A Royal Cock-Up My Life | Sport & Health 06 JUN 2008

BadmintonI don’t usually sleep around, hell, I don’t think I’ve slept around at all since going out with Chantelle, but last night, last night was different…

…I slept over at my mom’s place.

Why, you might be asking at this point? Well, not for any sinister reason I assure you. The Bellvile Methodist Church hall is currently housing around 150 odd destitute xenophobic victims, which obviously means that the weekly social badminton held there every Thursday evening and Monday morning has been put on hold indefinitely. However, the ever intrepid Aunty Elsa came up with a neat little solution – set up a friendly social match with the nearby Bellville badminton club, whose headquarters sit in 8th Avenue Boston.

Now to make up a team you need six players, three male and three female, and with my dad out on crutches after undergoing a knee operation this week and mom also out with a niggle, Claire and myself found ourselves being asked to fill in and help out.

Now I am currently at the lowest point of fitness that I have experienced in my life and haven’t been on a court (for any sport) in literally months, but nevertheless, I immediately agreed to help out and joined up with Ryan and Claire at mom’s place last night, before heading out to the match location.

On entering the premises, I was more than pleasantly surprised to recognize at least six or so people I used to play with back at Sanlam when I still played league, way back in the early 2000s. Of course, having undergone quite a few dramatic changes to my appearance, not a single one of them recognized or recalled me, but still, it was good to see them and catch up a little on what they had been up to over these last couple of years.

Our team for the night consisted of Elsa, Colleen and Claire for the ladies, while Ryan, Nicky and I made up the men, and all were eager for a little court action. Unfortunately for us social bumpkins, picking a fight, albeit a social fight, with a league playing team is not the greatest of ideas, especially if you normally play on a court that has almost no space around it, has a fairly low ceiling, and you play with plastic shuttlecocks. No, these opponents are the type of opponents that take the game seriously – with or without the ‘social’ tag.

Firstly, the use of feather shuttlecocks was a prerequisite. Now for any of you who have played the game with both types before, you will know the huge difference in weight and thus playing style and timing that comes with playing with feather instead of plastic. Now for me it isn’t that much of a problem because I used to play with feather back in my league days, but for some of the others it was pretty much their first time knocking about a feather in match conditions.

Of course, the diffenerce in level between the two sides was always going to be great (never judge a badminton player by their age – often the older you get, the better your placement gets, and thus the easier it is to win games) and it was thus no surprise that we lost all of our games in the end. Out of all of us, probably only Colleen stood a good chance of winning her singles games, but unfortunately for her, lack of match fitness cost her and she lost her nerve and in doing so lost the match.

Ryan and Nicky didn’t do too horribly in the men’s doubles, but they were dealt with easily enough, while Claire and Elsa went down fairly quickly in the ladies’ doubles, only putting up a bit of fight in the second game. Elsa asked me to play the singles, which a year or two wouldn’t have been a problem, but in my current state of health, it probably was not the greatest of ideas.

Funnily enough, despite the new scoring system that they used (which none of us were familiar with), I actually managed to win my first game, but I was huffing and puffing so much that I thought I might die of a heart-attack there and then! (As it was, I even had to deal with a stitch in my side at one point in the match!) Unfortunately, from that point onwards it was pretty much all downhill, as once again my bum knee gave out on me during an early point in the second game (you play the best of three) when I had to hustle to pick up a short shot. And with the knee blown, there went the game with it.

The mixed doubles didn’t fare any better unfortunately, with Ryan and Elsa going down (but after a good fight) and Colleen and Nicky also losing out. Claire and I played together for a change, and although we normally play quite nicely together, my immobility cost us heavily as we spent most of the games trying to come up with tactics in which Claire was responsible for most of the covering work. A lot of unforced and positioning errors later, and we were down and out for the count.

Despite the losses that we suffered, I at least can take some consolation in the fact that I managed to chow through at least half of their tube of new shuttles, four or five of which had to be replaced during our singles games alone! True, it was mostly my opponent that kept switching between shuttles because he wasn’t happy (generally as soon as he lost two or more points in a row), but secretly I know that my slicing action on the feathers WAS the main cause for the shuttlecocks’ early demise! :)

The actual badminton aside, the people we played against last night were really friendly and welcoming, and once all the games had been said and done, it was time for a nice round of tea and cake to end off the evening, a practice I remember from the good old league days. From there it was back to mom’s place where Ryan and I stayed up past midnight, battling each other in both PES 2008 and Table Tennis, with Ryan gaining the upper hand in almost all of the clashes :( (But don’t worry, I’m starting to get used to the Xbox controller at last! Next time it will be a different story, I promise!)

I have to admit, last night was tons of fun, and I didn’t realize just how much I missed this part of my life. Now that I am far removed from Bellville, all my badminton and squash activities are no more, with the result that I am now completely and utterly court unfit. Add a bum knee into the mix and you are left with a very depressed Craig. The most frustrating thing about last night was the fact that I know that my singles (and doubles) games would have been a walk in the park a year or two ago, but that I severely let myself down by having let my body down as much as I have this last year or so.

Yes, I keep saying “oh my knee this” and “oh my knee that” and yes, it is the truth because that has been a major problem for me, but I also know that when it gets to the nitty gritty of the matter, I really only have myself to blame. Hopefully last night’s excruciatingly poor performance will be enough of a kickstart to get me back to where I once was in terms of fitness, if not perhaps a little better. One can only hope.

In any event, last night’s badminton was really fun and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Hopefully Aunty Elsa doesn’t drag her feet too long and organizes another social match – and more importantly – they need me to fill in for them again! :)

About Craig Lotter

Software developer, husband and dad to two little girls. Writer behind An Exploring South African. I don’t have time for myself any more.