Saturday, 22 November 2014

Keeping score in badminton. Better than counting lengths of a pool

One of the advantages of the weekend, is that the kind of exercise I take changes.

During the week, it’s swimming. But at the weekend it’s badminton. And that’s a huge improvement. Not just for the obvious reason that badminton doesn’t involve total immersion in cold water, or contact with any kind of water at all except perhaps in a bottle, but because badminton’s actually more fun. You score points in badminton – well, occasionally you lose them – so you can work out who’s won.

A winning point, as a shuttle dips over a net
It’s impossible to tell who the winner is in swimming, except that I have a sneaking feeling it’s the pool. Certainly, I always feel I come in second.

I suppose the reason I enjoy a game, as opposed to a sport, with a scoreline rather than mere endurance, is that I’m fundamentally competitive. That doesn’t mean that I expect to win or anything. I like to think I’m far too much of a realist for that. What I have is more a kind of potential competitiveness: the sense that in a competitive game, there is a chance that I might win.

After all, it does sometimes happen.

There’s a curious phenomenon that comes into play here. The same thing, I’m told, happens in childbirth. Clutching the little bundle of joy they’ve just received, and blissfully unaware of the 20 years of sheer ghastliness ahead, new mothers lose all memory of the pain they’ve just gone through to get that bundle of devilry into the world in the first place.

The same thing happens to me with badminton. I know I must have lost a whole bunch of games because I know, with my rational mind, that I played rather more games than I won.

Make that substantially more games than I won.

But the detail of any one of those defeats? Expunged from my mind as though they’d never happened. The victories, on the other hand, stay with me in glorious detail, to be replayed at leisure in my mind afterwards. For instance, in that wonderful bath into which I let my aching limbs subside.

With swimming, there’s no such joy. Just a vague sense of achievement. Though since I leave the pool by the same ladder that I entered it, even that is somewhat limited: all that effort to get back to place I started from? What was the point? Where’s the mileage in that?

It was like that in the days when I used to go running. However far I ran, I always ended up back at the car. Like one of those nightmares, or Alice in Through the Looking Glass: you run and run but you get nowhere.

So I’m enjoying the weekend. Badminton on Saturday. Badminton on Sunday. And some games I’ll win.

Then Monday, I’ll be back to swimming. And it’s a safe bet the pool will end up ahead. Again.

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