There are no officials in the Seahawks locker room, but one is needed at the ping-pong table where Earl Thomas and Cliff Avril are engaged in a spirited debate over a point that would extend the former's lead. It has not been a close game so far; Thomas – wearing a curious ensemble that includes a one-sleeved cropped sweatshirt and neon green Jordan sandals – gives himself little pep talks after each point that seem to be working. The score is 5-0.
Thomas has served twice, and both times the ball hit the net on its way over. Avril believes he's owed a point: "Is double net a point? Double net is a point!"
In tennis, this is called a "double fault" and results in a point for the opponent. In table tennis, it's known as a "let serve," and is not scored no matter how many times it happens.
On this day, no one appears to be certain of this rule with the exception of Steven Hauschka, who is summoned from his locker and gets an earful from Thomas before making his ruling: We play on.
Avril immediately objects: "Who the heck made him commissioner, anyway?"
At VMAC, where ping-pong has overtaken the bean bag toss as the favored activity among players between meetings and before and after practice, Hauschka may as well be the commissioner: He's widely regarded as the best ping-pong player on the team.
The Seahawks veteran kicker recalls that the first table arrived in the locker room in 2011, but was set up in the back near the showers. It was moved into the main locker room this season, where it became popular enough to warrant a second table, a No. 2 Court, if you will.
Ping-pong was the subject of a recent sweaty podcast between Seahawks Radio Network executive producer Matt "Stretch" Johnson and wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, who were fresh – or not so fresh – off a 4-3 series.
"Ping-pong's kind of picked up in the locker room," Johnson said. "Now there's two tables and it's going full-on, nonstop during lunch, anytime. Right now there are a bunch of guys playing. [Drew] Nowak and Hauschka are the best."
Not surprisingly, there's no shortage of confidence in this locker room: Thomas ranks himself ahead of Hauschka; Kearse says he's third behind Hauschka and Nowak; Bruce Irvin claims to be in the top three. Cliff Avril will tell you he's top 10, maybe top five, but at any rate, better than Richard Sherman.
Speaking of Sherman, he's on the other table playing Bruce "Top 3" Irvin, and another disagreement has broken out. On a game-deciding play, Irvin's ball hit and bounced off the table – the side of the table. Game over?
Sherman says no: "It hit the metal. Roll that back! You need to look up the rules, because the ball hit the side of the table. That doesn't seem like it should be a point."
He’s correct. They play on.