Bad Rap, Badminton

People generally have an image of badminton that includes ladies wearing petticoats gently tapping the birdie back and forth with each other. The sport is widely depicted as a child’s game, one that lacks intensity and serious competition. Only 300,000 Americans play badminton on a weekly basis, a miniscule number compared to those who play sports such as tennis or even racquetball (Bischof). Most people look for a sport that includes fast action, intense competition, and a physical challenge, laughing off the thought that badminton fills that quota and focusing attention on more established sports such as baseball or football. Badminton is the answer. America has yet to appreciate the game, never understanding the true greatness that the sport presents. Professional badminton is an unbelievable event to watch and to participate in, containing more action and a faster pace then most other sports. Badminton deserves the respect generally accorded to one of the world's greatest sports, for that is what it is.

Professional badminton, although thought by many to be non-existent, has all the characteristics that make a sport popular. The stereotype that badminton is an unbearably slow sport with little action could not be more wrong. Badminton is in fact the world’s fastest racket sport, even more so than the most popular racket sport, tennis. Tennis is a great game and deserves all the attention and popularity it currently has, but badminton does not deserve the disdain it has received. The sport has been thrown aside by the American public as a waste of time. Many people perceive the sport to be unsophisticated because there is no contact involved. Other sports such as tennis and golf have become popular despite being non-contact, it should not differ with badminton. Saying that a sport where shuttlecocks (or birdies) can leave the racket at an unthinkable speed of 200-mph is “wussy” is preposterous. Even the cars of NASCAR racing rarely attain such speed. More amazing is the fact that there are often 40 to 50 shots in 20 seconds during a doubles match (USA Badminton). Such an incredible pace keeps play entertaining to those who bother to watch.

This fast action also does wonders for the human body, as it provides a vigorous cardiovascular workout that makes the sport even more appealing. A badminton match consists of highly concentrated action that includes running, jumping, twisting, stretching, striking, and diving. Badminton is, according to the Department of Physical Education at Baylor University, “one of the finest conditioning game activities available” (Andrews). During a typical match, the player will strike the shuttle about 400 times during the 20 minutes of actual game-play. Around 150 of these strokes are full arm swings, much like the motions that pitchers use during a game of baseball, which efficiently works the upper-body. The athlete also runs more than one mile during a typical match, completing a full body workout. When compared to tennis, badminton players compete for half of the time, yet run twice as far and hit twice as many shots as tennis players (Andrews). This vigorous physical activity results in speedy game play that only those with athletic capability can endure.

The Olympics is an event where such capabilities are proven as highly skilled athletes compete on the world’s stage. A sports popularity usually benefits from this exposure, especially if a star emerges into the nations spotlight, gaining recognition and fame for the sport as well as the individual. Although there are no prominent figures for badminton at this moment, the past has shown that athletes will present themselves when an “explosion“ of the sport occurs. Recall that less than two decades ago skateboarding and snowboarding were virtually unheard of in this country. Now these sports are more popular than ever, with athletes such as Tony Hawk having a fan base that far exceeds that of the sports beginnings. This can be compared to other countries such as Indonesia and China, where badminton players have remarkable roles in the sporting world. When badminton gains more popularity, its’ stars will as well.

While badminton is a minority sport in the United States it is widely played in the rest of the world. Around 1.1 billion people watched the Olympic badminton competition on television in 1992, even though it was the first time that it was demonstrated in the Olympics. In counties such as Malaysia it is common for crowds of 15,000 to view a badminton tournament (USA Badminton). Obviously the United States is missing out on something special when only 503 high school interscholastic badminton programs are available (Bischof). Badminton requires rapid hand-eye coordination, lightning quick reflexes and explosiveness to play. It also requires an open mind to see past the stereotypes and realize that badminton deserves respect as one of the world's finest sports, which it most certainly is.

Copyright 2000 Michael Conti ( Posted 16SEP2000

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