop, had come out to investigate and was caught in a cops and robbers cross fire. He was shot in the mouth, and, when brought into Scott, is near death.

"Quick, get me a hemostat!" Michael yells to the nurse. But, unbelievable, she reacts in a grimly humorous manner--as if she can’t get up from her chair.

"The (kuh-ROT-id) carotid arteries are shot," yells Michael. "Get me a clamp!"

The nurse, grabbing hold of the chair, gets up, and like a hunchback with a burden begins waddling her way across the room...with the chair "stuck" to her behind.

"Jesus!" Scott yells. "This is no time to joke. The man’s dying. You want to get us both fired!"

Michael again bends his increasingly blood-stained smock over the man’s last breaths and, as the poor guy is trying to speak, lends his ear to the outporing.

"S...Sue" is the man’s wife? His next of kin?

The sound over the gurgle is very faint. Michael, watching the flow of blood, realizing there’s nothing left of the arteries to clamp, tries to give the last rites of a moment’s comfort. He bends his face down over the other, hears...

"Sue....Can I sue?"

Michael, taken aback, is silent for a moment, then replies, "You have an excellent case."

And the guy dies with a smile on his face.

The nurse of course has to be re-read to out of Hypnotism Made Easy: "The glue’s melting now....It’s lost its sticky substance....You’re free."

Michael himself survived his New York internship, and then his residency at Bellevue. Afterwards his advanced education and increasing medical credits, including a textbook on Dermatology, would assure him of a listing in "Who’s Who in the West."

To become a Who’s Who in Table Tennis, however, took him some time, for he didn’t come to the Sport until middle age. In 1970 Michael became the Director of the Washington State TTA and helped others learn to play, as he did, on tables set up at the Seattle University Pavilion. With Tyra Parkins’ support, he put on the biggest tournaments in the state of Washington. These consistently drew not only all the best players in the Northwest, from Tom Ruttinger to Quang Bui, but, on occasion, outstanding players more identifiable in other parts of the country--Jack Howard, Danny Seemiller, Sean O’Neill. Over the years Michael supported Women’s basketball at S.U., and S.U. supported Table Tennis by allowing Michael to teach table tennis for credit there and by giving Varsity letters for the Sport.

In the early 1970’s Michael was the best Senior player in the Northwest. At the ‘75 U.S. Open he won the Senior Consolation’s over Richard Puls. In the ‘76 U.S. Closed he was runner-up in Esquire Singles to Chuck Burns. In the ‘78 Closed he won the Esquire Doubles with Russ Thompson. And in the ‘85 U.S. Closed he won the Senior Esquire’s--over Y.C. Lee, with whom a decade later he would win the U.S. Open Over 70 Doubles. So for years Michael’s not only known how to run tournaments, he’s known how to play in them.

Michael also gave many exhibitions at schools and during halftimes at Sonics basketball games.

From 1973 through 1982 Michael was Chair of the USATT Disciplinary Committee. Question: the most fun-loving offenders, usually players of some stature, he had the power to banish to his own private Island? He has one, you know.

When in 1976 Sol Schiff was elected to the USTTA Presidency, he appointed Dr. Scott to take over his vacated Vice-President spot. Though the very model of diplomacy on the E.C., Michael was really quite far-seeing in his views. In a 1972 Topics article he advocated the abolition of the Volley Rule and refused to enforce it at his Club; 21 years later the ITTF finally did away with it too.

In a Sept., 1975 article called "Duckfeathers" he warned of the proliferation of racket surfaces (oh, what he’d see in the next quarter of a century), and urged the standardization of equipment--even establishing in his own tournaments an event where both sides of the racket had to be the same. No wonder that more than 20 years later he’d lobby successfully for the resurgence of Hardbat play.

Michael was always very protective of his Club players and opposed the idea that if, for the first time, novices wanted to play in a tournament they had to buy a playing permit. Feeling that top players and coaches ought to come round to deserving Clubs such as his own, he assured them that should they suffer any slight mishap in their visits he’d patch them up and offer rehabilitation by encouraging them to accompany him to some scenic vacation spot in the area.

Regional Tours Michael was for, but Regional representation on the E.C. simply for the sake of that representation he was against; he felt the best available people should be elected.

It’s fitting that Michael was inducted into the Washington Table Tennis Hall of Fame and that he won the 1994 U.S. Closed Rich Livingston Sportsmanship Award--for he’s often publicly promoted the virtues of others.

In 1982 Scott became the first USATT Sports Medicine and Science Committee Chair and has held that post ever since, writing article after article forTopics. Among them: "Drug Analysis: Report on Marijuana," "Strategies For Handling Stress," "Rx for Foreign Travel--What Not To Eat," and "Supplements Don’t Improve Your Performance." Inevitably he became more and more valuable to the ITTF Sports Science and USOC Substance Abuse Committees. Also, more and more the USATT itself began to rely on his helpful medical advice and ministrations at major tournaments here and abroad. I know this for a fact, for he’s twice helped me out.

In 1991, at the Pan Am Games in Cuba he not only quickly ministered to a number of players, including a badly dehydrated Insook Bhushan, but saved me from considerable anxiety--for, great balls of fire, my skin had started to peel in a most sensitive area, and I didn’t know what was happening to me or what I might have picked up (quite innocently I hasten to say). Turns out I was allergic to the homemade Havana-hotel soap, and with the tiniest pill I’ve ever seen Michael had me good as new the next day.

In 1997 at the Manchester, England World’s, where Michael was Doping Control Administrator, I’d foolishly taken some strong stuff--gulped down three large pills of tetracycline--just to stop a beginning cold, and then, puzzled and soon panic-stricken, I watched day after day as, starting in my waist area, my whole body, slowly from the waist up, slowly from the waist down, creepingly turned a sun-burned red. Michael of course being a doctor, a dermatologist, had seen so many toxic reactions that they must have seemed commonplace. But this one was bizarre enough for me. The potentially deadly spread of that severe infectious reaction Michael tried hard to control. Fortunately each day he was giving me the right antidotal medicine. But unfortunately this medicine didn’t begin to "take" until, very frightened, I’d hurried home and put myself into the nearest hospital, where eventually I shed all my old skin.

Michael’s not always smiling either. At Manchester he had the dubious duty of having to insist that two-time World Champion Jan-Ove Waldner take some dopey test--this, after "Waldi," leading 2-0, had just lost his semi’s match to Ma Lin and Coach Carlsson was quite ticked off. But neither Waldner nor anyone else has ever been able to resist Michael’s leprechaunish charms.

In addition to his drug-testing work at the Pan Am Games, the Olympic Games, and World Championships, Michael continues to serve as an International Umpire. That he has a special place in his heart for poor, put-upon umpires is attested to by the Dr. Michael Scott Award given each year at the U.S. Open and Closed to the most deserving umpire. Michael is also the North American representative of the Swaythling Club, the player/official members of which have been active on the world table tennis scene. Indeed, he received his Swaythling Club pin from no less a personage than Yugoslavia’s former World Doubles Champion and former ITTF Sports Science Committee head, Dr. Zarko Dolinar.

Michael does get around. In 1983, for example, after his second Sports Academy tour of Saudi Arabia, he spoke of a magnificent $80,000,000 sports palace he’d seen there. And somewhere in Borneo he presented a Dyak tribesman with a USATT emblem--which allowed him to inspect the tattoo on this gentleman’s throat that signified he personally had beheaded someone.

In 1991 Michael was in Japan for the Chiba World’s. That’s the one where the North and South Koreans uniquely combined to field a so-called "unified" Team and where Michael not only led but actually got a Korean cheerleader to join him in chanting a spirited, sporting "USA-Yay!...USA-Yay!...USA Yay!" rally.

In ‘92 he was in Dublin for the World’s Veteran Championship. When the two Irish doctors assigned didn’t show up, he was asked to be Tournament Physician. Since all four of Scott’s grandparents were born in Ireland, Michael has dual citizenship and is of course partial to Irish competitors. Here at this summer’s Special Olympic Games in Raleigh he was quick to cheer on the Irish Team.

At the ‘95 World’s in Tianjin, Michael lost an important set of documents and was very pleased when a young Chinese woman, perhaps in her early 20’s, found and returned them to him.

He wanted to repay her thoughtfulness and asked if he might take her to dinner. She accepted, and assumed, since the restaurant he suggested was only a mile or two away, that they’d walk. But because it was drizzling, Michael, despite the young woman’s hesitation, insisted they get a cab.

Perhaps it seemed strange to her to be in a cab--and with an American man?

In the restaurant Michael ordered for the two of them. She would have a steak, for she’d never had one before. And would Michael please teach her how to use a knife and fork?

The dinner was pleasant--though the young woman confessed that, knowing the freedom and the opportunities possible in the United States, it was sometimes a little depressing living in China.

In gratitude for his kindness, the young woman asked Michael to please take her ring as a remembrance--which he did.

Since, in their brief encounter, they were away from all that "CHIN-a! CHIN-a!" Stadium mania, it was a refreshingly innocent and quiet time, and a tender moment for Michael having to say goodbye to this young woman whom he would probably never meet again.

At the Manchester World’s, even Ding Yaping herself, whom naturally Michael had tested over the years, couldn’t resist his mischievous wiles, and, on coming down from the Awards dais, was seen presenting him with the very bouquet of flowers that had just been given her as (for the third time) World Women’s Singles Champ.

No wonder then, not long after, the USATT, in its own exemplary Hall, presented Michael with its honoring bouquet.