Category Archives: Sports

A Wildly Accurate and Inaccurate Post About Badminton

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Many of us, especially those of us whiter than a bleached bag of rice, played badminton in our backyards when we were younger. Let’s admit it: we didn’t know what we were doing. Like a game of Monopoly, we made up the rules as we played. We ran into parked cars, brick walls, and probably smacked each other a few hundred times with the rackets. Sometimes, we even hit each other accidentally.

Whether badminton is a sport is obvious. The intensity with which you argue about this question itself serves as a reliable indicator whether you measure your ice cubes, watch the Harry Potter series with Klingon subtitles, or really ‘feel the burn’ when you walk fast to the garage for another 6-pack of spritzer water.

Joking aside, some matches have recorded hit speeds of 200 mph. Moreover, many people don’t know that the intensity of competitive badminton greatly exceeds that of tennis and typically requires twice as much distance covered per match.

If you already know the correct spelling for the word “badminton,” it’s likely that you also eat ketchup on your mac and cheese, not that there’s anything wrong with that, you psycho.

(Trivia Break) Gerbils can detect the smell of adrenaline in human sweat.

The game was invented in India in the 19th century after Lord Valdemort (no relation) noticed several of his servants waving swatters around in the boudoir. One of the servants accidentally threw a stuffed finch from the bedside display and the others began to swat it playfully back and forth. Although they broke several thousand dollars worth of vases and had to be put to death, the game was born. This entire paragraph is wildly inaccurate.

Despite my aversion to sharing facts, the name of the game owes its origins to the estate of the Dukes of Beaufort on which it was developed, rather than the once-popular theory that two drunk ladies intentionally kept pronouncing their illnesses incorrectly.

(Trivia Break) The Canary Islands were not named after birds, which I am certain most people don’t know. It derives its name as it passes through Spanish and Latin for “dogs.”

It’s no accident that the first 3 letters of the word cleverly telegraph the amount of fun you’re going to have while playing. While some people claim to enjoy playing, some people also like to eat raw hamburger and watch “The Bachelor.” People can’t be trusted.

The word “badminton” itself is offensive enough, but factoring in ‘shuttlecock’ and ‘racquet,’ and you have a guaranteed chuckle for anyone under 15 years of age.

While reading about it, I saw that formal badminton games are played indoors, while casual games are played outdoors.

Again, though I detest facts, competitive badminton is played indoors due to the fact that light winds can affect the shuttlecock as it flies. Whether those light winds are meteorological or gastrointestinal is a subject each family will debate on its own. Thanks to Aunt Maude for the chili.

The disadvantage of playing outdoors is that one runs the risk of other people observing you trying to play.

To my surprise, I discovered it is a summer Olympic sport. I presume it’s played as a literal reenactment of the movie “Dodgeball.” It’s the only explanation that makes sense.

When badminton first became an Olympic sport, over one billion people watched. While I like to joke about it, worldwide it is one of the most popular spectator sports. That still blows my mind, like discovering that you’re 14% more likely to die on your birthday than any other day of the year. (It’s true, by the way.)

A regulation badminton court is 20 X 44 feet, while the net is supposed to be 5 feet in the air. (And presumably connected to the ground, if you were wondering.) Attempts to replace the regulation net with a complex series of barbed wires were rebuffed, despite many advocates for watching the game demanding that barbed wire would result in a more entertaining game, much in the same way that baseball would be more enjoyable to watch if spectators could randomly fire pistols at those playing.

Even though you will think I’m making this up, a traditional shuttlecock or birdie consists of 12-14 duck or goose feathers – and those feathers are required to be from the left wing only of the bird, no matter what the bird might have to say about it.

Quoting from the official rulebook, here’s how the game is played:
1) Each participant should be motivated to play out of sheer boredom 2) Each player should have his or her own mosquito swatter or approved racquet 3) Alcohol or epilepsy help the game 4) Score is kept by constantly arguing about where the net is, how big the play area is, and how afraid you are of your family members. 4) The winner is declared when someone runs facefirst into a car parked too close to the net.

Sports Illustrated tried to do an article of the “5 Most Interesting Things To Happen In Badminton” and could only find one answer: “Nothing.” Not wanting to offend the Badminton World Federation (BWF), which coincidentally is a real thing, the editors instead ran an article mocking lawn bowling, which appeased badminton fans.

Given the competitive disadvantage of many sports, the truth is that a young person could do worse than attend a school with a competitive badminton team. If you can get a scholarship for bowling, Cornhole, fencing, rifle, water polo, and skiing, badminton is a great alternative. (All of those are real, sanctioned sports in the NCAA, if you thought I was joking.) For those considering playing badminton in college, you’ll be able to visit overseas, where badminton is incredibly popular.

One actual theory as to why it’s not as popular here sounds strange: sports that don’t utilize spheroid objects tend to fare worse both in participation and viewership. You might laugh at me to admit this, but this theory made me think way too long about the intangibles of this sort of fact.

In closing, badminton is a very physical sport. It’s much more popular than most Americans realize. Also, even though it’s totally unrelated, if you earn $20,000 a year, you are actually in the top 5% of wage earners in the world. That’s not made up, either.

P.S. I know this post is about badminton; if you read closely, though, you discovered a couple of crazy facts along the way. In closing, the average human body contains just enough fat to create 7 bars of soap.

I Could (Run) My Mouth With The Fastest of Them

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I had a story published in “Young Author” magazine while in high school. It was titled “The Race,” and I based it on a run on a Wednesday afternoon at Southwest Junior High. When I wrote it, it was too short and I thought nothing of it. Surprisingly, the teacher told me to submit it.

The premise? It’s the finish that matters, not how you got there.

This isn’t the story that was published. This is what gave me the idea. I apologize if it sounds like I’m bragging about anything. I didn’t have a clue about what the heck I was doing in life. It was at times unbearable for me to be around some of the great people I went to school with. They might as well have been aliens. Mouthy, as I call him in this story, probably would have run faster than I had he took me seriously.
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After I started running each day in 9th grade, I learned that I enjoyed running barefoot, like a savage. I looked like a savage sometimes; running in cutoff shorts or jeans, barely able to breathe as I struggled to run. It cost me more than one puncture. My feet, already accustomed to hard running and walking on all manner of surfaces, acquired yet another layer of almost impenetrable thickness. The first few years I ran, I was capable of running fast. In my later years, I just couldn’t do it, even when I still ran often. Every once and a while, I made my way over to Southwest Junior high. It still had an older surface. I loved the feel of the grit on my feet. My problem was that after running, I would have to walk from the track over to my cousin Jimmy’s house.

In my sophomore year, one of the runners for track tried to intimidate me. He overheard me telling someone in the band that I loved running. He told me I was full of it and if I could run so well, I would be in track with him. I didn’t have the energy to tell him that my home life wouldn’t have permitted my participation or that I would have caught hell from the coaches on staff.

“Yeah, right. You’re full of it.” He insisted I couldn’t run a mile.

“Just a mile?” I asked him, which made him irritated. “Any idiot can run a mile, whether it’s through soft grass or on a nice track.” I figured I’d turn the argument around on him.

“I can run a mile faster than you!” he said.

“Oh, it is the speed that matters? I normally only run fast when chased, so I’m not fast.” I was certain he could outrun me, but probably not outdistance me.

In short, I was demonstrably stupid.

And that’s the conversation that led me to be at the track at Southwest on a Wednesday. I had to walk there from the high school.

The track runner, who I’ll call Mouthy, met me there. Someone drove him over to the track. We went in through the narrow gate. Mouthy was looking at me strangely. I was wearing the same shoes I wore to school. I only owned one pair.

“You’re going to outrun me in those?” Mouthy asked.

Partly from bravado and in part from defiance, I said, “No, I’m going to run barefoot.” I sat on the edge of the bleachers near the track and began taking my Kmart shoes and socks off.

“There’s no way, man. It’s going to kill your feet.”

I took my pants off. I was wearing my one pair of shorts I could run in. My other running shorts were cutoffs that were too big around the waist. I ignored him and walked barefoot out to the marker. Mouthy had a stopwatch. “For real?” he asked me, still not sure I was going to try to outrun him.

He shrugged. “I’m going to start this and put it down. I’ll yell ‘go’ when ready, okay?” I nodded.

Mouthy pressed the stopwatch button and then set it on the edge of the track. He stood up, leaned over and then yelled “Go.”

He ran away from me. I felt like the Wile E. Coyote in the cartoons. I ran, letting Mouthy pull away. I knew I couldn’t beat him. A weird thing happened, though. I watched him as he arced away from me. His expensive shoes were simply mesmerizing to watch as he ran. I got angry. Not at Mouthy, but at my Dad. I thought of all the evenings in the last year when I went out to Piazza Road in Tontitown to run. My Dad ridiculed me. I know I looked strange: a fat, wobbly kid running in the middle of nowhere. As the weight fell off me that summer, I could see that my Dad hated it. He needed me to be fat. A lot of dads are that way, to the detriment of their sons. Little did he know that “The Eye of The Tiger” played in my head like a prayer on most of those runs.

Not many people know that the only reason I believe I made All-State band in the 10th grade was because I had started running unimaginable distances. (That, and the band director Pat Ellison told me I was going to do it. Whether she believed it or not was irrelevant. When she said I would, I believed it, because she seemed genuine in her belief. I always envy kids who had parents who emulated her example.)

I put my Dad out of my mind and instead imagined I was doing the last mile on Piazza Road in Tontitown. The last 100 yards near home were on a slightly sloping downward hill. There were times I ran the last half-mile with such intensity that I would see stars. The pavement ended past the hill. If I felt exuberant after the mad dash, I’d run to the end of the dirt road where the 4K dairy barn was. It didn’t take me long to realize that the best way to run longer distances was to fail to turn around where Fletcher intersected with Barrington.

By the first lap, Mouthy was far ahead of me. He seemed to be slowing though. I think he overestimated his ability to run at that pace. My bare feet began to feel like they were connected to the sky as I ran deliberately as fast as I could. By the end of the second lap, I was ten yards behind Mouthy. He kept looking back more and more often. By the end of lap 3, I was about 10 feet in front of him. “I’m going to catch you,” Mouthy shouted. He should have saved his breath. I decided that I was going to beat him so badly he’d never doubt me. I said it in my head as much to him as the idea of my Dad. Despite my bad form, I grunted and ran with everything I had. I sensed that Mouthy had noticed I was giving the race every iota of effort I had. I could hear him grunt. As I finished my fourth lap, I was only 5 feet ahead of Mouthy. I beat him, though.

I slowed to a walk and went into the grass. The grass felt like a luxurious carpet to my toes.

“Well, you won! I wouldn’t have believed it! What do your feet look like?” Mouthy seemed like he’d already accepted that I beat him. He was being a good loser.

I showed him the bottom of my left foot. It was a bit red from one of the inside curves, but not scatched or cut. “I think I only beat you because you started off too fast, didn’t you? Also, I was really, really mad. I felt like Clubber Lane on that last stretch.” Mouthy laughed. “Yeah, I was overconfident. I know better than that.”

We ran two more miles together that afternoon, both considerably slower. Mouthy told me I needed to consider track. So I told him an abridged version of what my home life was like. “Keep running, either way.” He didn’t know what to say when I told him I only had one pair of shoes, not counting my band shoes. His mom drove me to my cousin Jimmy’s house.

Later, my friend Mike invited me to run with him. I’ll share that story another time. I ended up eating a bit of dirt and mud on that run, vainly trying to keep pace with him. It was that day I discovered that he was not human. It’s likely that the terminator in the sequel to the original movie was based on Mike.

When I worked at the nursing home on Gutensohn, I worked at night. There were several times I went and ran barefoot on the junior high track. Some of my best runs happened under the stars. I can’t imagine the youth I possessed to allow me to work, run, and take advantage of such a simple pleasure.

All of us, if we’re lucky, have the joy of looking back on our own surprises.
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P.S. That road in Tontitown looks almost the same as it did when I ran on it in 1983.

CrouchingTiger Woods

A quick, snarky note from a non-sports fan…
3 a.m. on a Monday morning. Two flats, damage to the driver side, bumper, taillight out, the car was running, and right turn signal was flashing. When they woke him up, his speech was slurred and he didn’t know where he was at.

At first, police thought he was Sean Spicer.

If that had been me, Johnson Police would have used my small intestine to tow me to the jail and then charged me with at least 5 misdemeanors.

Tiger didn’t hurt anyone, so they shouldn’t kick him too hard. On the other hand, he got into a car he obviously wasn’t able to drive safely and hit something. Unfortunately, he wasn’t driving anywhere near Congress.

I vote that we let him off with a warning and sentence him to WATCH five hundred hours of golf. He’ll be begging for mercy at that point.

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PS: If you’ve never watched golf, it is exactly as bad as LISTENING to people talk about baseball, the earwax of sports.