I had a dream last night about playing badminton. Badminton is a racquet sport, like tennis, but without many of the tedious trappings, such as a fixed court or well-known celebrities. And unlike tennis, given a brief introduction, most people could probably play badminton, although there will be those moments where the bird gets hilariously stuck in a racquet or the server misses hitting it altogether. The main appeal of badminton for non-sporty people like me is its portability; my family had a compact badminton set that we could haul with us and play at picnics or on vacation (not that we ever did, but we could have). For me, the idyllic nature of badminton goes hand in hand with soft grass and sunny days.
My childhood badminton set was a little worse for wear; the racquets were a mixture of electrical-taped wood and lightweight metal, and we had one "bird" that was made with actual feathers. It was just a conversation piece most of the time, until we lost track of the plastic ones or got them treed. The net had the holes it was supposed to have, and a few extra-large holes that were probably made by an over-enthusiastic participant. Along with croquet, badminton is a game that I remember playing semi-regularly during portions of my childhood, particularly with my mother. She wasn't particularly sporty, but we would set up the net in the front yard and stage epic badminton battles. I also seem to recall trying to teach the neighborhood children to play, but I'm sure that was about as successful as my attempt to play Dungeons & Dragons with them.
When I was in high school, one of our gym units was on badminton, and I had the advantage of already knowing how to play due to my rigorous mother-daughter sessions. At the end of the unit, we played a doubles tournament, and my partner and I (we were both named Anna) made it to the semifinals. Why is that tournament one of my favorite memories from high school? Because it's a great feeling to excel at a sport, and to work so smoothly with someone else in a way that made high school gym not only tolerable, but enjoyable. As opposed my time on the basketball team, I was actually able to play the game, and I was good at it.
The last time I played badminton, as far as I remember, was a picnic with co-workers from my tennis and literacy non-profit. Although I wouldn't ever give any of them a decent game on the tennis court (the racquets are too damn heavy . . . backhand, you say?), I am pleased to say that I managed to hold my own against the others on my boss's lawn. So yes, a large part of the reason I like badminton is because I'm good at it. Unlike many of the sports I've discussed here (see: figure skating), I can actually perform reasonably well. Of course, I'm not anything like those Olympic players who are so fascinating to watch, but I'm looking forward to the chance to play again. My family's badminton set--hole-y net, feathered bird, and all--is somewhere in my garage, and spring is finally here. Anyone want to play?