Mike Lantry, 1972
Seeing that it is "Wife Day" around these parts, there's no boxscore to pore over this weekend. So instead, in the spirit of Wife Day, I'll take this opportunity to share with you my badminton story. You might ask, what does badminton have to do with Wife Day? Read on, and you'll find out.
Our story begins, as most of my stories do, with me in the 6th grade. My gym class would spend a week or two on a sport and then move on to the next sport. (The one exception was the week we learned how to square dance. Promenade, two-by-two, promenade, that's what you do.) One week we showed up for gym class and the volleyball nets were set up, but instead of volleyball, we were going to learn how to play badminton.
I have some sympathy for the average grade school gym teacher, because it must be difficult to learn the rules of so many different sports, and maintain order with 25 kids screaming and yelling. However, I'm still a little upset with my 6th grade gym coach. He passed out the rackets, divided the class in half, and put one half on one side of the net and the other half on the other side. He tossed someone a birdie and said, "hit it." You can imagine the chaos that ensued as a dozen 6th graders on one side of the net tried to hit a single birdie. No more than five minutes into the class, I was hit squarely in the mouth with a racket. Three teeth went flying. I felt for my teeth with my tongue and realized nothing was there. Another classmate said, "Dude, you're bleeding" or something to that effect. I took off towards the bathroom to get some paper towel to stop the bleeding and rinse out my mouth.
While I was gone, the gym coach had the rest of the class scour the floor for my teeth, and had someone call my mom. She came to pick me up, and the gym teacher handed her a baggy with my teeth. We rushed to the dentist and told him what happened. My mom gave him the bag of teeth. He looked at it and laughed. Then he said, "What am I supposed to do with these?"
Six months of almost weekly dental visits followed, full of drilling, root canals, temporary crowns, and finally permanent crowns. Except they weren't really permanent because your mouth keeps growing as you get older. When I turned 18, I had to go back and have the whole thing done all over again. The only benefit out of this whole ordeal was I got out of playing the clarinet, which I dreaded.
As a result of this, I swore off badminton forever. At least I thought so.
Twelve years ago, I married a lovely lady from Taiwan, whom I met while we were grad students at UofM. Badminton is kind of a big sport in Taiwan. You might remember a little Olympic controversy with the Chinese badminton team. Anyway, my wife played a little badminton when she was younger, and wanted to get back into it. I said no way and explained to her how I was scarred for life from my dental ordeal. I don't ride rollercoasters and I don't play badminton. So she went to the local badminton club without me. Shortly after that, a friend stepped on her foot while we were playing volleyball, broke it, and sidelined her for a few months. The foot healed, and she went back, without me. Then she tore a calf muscle. Six months in a boot sidelined her again. Then she got pregnant. No more badminton. I tried to tell her that the universe did not intend for us to play badminton, but she wouldn't listen.
Little did I know at the time, but it seems I married the Earl Woods of Badminton Tiger Moms. When the boy turned five, she signed him up for badminton lessons. I told her, you take him, I don't want anything to do with badminton. And for the most part, I stayed away from the club. I did take him to the occasional practice, but that was it.
Then, nearly two years ago, my wife said to me, "ST3, I signed you up for a private lesson with the coach." I said, "You did what?!? Well, you signed up for the lesson, you take it." But I could see how important it was to her, so after a few days of her encouraging me to go, I reluctantly agreed to give it a try. I later learned that the reason she signed me up is that she was worried I had become a permanent couch potato and was going to stroke out at 50 if I didn't get some sort of physical activity in my life.
I went to the lesson and I wasn't good, but I wasn't terrible either. I had played some tennis growing up, and there are some things that carry over. The main thing I realized was that it was a fantastic cardio workout. I find 45 minutes of jogging or running on a treadmill to be incredibly boring. 45 minutes of badminton drills is over before you know it. It's also really fun and leaves you wanting to play more.
I had to admit to the wife that I enjoyed it, so she signed me up for two lessons a week, because you get a discount that way, and wifey is always looking for a discount. Soon enough, two lessons a week wasn't enough. So I started going with my son to his "team training" lessons. This is a group lesson with 10-20 beginners, ranging in age from 6 to about 16. Before I knew it, the coach had me out there hitting with the kids. After 6 months of that, he told me to come practice with the high school team. So now I've got my two lessons, occasional practices with my son, and two more with the high school kids. I'm up to 7 hours a week. In fact, this morning while wifey was taking the boy to baseball practice, I was over at the club sweating through a three hour badminton practice. And I get to wake up at 7AM tomorrow morning for another lesson...