Sunday, 8 December 2013

Badminton reduces the horror of exercise and adds a spark of Schadenfreude

Swimming’s a real super-sport. Exercises every part of you. Doesn’t put particular strain anywhere. But it has one huge intractable problem: it involves covering yourself in cold water.

True, it’s not that cold. However, my benchmark for water into which I might immerse myself is the kind you find in a bath. Swimming pools are a lot less alluring than that. And, in the winter, when it’s quite cold enough outside, the allure is still less marked.

So it was a great relief to opt for badminton this morning instead. You don’t get undressed for it. You quickly get warm. It doesn’t involve water, at least not until the post-game shower. And it’s fun: you even know who’s won, which is difficult with swimming (although in my case, I reckon it’s the pool that wins. Every time).

A joy in itself. And it can even deliver a lesson on life
The place where I played is an informal club, where you just turn up and play with anyone else who’s there. It has a few unwritten rules. If there are too many people for the courts, you take it in turn to sit out a game. If beginners show up, everyone plays with them at some stage or other, to make sure they’re fully involved.

Well, when I say ‘everyone’, I’m exaggerating slightly. There are always a few people who just know they play better than anyone else, and are therefore entitled to rise above the mere rules that govern the rest of us. They never leave the court. And they turn their back, in disdain, on the weaker players on whom it would be a waste of their precious time to squander their talents.

As well as being amusing in itself, this behaviour turns the badminton club into a microcosm of society. We live in a world where a small number of highly privileged people believe that they owe their positions to their superior talents – actually, we owe it to them to ensure they have those positions in recognition of their superior talents – and they know they’re entitled to ignore the rules if it suits them, or even to buy themselves governments that will change them on their behalf.

The sense of entitlement. The bane of modern society.

We had an entitled player this morning. The only time I saw him voluntarily leave the court was when two other men suggested that he make up a four with the three of us; he clearly wasn’t going to lower himself to playing with me so managed to persuade someone else to take his place.

Instead, he moved on to the court next door and started a game with three friends of mine. The one playing with him is an impressively powerful player, though not always as accurate as he’d like. When his strokes come off, they’re often unbeatable, but they don’t always come off. Still, overall he’s a strong player, 
an asset to have on your side and I’m happy to play with when I get the chance.

Now, here’s an interesting aspect of this state of affairs, and again it reflects the nature of society. The people who feel they belong to a self-appointed (perhaps I should say ‘self-anointed
) elite think themselves massively superior to all others, justifying for instance their having incomes 40 or 50 times higher than those at the bottom of the scale. The player this morning who felt himself so far above me, and who was playing with my friend, clearly regards his game as massively better than mine. In reality, it’s little more than marginally better than mine. 

OK, decidedly more than marginally better. But no more than that.

So I was delighted as I left the court and walked past his to hear the score. 14-1. To the other side. Despite the fact that he was playing with a good partner.

I was sorry for my friend but absolutely delighted for his partner. Couldn’t happen to a better guy, I felt.

Pure Schadenfreude, of course, pleasure in another’s misfortune, and therefore reprehensible. But its being reprehensible didn’t make it any less enjoyable. I left the club with a song in my heart and a spring in my step, and I’m not ashamed to admit it.


Anonymous said...

In other words Badminton is really Good Minton!


David Beeson said...

Indeed. Or at least Does-you-good-minton.