You see I enjoy sports. I like watching them, I like playing them, I like betting on them with half-jews who think they know a lot more about football than they do. Sports are a lot of fun. I have come to realize something, though. A simple fact that seems to have escaped many men even older than I. I will never be a competitive athlete on a high level.
No, no, it’s true. I’ve accepted this truth and moved on. I only wish that I wasn’t the only one. Now this could easily turn into a rant about minority youths and their fixation on obtaining lucrative sports careers to the point where they neglect more practical things like academics, but I’m not going to go there. As tragic as that is, it doesn’t really affect me. I live a sheltered life and do not need to worry about such sweeping social issues. My area of concern is much more selfish than that. I want to talk about my Badminton class.
Now a Badminton gym class at an ivy league school wouldn’t seem to be a venue where one would encounter a lot of competitive fire. That’s part of what attracted me to it. That and the fact that you get to say things like “Hit that [shuttle]cock!” or “don’t be afraid of the [shuttle]cock,” or “My [shuttle]cock is getting a little frayed. I think I need a new one.” What can I say, I’m easy to please. Anyway I took this class under the assumption that it would be a fun non-threatening environment where a bunch of geeks who were hoping to avoid the humiliation of their high-school gym experiences could serve out their mandatory sentence in relative peace. This assumption, as they tend to do, made an ass out of u and me. Okay, in this case it was just me. See, while there are plenty of skinny or pudgy young men and girls with the coordination and grace of spastic capybaras, I had not counted on the WADs, or Wiry Asian Dudes. These guys play badminton like their sisters’ lives depend on every point, and they are involved in incestual relationships with their sisters. They come to the gym carying their own rackets (who packs a Badminton racket for college? How does that even work? “Socks? Check. Laptop? Check. Bestiality porn? Check check check. Badminton racket? Wow I can’t believe I forgot that. Let’s chuck the hi-fi, I have a feeling I’m going to need the carbon-fiber strength and lightness of this bad boy.”) and scowling. Some of them aren’t even signed up for the class, they just come for personal enjoyment. You never see anyone pop into a linear algebra class because they have a couple hours to kill.
Anyway the WADs generally keep to themselves, making Badminton look like a cross between a Dragon Ball Z fight and a scowling competiton, denting the gym floor with their shuttlecocks and talking smack that goes far above and beyond what’s necessary for what will never be more than a pussy sport. Us slackers do our own thing, focusing on the important things like complaining that our rackets may be low-torsion steel but how can we be sure they’re low ENOUGH torsion steel? What’s the standard? Is it a relative thing or absolute? Occasionally one of us gets hit by a stray shuttlecock from a WAD match and we need to call a medic, but other than that things are pretty mellow. Sometimes our teams rotate up against WAD teams and we end up losing by scores so large that you need scientific notation just to be able to say them in less than a minute, and so obscene that our scorecards are actually censored by the athletic department.
The problems arise when a group of WADs is one player short for the day. Then they have to draft one of us. Unfortunately it often ends up being me. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s because I’m a lardbucket so my defects are obvious and whatever unfortunate WAD gets me as a partner has an instant airtight alibi for losing. Maybe it’s that I sometimes have my sweatpants on backwards and they mistake complete obliviousness for a fierce focus on the competition. Whatever their reasoning I find myself standing on a hardwood court next to a partner burning so hot with intensity that I instinctively glance around for some sort of fire safety device and across the net from two guys who not only want me dead but aren’t particularly interested in waiting to see how long it takes natural causes to do me in.
Before the match starts I always declare that while I’m not so great with the actual feats of athletic prowess I am an expert with the witty banter. This goes over well with the slacker crowd who can dig the declaration of “that’s it, let’s give them a sense of false confidence” when down 19-3. The WADs don’t appreciate it. Playing on the side of a WAD mostly consists of avoiding him as he flies around the court slaming shots back and forth with his WAD friends with little regard as to how close he comes to denting your skull with his racket, and occasionally going for a shot which invariably results in either putting one up into another WAD’s wheelhouse or slapping the shuttlecock out of bounds, either result eliciting a weary sigh of disgust from your partner, who is secretly hoping that next time you duck a little slower when the green birdie flies at your head so fast that you half expect to see a miniature Chuck Yeagar aboard it.
Yesterday I played with a WAD and managed to keep out of his way enough for us to build a 17-3 lead, which we then proceeded to fritter away swiftly when the other team remebered that if they hit shots to exactly where I was standing I might try to return them. As our lead dwindled like Janet Jackson’s chances of appearing on the cover of Good Housekeeping post superbowl I tried to inject some levity into the situation. “Wow, you guys sure are mounting a good comeback, maybe we should call you the Cardiac Kids. Or perhaps the Myocardial Infarctions, seeing as how this is an Ivy League school.” A tumbleweed drifted by. Later after my partner won a point by vaulting over my head and slamming the shuttlecock to the ground so hard scientists in the adjascent geological laboratories thought we were having an earthquake one of the opponents dropped his racket. “Easy there, MacEnroe” I said. Next point he embedded the shuttlecock in my Adams apple.
I’ve said that the slackers are good natured about losing and banter, and that’s true for the most part except when it comes to a battle of the sexes. When I end up on the side of a male colleague facing off against two girls the inner competitiveness of my partner springs to life and a game of laughter and relaxation becomes a deadly contest of wills. One of the differences between old, stodgy males of the past and the new enlightened male is that the old stodgy males couldn’t stand losing to girls at anything while the new enlightened males absolutely hate losing to girls at anything but make some attempt to hide it. Thus when the girls take a lead on us instead of saying “I can’t believe we’re losing to girls!” he’ll say “I can’t believe we’re losing to them. What with them being girls and all.” It’s a somewhat subtle distinction, I’ll grant you. Personally I’ve grown accustomed to combining the concepts of failure and women to the point where I’m comfortable sucking against opponents of either gender. This earns me scowls and sneers even when I’m not the one to blame for the fact that we’re losing. Just by accepting the loss to women I am betraying my male heritage and possibly my country. I try to look at things from another perspective. When facing women in competition losing is the only acceptable alternative. If you win, what do you prove? You’ve just beaten a couple girls. For your next trick do you intend to take on a one-armed man and a midget? If you lose at least there’s a chance the girls will jump up and down with glee. Maybe they’re not wearing sports bras. Then everybody wins.
I’ve been talking about Badminton because it’s the only “sport” I’ve been playing on a regular basis. I think that we can expand the discussion now to include all the five food seven fifty one year olds with gimpy knees who think the only thing keeping them out of the NBA is reverse racism and the fact that they COULD improve their hook shot, or the weekend duffers who dream of playing on the seniors tour when they should be dreaming of making it though nine holes without being responsible for the choking deaths of two carps and the beaning of a sleeping owl. Guys need to lighten up when it comes to sports. You generally know from a young age whether you have a real shot at glory or if you’re just a weekend warrior never destined to get the “heat” up above 55 miles per hour or earn a more intimidating nickname than “butterfingers” on the gridiron. If you’re not going to be racking up the bling and the booty in the professional ranks then relax a little. Have fun. Crack a few jokes. Let off some stress. Who knows, it may even help prevent you from dropping dead on the links of a myocardial infarction after clubbing the ball so deep into the woods that you have to let bigfoot play through before you get a chance to salvage the quadruple bogie.
Just a thought.