Sunday, 14 August 2016

Watching badminton. And the surprising political insight it gave me

Badminton’s a game I play, not one I watch.

Today, however, I made an exception. I was with a friend who regularly gives me a thrashing on the court, and he wanted to watch some of the Olympics matches.

My first observation was that those competitors played a pretty mean game. They too would probably thrash me. Well, perhaps not if they gave me a 19-point lead, though I suspect that even then they’d beat me 21-19.

Canada's Michelle Li, one of the players I watched
Not someone I'd like to see across a net
The second observation was that the commentators are just as delightfully dumb as in any other sport.

We watched one player win a game 21-6. In the second game, when the loser of the first reached 12 points, the commentator solemnly assured us that he was doing better than in the first game. With twice the score he made in the entire game before, I’d say that was probably true. I suppose I should be grateful to have it pointed out, in case I failed to spot it myself.

We learned that it was necessary for both players to win the game. I suspect they each knew they needed to win. I’m not convinced that there are any circumstances in which both players could win the game. It’s not a situation I’ve ever met and, while I play at a far lower level, I’m pretty certain that both players winning isn’t a feasible outcome at the Olympics either.

Then came a game where the players level-pegged it most of the way up – you know, 10-10, 10-11, 11-11, 12-11, 13-11, 13-12 and so on – until the scores reached 17-12. At that point, the commentator kindly informed us that the player who was ahead had some momentum.

That didn’t just strike me as true, it also provided me with a chilling reminder of the unpleasantness of reality away from the TV. Momentum is the organisation which is taking over the Labour Party at the moment, and achieving two effects: turning it into something much more brutal and unpleasant than it has been in the last thirty years, and making sure that it falls into the trap of believing it’s more important to have good policies than to get the opportunity to put any of them into practice.

Momentum, it seems, is something that drives you forward, but without a heed as to whether it’s straight into a wall or over a cliff.

Momentum in the badminton match led to joy for one player, tears for the other. The fruits of victory, in other words. Sadly, the victory of Momentum over Labour will only be tears, and shed all round.

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