By Adam Button
For head coach Rob Fullerton, choosing the badminton team is simple. Organize a tournament and give the winners a spot on the squad.
This is my third game, if I lost I’m cut. Unfortunately, my opponent is a team veteran. He’s played all summer and has come to tryouts in top condition, two things I wish I had done.
My opponent is impatient with me. He suggests we play without warming up. Since I’m nearly out of breath from my previous two games, I decide to get the game over with.
On what seems like eight shots in a row, I’m down 8-0 in a game to 11. Dammit.
There are only two kinds of losers in sports: the people who get angry and the people who make excuses.
If I had a better racquet, I wouldn’t be in this position.
It’s always the racquet. In my final year of high school I was the badminton team’s most valuable player. I hardly ever lost, but in the championships my racquet snapped, then I snapped and lost because my backup racquet was twice as heavy.
When I went to badminton tryouts in the Kerr Hall gym I was still using my backup racquet. Like most people at Ryerson, I guessed the badminton team wouldn’t be very good. I assumed anyone who came to tryouts made the team.
I was surprised when 55 people arrived for the first tryout and even more surprised when I couldn’t seem to hit the birdie. In badminton, if you don’t play often, you lose the knack.
Having just tried out for the basketball team, I was glad to see I was a head taller than most of the athletes.
Aside from the height differences, ballers and birdiers are at the opposite ends of the personality spectrum. Basketball is impersonal, trash-talking and in-your-face; badminton is quiet and formal. Matches are self-officiated.
Former CBC broadcaster Peter Gzowski said he liked people who were unsure of themselves. He would have found some friends at badminton tryouts.
When Fullerton asked us to pair up, Kevin Lo, a computer science student approached me. Looking down at the floor he quietly said to me that he was looking for a partner.
It was a good thing he picked me because he was outstanding. He led our team to a near-perfect record. Still, when he erred he couldn’t stop apologizing. We had a great strategy: he would wear them down and when they made a mistake, I would come in and smash the birdie to the floor.
I’ve always been a one-trick pony on the badminton court. My placement is horrible, my drop shot is predictable and my backhand is weak. But when I get the chance to smash, I let out a Monica Seles grunt and hammer it.
I’ve never found anyone who could return my trademark shot.
I realize, when I’m three points away from getting cut, that the team veteran is the man who can return my smash.
No, wait, it must be the racquet.
“What do you think of my racquet?” I ask him after he returns one especially hard shot.
“It’s pretty much a piece of shit,” he says.
I knew it. But that’s not the kind of answer I’d expect from a humble badminton player.
He feels guilty about it. After he beats me, he shakes my hand. “Good game,” he says. “Sorry about what I said about your racquet.”
I don’t need to make too many excuses though. It’s only the badminton team after all. Real men don’t play badminton. Real men play hockey.