Love and Loathing on the Badminton Courts

Loving a sport is fine. Loving a sport and not being very good at it is fairly awful.

My dad began teaching me how to play after I thoroughly humiliated myself in school at the age of fourteen by being unable to serve, return a shot, or even be in the right place at the right time. By the way, I should point out that this is the man who’s nearing retirement age and can do several physical things I can’t, including swimming and kicking everyone else’s ass at badminton. The only small consolation I have is that my brother can’t keep up with him at badminton either, and if someone who’s trained in firing semi-automatic weapons can’t manage that, I can feel slightly better about myself. 

Digression aside, I started realizing that this old chestnut, this Amy Chua-ism of only being able to like the things you’re really good at, kicked in when I spent a little time figuring out how to play badminton. Having a healthy level of challenge helps as well. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I actually get competitive — because that sort of thing seems to be beyond me — but things get interesting. I wish I could say I execute on all the strategies I think up, like dropping a shot instead of lifting it, or slicing it, or putting it in a corner, but the challenge forces me at least to think in those terms. 

The only thing is, I always feel tremendously sorry for my doubles partner. I take badminton seriously in the sense that I play and learn as much as I can, but not really in the sense that I have to win. I’m equally happy cheering a fine point made by the guys across the net. If you’re even slightly competitive, this sort of thing can get to you. So can my lack of returns, which probably is the bigger issue. 

Ultimately it’s going to be me loving badminton, loathing myself occasionally on court, and — slowly, glacially — inching my way towards being better. 

Step one: buy my own badminton racket. 

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