Six years ago I interviewed Davis Lee Huynh for an article in Giant Robot magazine. He was ranked #10 at the time, and he practiced two hours a day, six days a week–studying game tapes 20 minutes a day. “That’s probably more than anyone else is doing at this point,” he had said. “I just gotta outwork them and hope they slack off.”
Three years later, Davis won his first championship. “Against a weakened field,” many naysayers remarked. Yesterday, Davis won his second championship– against the third-largest field of all time. He is not the most physically gifted or innately talented player, so his success story is a narrative of hard work. There will always be haters, but here’s a guy who set a goal and outworked everyone else to reach it and you can’t begrudge him that. It just so happens that his goal was to be the air hockey champion of the world.
Henry, the 11-year old son of my cousin, was able to watch the Finals yesterday online, and showed great interest in air hockey played at this level. He had many questions, so I asked if he would like to pose them to one of the more qualified people at this point, the newly crowned champion.
He said yes.
I corrected some grammar and spelling but the questions are his.
HENRY: I see that you have a smaller mallet. How come nobody else uses it? Is it legal?
DAVIS: I play with a low or flat top mallet, as they are called. Since it is the same basic size and shape as a regular mallet, except that the round knob has been removed, it is a legal mallet. I like playing with it because I feel it allows me to be faster on the table. The regular mallets don’t let me play as freely as I would like to. 90% of the top players feel it is not as stable for defense, and so they advise most players not to use the low top mallet.
HENRY: Are the best players in California?
DAVIS: Historically, the best players have all hailed from Houston, Texas. 7 of the 12 champions live in Houston. California has been considered to have one of the weakest player bases among the active states. If Air Hockey were Star Wars, Californians would be considered the Rebel Alliance, and Houston would be the evil Galactic Empire. We are going to try to change that though, right Henry?
HENRY: What kind of foods do air hockey players eat?
DAVIS: I don’t really keep track of what other air hockey players are eating, but since most of us are on the “plus” side of average, I would say we eat what the average person eats, but a little more of it. When I am competing in tournaments, I try not to eat anything that even has a chance of making me sick. There are only 1-2 competitions per year, and you don’t want to have one ruined by food sickness, which has happened to me in the past. I stick to steak, carbs and fruit.
HENRY: Now that you are champion please tell us your SECRET. And don’t say “practice.”
DAVIS: My secret is that I’m air hockey’s version of Batman. Batman didn’t have any superhuman powers, he would just figure out his enemies’ weaknesses and stay 3 steps ahead of them. Batman also could take a beating and come back and rally to win. I’m not the strongest or the fastest player, but I can figure out most of my opponents’ weaknesses and devise a plan to defeat them. I am also calm when down in a match, and sometimes able to overcome large deficits.
HENRY: Why do some players hit the puck in a boring circle? Everybody knows the way to win is to smash the puck in.
DAVIS: Henry, it’s funny that you and I think alike. I am not a fan of anything that looks boring, and some of those circle drifts are boring to watch. I like to put the puck on the table and score as fast as possible. I think some players do it hoping that they will put the other player to sleep, but instead they are putting the audience to sleep.
HENRY: Who will beat you first?
DAVIS: The first player that has challenged me for my #1 World Ranking is Brian Accrocco. We will see if he makes the trip out here to play me and try to get the top rank. Mark Nizzi of Colorado has offered to pay for me to come out and play against him. If I wasn’t the current #1 player, the players that I look forward to defeating are Anthony Marino and Wil Upchurch. These two have given me the most difficulty over the years. If it weren’t for them, I may have won another 2-3 championships.
HENRY: Would you rather fight a shark or a polar bear? Why?
DAVIS: I’m not sure how I would even go about fighting against a shark, so I would choose to fight a polar bear. Even though a polar bear is pretty large and quick, I think I could elude it and buy some time to try to figure a way out. Maybe polar bears have a “sensitive groin area” that I could go for.
It’s been a long hard slog, but we are near the end of it. Way of the Puck, the finest feature film about professional air hockey ever made, will be released on DVD in October of this year.
Features will include:
- Way of the Puck (TRT: 81 minutes)
- 5.1 Surround mix
- Commentary track featuring director Eric D. Anderson and air hockey guru Mark Robbins
- Deleted scenes
- Original trailer
- letterboxed 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio
Pre-orders will begin in earnest in August. Stay tuned…
Praise the Table!
You have stumbled upon the maiden post for the Way of the Puck Blog. We are quite happy to be out of the editing room and here in the relative civility of the blogosphere! Can you tell? For those skimming, here is the most important takeaway of this initial post:
***WAY OF THE PUCK (the finest feature film about professional air hockey ever made) WILL BE RELEASED ON DVD IN OCTOBER OF THIS YEAR.***
Sorry to use all caps there, but In order to celebrate this release, we are SCREAMING as loud as our keyboards can SCREAM. (Sounds of pounding of table). And so, 3 months early, we are launching the Way of the Puck Blog to ramp up to this release and to try to dig even deeper into the secrets of air hockey. Hopefully many of you will come along for the ride. I urge everybody to subscribe to the WOTP Blog RSS feed for maximum efficiency!
Here is a basic outline of what the blog will feature, in no particular order:
- Way of the Puck related news
- Air hockey related articles, essays, interviews, and other bits
- Discussion of other independent and sports-related documentaries
- Random non-air-hockey-related items we think our audience will appreciate
- Everything else
Thanks again for stopping by. We believe quite strongly in our little film–it’s been a real labor of love–and we encourage everybody to support the cause and to spread the word about Way of the Puck. Word of mouth will be key to the movie’s survival, so anybody you can bring into the fold is a big deal, since we are a tiny movie and we can’t afford to rent billboards on Sunset Boulevard!
Please check out our Facebook page, Twitter feed, and trailer on Youtube. The website will be active in a few days. Links are available in the rightmost column of the blog. And leave a comment if you are so inclined…. we’d love to hear from you!
Air hockey lives forever!