Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sharing my love of sports


     It strikes me that I have never written a sports column. I tossed the idea back and forth like juggling a dozen bulbs for garden planting. The possibilities are limitless, and there are so many plays I could run with the ball.
     March Madness. World Cup. Golf.
     My claim to fame is that I do hold a sports record, and whether or not it has been overturned, I have no clue. I was the singles badminton champion my last year in college, but I doubt that it was considered one of the significant sports recorded in the annals of SUNY history.
     The last time I looked on the wall of fame in the lobby of Kuhl Gymnasium, I didn’t see a bronze casting of my face, or an engraved plaque indicating I had ever crossed the arches of the school. That’s fine. I’m over all the attention sports stars get on campus and the privileged lives they lead.   
     For those of you trivia gatherers, badminton had its debut at the 1992 Summer Olympics and has been contested in 5 Olympiads. Fifty different nations have appeared in the games.
     I grew up in a home where my mother insisted on a net in the backyard to occupy the slew of neighbor kids productively during the summers. I suppose it was more likely that she wanted her share of practice every day, too.
    Mom was a superior player and adept at shots that kept her opponent running in all directions chasing the elusive shuttlecock. She wore a poker face — deception is vital — and could outguess all her rivals. She prepared for many different strokes that looked identical, and used slicing to fool her opponents about the speed or direction of the cone shaped object hurling through the air.
     If an opponent tried to anticipate mom’s arm motion, he might move in the wrong direction and be unable to change his body momentum in time to reach the shuttlecock. Mom would nail one once again with a slam of her wrist and a twinkle in her eye.
     In between playing for fifteen minutes of intense rigor, mom would put her apron on and return to the kitchen to check on the pot roast she was cooking for dinner. She was a multi-tasker before the label was applied.
     When we had relatives visiting, the game changed to volleyball, and somehow it lost the competitive edge with the hooting and hollering. There wasn’t anything serious about it. Forget about the score.
     Once a family with five teenage sons came to visit from Brooklyn. In the beginnings of puberty, I was a wreck at the thought of being in the same room with boys let alone them seeing me in shorts. Mom reminded me that we could beat those city slickers hands down at volleyball, and not to worry so much. Well, we did. They were good losers, too.
     The best part of the whole deal was that the father worked for a publishing company and he brought a trunk full of new books not yet on the market. The boys were not used to such lavish treats themselves, and they had as much fun as me pouring through piles of new reading matter.  
     Practice makes perfect, and I became somewhat a bright star. By the time I arrived in college and saw there was an actual semester’s course in badminton, I was in high heaven a little too sure of myself. Suiting up with the best of my newly made friends, I had the winner’s attitude.
      To score in badminton, I employed a wide variety of strokes in the right situations. They ranged from powerful jumping smashes to delicate tumbling net returns. Often rallies finished with a strong downward tap of the racquet, but setting up the play required subtler strokes I had learned at home.
     For example, mom taught me that a net shot forces the opponent to lift the shuttlecock, which gives an opportunity to smack it into the ground. If the net shot is tight and tumbling, then the opponent's lift will not reach the back of the court, which makes the subsequent wallop much harder to return. I loved that smash.
    My dad was a consummate sports fanatic, and I have mentioned before in other writing that he kept a TV in one room and a radio in another to make sure that he stayed on top of baseball innings. While passing through the room I walked on tiptoes like a ballerina, and occasionally, I would stop and watch the crowd yelling for a new pitcher.
     I had boyfriends that would get lost in conversation with my father about baseball, and sometimes they might have been better off spending the evening with him. Certainly our relationships weren’t going anywhere after high school.
     Dad stayed away from backyard badminton games. That was in mom’s court, and he wisely gave her a pass.
     Realizing I was too short for basketball, inept at archery and not fast enough for field hockey, at least I could be part of a team bringing glory to the university. The picture in the yearbook autographed by my coach and teammates was priceless.
     If I have disappointed you in my meager attempt at talking sports, then I suggest that you take a look at the second section of the newspaper The Livingston County News where you will have all your needs met well by our capable sportswriters and photographer.