Quite a rally [part 3, badminton]


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The really low “PING!” of synthetics-covered cork against string radiates from the court up the humming, hair-clutched, heart-stopped, mouth-O&0-ed, standing tiers of the International Badminton Federation Stadium’s South East Asian Championship Tournament’s tournament[1] point. It is the sound of defeat itself.

Again, beyond the court’s illuminated rectangularity, the majority of the people in the crowd are resorting to gasps, exclamations and the numerous noises that signify vicarious participation. However, what carries most clearly in the turnout’s many vocalizations is a frustrated recognition that this has been the pen-ultimate gesture of something that was much too beautiful to last. The flight home from vacation. A 9-year old boy drops his ice cream cone from distraction or disappointment. As with everything, so in badminton’s universe it is a terrible letdown to see a great thing end on a shitty, imbecilic, avoidable fuck-up that simply tells everybody in attendance that “Hey, these two playing down here are, after all, just your standard issue human beings” rather than flawless incarnations of athleticism come down to illustrate finer points about the finite and the infinite.

Thus and so’ly, the shuttlecock re-ascends on an amateurish parabola that players at this elevated level of excellence commonly do not even employ in the course of their robotic warm-ups. You see this maximized hang time trajectory when greenish amateurs familiarize themselves with the motions, strokes, flight behavior, handle etc. of the easy-to-learn but hard-to-master racket game[2].

Is the sort of shot the audience in the upside down shadows is voicing their discontent with, “Oooooohs” having dropped their top halves to become much less excited “Uuuuuuuughs”. Y.C. and her small contingent of fans and supporters standing around down by stand’s end in a 6m wide band of shadow leading up to Badmintonia proper are the only people with reactions to the contrary. There is even a slight edge of embarrassment about such an absolute gimme, which she will have to subsequently acknowledge by briefly staring down at the court’s orthogonally intersecting lines and raising her open, left hand all the way up: for some reason gestures of good sportsmanship are near universal.

The situation merely calls for a single side step, some minimum elevation and a quick, merciful whip diagonally across the center line, drilling it down unattainably into the right service field, far away from the presently fully extended Mdm J.K. This will level things out at 21 apiece in the fifth + final game. To win this International Badminton Federation South East Asian Championship Tournament thing, as in any other match’s game one has to get a minimum edge of two on one’s opposite number.

Yi’s opponent, in a desperate last ditch attempt is once again at it, trying to recoil the stretched line of her body towards mid-court, probably hoping for another miracle of reflexes, which is not even that outlandish a thing to hope for given the overall improbability of the ongoing exchange of eye-popping[3] shots. Hope, if at all, is usually reserved for in-between rallies, as well as drastic point deficit situations, while pure play proceedings themselves for these PRO grade characters are times for the being of self and nothing but self.

Yi does the kill, getting the birdie back up to maximum, practically invisible velocity, which makes three of her teammates exclaim in screechy joy to drown out the subdued 40’000+’s rumble of discontent: not just because their local hero is on the wrong end of the play but because this very play is drawing to an end.

Instead, the rally is blessed with one more wrinkle: the shuttles’ oval, white head collides point first with the net’s taut, destinal[4] edge, held in place by a wire enclosed in a thick, white band. It is deflected into a wild upwards tumble that comes near the 179cm mark. It is badminton’s best equivalent of dies being cast, even the rate of rotation on the thing. Each of the female competitors, one shocked, the other on the cusp of delight, abandoning rationality or any athletic intents, strenuously tries to push the whirling whiteness towards the enemy’s territory by the concentrated force of her stare/gaze/evil eye. Is all there is left to do really, is rely on one’s tentative magical abilities.

A quick glimpse into the stands will show that[5]

It doesn’t matter, neither the stuff in the stands, nor the looks that would kill. A truth of indoor courts even the most amateur, crosshairs-level citizen of Badmintonia is familiar with is that in this human made structure against Mama Nature’s al fresco whims any of the four elements is still likely to put in an appearance: fire as sweltering summer heat, water in the form of drenching humidity or even a leaky roof, earth as treacherous irregularities in the court’s surface and wind as minute air currents, both refreshing and disastrous. Yes, the sad truth is that at the ultimate, indescribable moment the International Badminton Federation’s Takeshi Yamamoto Stadium’s airy spirits conspire with one of their metropole’s favorite daughters by imperceptibly blowing the flighty plaything in a southerly direction, away from cute Junko Koreeda towards a stunned Yi Chung.

By the time the point, and with it the match, the tournament, her inflated sense of superiority dies, the goddess of the big smash is already walking, head down, towards her national team teammates waiting condolently in the overturned shadows just outside the known universe. Behind, in the bright green and white rectangulum there is a yellow-clad figure, J.K., leaping for joy.


[1] Tournament point: if one of the player’s needs just one more point to win the entire tournament, serve or no serve

[2] In this leisurely scenario the participants switch from a competitive to a communist mode of play, from badminton to feather ball. For this beginner’s variety of flight paths and rally continuation efforts, the oval frame head is used as a viewfinder cum crosshairs to target the approaching plastic feather projectile and the whole objective of play becomes to keep the darn thing aloft for as many hits as humanly possible. One tends to count shots aloud, encouraging each other, instead of points in a heated race to 21; a shuttle making ground contact is a trivial cause for all-around smiles, instead of a variation on death; plastic means fun, perhaps moderate competition, actual feathers mean tournament-grade rivalry; one is much more likely to hear the term “birdie” rather than the acutely technical “shuttle”; generally speaking, the parameters of the afore described universe are radically recalibrated to the point where the deca-sected field becomes just one more surface area within a much bigger body of life.

[3] One day later, Monday, on a photographer’s shot of the shot one can see Y.C.’s eyes extended open to maximum capacity, pupils pointed at the shuttle, mouth identically wide open ready to bite down on the shuttlecock, this great opportunity in life or something. The rally stopped time and then the photographs captured, gutted and poached it from all angles like an omnivisual deity. Late Samstag [famous U.R.T.I thinker] would have had a field day with this.

[4] Adjectival form for “destiny deciding”

[5] A short, puffy lady of 84years does indeed keel over to starboard, in row 77, sideways, over the low, law suite prone railing, down into the adjacent gangway where five meters further down an extremely fortuitous pile of soft garbage breaks her fall. It doesn’t matter, mid-air cardiac arrest has her D.O.A.                                                                                                                                      Further down the tiers, the earlier anxious emergency guy’s face is beaming with excitement as he takes in the play’s improbable beauty and denouement. The Automated External Defibrillator is standing beside him perfectly disengaged. His anxiety meanwhile has been replaced by a sense of the sublime. He has been afforded a glimpse of the bounties of this universe.

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About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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