Badminton is the perfect sport. You don’t need a lot of fancy equipment or a lot of people to play. You can just grab a friend and play on the sidewalk with a cheap racket and birdie if you want. And you can have fun games at all physical levels.
But there is one thing that really bothers me about badminton: it’s a national sport.
What do I mean by that? Well, badminton doesn’t have teams persay. You play singles or with a partner. But for training and resources working on a team is better. So the badminton world has sort of arranged itself into national teams. When you play badminton you don’t represent yourself, you represent your country. There is no major badminton tournament that includes one country only, like the Superbowl of NBA Championship. All the major ones are international.
Of course in a country where badminton is popular (like China) there are national leagues. But they mean very little. Lin Dan is not on the Qingdao team like Kobe Bryant is on the Lakers. Kobe is forever known as a Laker, while Lin Dan is forever known as being from China.
If you love your country, and spend your whole life training there, then it’s probably awesome. You’re probably super proud to represent your country, to have USA or Canada or whatever splashed on your back and to listen to your national anthem being played when you win.
But what if you’re someone like me? My favorite partner is Taiwanese, my coach is Chinese, and I play with people from all over Asia and a few European countries. I’m the only American in my group. I want nothing to do with America, and I don’t want to be the representation for the place I no longer call home. Especially in badminton as America is so bad it’s embarrassing.
So what if I got good enough to start entering tournaments? Your country also determines the tournaments you are allowed to enter. There are the Pan-Am Games and guess who can’t compete? Anyone from a region outside the America’s. Asia has them too, like the Asian Games.
And I’m not against that, of course. Each region should have their own games. But where does that put someone like me? Someone who plays but doesn’t live in their region of birth? That seems unfair. Why is badminton, and your game play, determined by your passport?
Even in my small little group we find ourselves falling into this patriotism trap. All badminton shirts have the players name and home country on them, so when we made team shirts what did we do? Put on our name and country. So even now I represent America every week on the court. And I resent it a little.
Let’s say I managed to be Olympic level (squeeze your eyes real tight and use your imagination). Let’s say I got to that level after years of playing in China with Chinese coaches and tournaments. Would I then have to go back to America to be trained by lesser coaches and lesser players to compete “for my country?”
America is vastly inferior to China when it comes to all things badminton: coaching, facilities, players to play against, money to support the players. And of course it’s a place I don’t want to live. But if I wanted to be a pro player, it seems like I would have no choice. I guess I could renounce my citizenship, but that seems a bit extreme. (And seeing as how I’ll never be a pro player this is something I don’t need to worry about, but still.)
So the biggest problem with badminton, in my eyes, is it forces you to represent your country, and play for your country, even if you don’t want to. Boooooo!