Updated | Greg Smith of “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs” said he joined the bank almost 12 years ago, “right out of college,” where he had “a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University.” He played table tennis, he said.
A fan of Stanford Daily history as a former staffer, I checked out the archives and found a couple things that seem plausibly by or about him. The years don’t quite add up — both items are from the spring of 2001, but one identifies Smith as a sophomore, the other as a senior — so read skeptically or email me (I guess?) if you know anything.
“Are you from Australia?” It’s an innocent, if random, question, but one that has dogged me for all four years of my Stanford existence. People stop me at the gym, in line at the Coffee House and while sitting next to me in section just to ask me this terribly pressing question. My answer is invariably, “No, I am not from Australia. Not even close, you big dummy!” Well, I don’t quite say it like that, but, not being Australian, this question does get quite annoying after a while.
Why do they ask me this question? For reasons unknown to me, the American ear is unable to distinguish between a South African and an Australian accent. Africa. Australia. Same thing. Both not America. Makes perfect sense. But to me, the two are as different as the Queen’s English from that of a Bulgarian school boy trying to speak the language for the first time. As you can see, I’ve thought about this quite a lot. …
The second encounter occurred while I was doing Math 42 homework with a devout Christian girl. In the middle of a tough problem set, I asked her if she had a rubber I could borrow. She became visibly defensive and stared at me for at least 10 seconds. I hadn’t realized that lending out stationery was such a serious business in America. Today, the girl and I laugh when we look back on this incident. But, at the time, it was not funny at all. You see, the idea that a rubber and a condom were the same thing had never occurred to me. Where I came from, a rubber was an eraser. A piece of stationery. Innocent enough, I had thought. Now I know the truth.
The other two Stanford players making the trip to Nevada will be going to the first time. Greg Smith, a Stanford sophomore, should perform well given his past tournament play in his native South Africa. Smith has had a tremendous amount of experience for his age in table tennis. He has represented South Africa twice at the World Maccabiah Games in Israel, helping his country win the bronze medal.
Update, March 17 | The Stanford Daily has re-published the May 8, 2001, op-ed by Smith. The blog of Table Tennis Nation, meanwhile, says it believes the date of the April 6, 2001, story, “Club Sports Roundup,” is inaccurate. The blog’s post on Smith is here.