Badminton – What You Don’t Know Could Literally Murder Your Face

Denmark's Viktor Axelsen (L) and Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia (R) go for a return during the men's singles final on the last day of the All England Open Badminton Championship at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham, central England, on March 21, 2021. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

The arrival of spring begats high pollen counts, winter rainstorms if one lives in the Pacific Northwest or Alaska, and the annual “Raising of the Backyard Badminton Net,” celebrated every April 9th as part of “Shuttlecock Awareness Month,” which oddly enough takes place in May.

Shuttlecock Awareness Month is important given those little feathery missiles are the fastest recorded objects in sports. This dude named Tan Boon Heong from Malaysia was testing out new racket technology and hit a “smash” (while kicking his legs up high in the air and shouting “eeeeeeeeee”) and the “birdie” launched at 1,101 mph, penetrating the wall of the testing facility and damaging several buildings in downtown Kuala Lumpur, including both of the Petronas Towers – much to the chagrin of anchor tenant/oil and gas giant Petroliam Nasional Brand. Although, given the fact that the 30-year horizon for dinosaur-based propellants is somewhat gloomy, maybe they were happy to get out of signing another long-term lease.

Shuttlecock Awareness is also an important part of life in general, given their annual migratory patterns (which replicate those of the Monarch butterfly) leave trails of destruction from *virtually-every-state-in-the-US-that-boarders-Canada to Mexico. 

Or, as it turns out, to the California coast.

It’s confusing, but there’s a group of Monarchs (and shuttlecocks) that take the “short route” during winter vacation and just fly to LA or San Diego instead of Central Mexico because SoCal street food is now indistinguishable from Guadalajara street food. Certainly, Monarchs’ old-school, more conventional, status-quo-blinded (and summarily exhausted) brethren are all like, “You don’t understand what hard work is, you’re taking the easy way out, blah, blah, blah,” and the young Monarchs are like, “Whatever. You don’t get me.”

*Monarchs hang out everywhere in the continental United States, excluding the Pacific Northwest, because there’s no milkweed (an herbaceous perennial flowering plant) here. Milkweed is the butterfly version of a cheap hotel, or Las Vegas, and thus their breeding ground. Plus, they think NW politics are just whacko crazy.

Anyway, it just takes one chance encounter with a flock of shuttlecocks migrating beyond the speed of sound to…

Oh, Tan just called. It’s 306 mph. That’s how fast he smashed the birdie. Sorry about that. We’re just excited about badminton season and the outfits we get to wear. Furthermore, and to clarify and otherwise win back our credibility, the average shuttlecock velocity for people who know what they’re doing but aren’t Tan The Speed Freak is 201 mph, which is faster than a Eurostar train (186.4 mph) or a pelota ball in jai alai (188 mph), making it the “fastest-moving object in sports.”

Hmph. Sure. If one doesn’t consider Formula One racing a sport, which Valterri Bottas certainly does, given he hit 231.4 mph in the 2016 Mexican Grand Prix, while in 2020, Marco Andretti secured pole position for the Indy 500 at a comparatively impotent 231.351 mph, going on the record as saying “Can’t we just round up? I thought we could round up. This sport sucks.”

This begs the question, what’s the difference between Formula One and IndyCar? The answer is, ”No one knows. Now shut up and go to sleep.”

But we’ll take a wild guess that Formula One space cars are made for mixed circuits, i.e., they accelerate very quickly and – thanks to their aerodynamics – take curves at speeds ranging from 31 mph to 192 mph (similar to our friend from New York), while IndyCars are made for constant speeds as provided by an oval track…or just cruisin’ along the waterfront with the incredibly misplaced notion that’s a good way to meet an attractive human to court, when in reality one just ends up driving back and forth endlessly, feeling quite lonely, which is exactly what it feels like to be a professional race car driver of any kind.

One thing’s for sure, both Valterri and Marco share a unique passion for badminton, according to a guy who just sat next to us on the bus, so they’re stoked the season is upon us.

Invented in India in a version called…are you sure this is right? Ok, “poona”…British army officers learned the game in 1870 then, like the history of all imperialism, stole it, only to have it stolen again by the fancy pants Duke of Beaufort, who introduced the sport at his country estate of Badminton, subsequently receiving mad props because it gave people something to do besides walking around being sexist, classist, and racist. 

Speaking of shuttlecocks, the first consisted of a small cork hemisphere with 16 goose feathers attached, harvested by landed gentry from 16 separate geese caught one at a time by hiding in a willow tree for a week, then leaping out spread-eagled and pouncing on them – making certain not to injure them – while the waterfowl ate the breadcrumbs scattered no less than 22 hours prior. 

Badminton traditionalists make shuttlecocks in this method to this very day. What’s more and onward, etc., they now ensure that each of the 16 feather-harvested geese was not in any way related, other than by matrimony (geese mate for life and rarely divorce), and of these incredible feathered life partners, it’s verified neither had been unfaithful. All of this obviously requires years of field research coupled with genetic testing in a lab, which is why badminton traditionalists come in second to race car drivers as the loneliness sports folks in the world.

Ok, what next? We’ve got reams of paper on our desk. Sheesh, this badminton thing has so many crazy regulations…let’s skip the court schematics, net, racquet, strings, and grip for sure…this list is huge, and it’s almost happy hour. Oh, and “strokes, spin, deception, position of the shuttlecock and receiving player, biomechanics?” SKIP.

And we’re sorry, BIOMECHANICS? Letsee here…Some studies confirm the minor role of the wrist in power generation…the shuttlecock’s (tee hee) substantial drag requires considerable power to hit it the full length of the court, which is not the case in most racquet sports

Good grief, the hardest biomechanical action the version we play in our backyard requires is tapping the keg…ah…helping…to teach…our kids, the right form, with patience and kindness. While listening to our spouses’ stories about some argument they got into at work…

Okay, the weather is too nice for this. Spring is here. We’re all tired of being cooped up in our overheated offices drinking Capri Suns pretending to be excited by yet another invite to yet another Zoom meeting by yet another “key stakeholder,” even if she is the prosecuting attorney. 

Go to the cheapest retailer possible and buy a badminton starter kit. Don’t hurt any geese. Get out there in the sunshine and smash some shuttlecocks. Maybe you’ll beat Tan’s record. Or not. The point is, do you really have anything better to do?

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About Patrick McNerthney 51 Articles
Patrick McNerthney is a former President, Titan of Industry and general Society-Improver. He owns a business called Outcasting, which purportedly offers writing services, but is most likely a front for the illegal import and distribution of vacant hermit crab shells. Patrick aspires to own an NFL team and take over his block. He’s written four books: How to Break Out of Prison*, How to Cheat on Your Taxes*, How to Steal Your Neighbor’s Roof*, and The Future Will Not Involve Underwear**. *Not written yet **Not formatted or published yet