(Illustration by Chris Williams/Haida Gwaii Observer)

The Drive Home: Badminton, or How I Learned to Relax and Love the Shuttlecock

“In Charlotte, people are finally beginning to spell badminton without taking their socks off.”

By Chris Williams

Thanks to Will from North Beach for requesting this week’s topic for The Drive Home.

There are many unique qualities to Haida Gwaii — the majestic natural beauty, the rich cultural history, the blanketing cynicism — but perhaps the most unique is Haida Gwaii’s unnaturally large population of world-class badminton players. Why this is so is anybody’s guess (possibly it’s because badminton comes from the Latin word bad, which means “sunless,” and minton, which means Pacific archipelago inhabited by people who complain a lot).

Without naming names (I’ve learned my lesson) I happen to know that in Tlell, there are 14 former Olympic badminton players, 68 internationally recognized “Master’s Class” badminton players, and four people who have received the Order of Canada for their work in shuttlecock-abuse awareness programs.

In the small town of Tow Hill, there are 17 “C-level” players with seventh-degree black belts in the badminton arts and 72 people living in old school buses (which has nothing to do with badminton but is still very interesting).

In Charlotte, people are finally able to spell badminton without taking their socks off.

In Port Clements, playing badminton is no longer a punishable offence and saying the word “badminton” actually gets you a key to the city’s pit toilet.

In Skidegate, badminton is used as a verb instead of a noun.

In Sandspit, badminton is used as a coming-of-age ritual for teens, where they are told to go into the forest, go to the biggest tree they can find, and chop it down with a badminton racket.

In Masset, people generally don’t speak Latin.

So across the islands, badminton is either making an impact or helping people keep their socks on in potentially embarrassing situations.

My wife and I are very serious badminton players. We have an outdoor court where we consistently demoralize people with our superior net skills and aggressive court shaping.

(I once had a local athletics instructor threaten my life after I beat him so badly in a friendly game of badminton that he fell over and developed X eyes like he was dead: see diagram.)

What set him off was that I beat him whilst eating a plate of spaghetti with chopsticks. Sometimes I need a challenge and spaghetti is very difficult to eat with chopsticks.

The difficult part about having an outside court is the wind and the rain. The wind can cause the shuttlecock to change directions very suddenly and unexpectedly, not unlike a Liberal throne speech, and the rain can make you not want to go outside.

But if one accounts for the wind gusts and the rain displacement, bad weather is not insurmountable I have provided a small diagram for you to learn how to account for strong wind speeds. Notice in the diagram that the direction of serve should be equal to or greater than the mean negative pressure of the backdrafting caused by the doughnut.

Now, before all of you start thinking that I’m some sort of braggart, bumptiously expatiating the myriad facets of my game, be aware that it has taken me literally minutes of hard work and training to achieve the lofty mastery of this backyard pastime, and as such, I feel that I have earned the right to pontificate to the lowly “C-class” racket bearers the magnificence of my personal badminton ballet.

If you feel that my superlatively laden self-description is unworthy, then I invite you to challenge me to a service or two by way of this newspaper.