The Olympics are back again, and while everyone is focused on the Now, we're looking at the Then: allow us to draw your attention to one of the Olympiad's great beautiful badminton mysteries...
Yes, badminton. Tall tennis. Weapon volleyball. Garden ping-pong. You can call it what you will but the Olympics call it badminton and every four years it's sports journalism's job to remind us that the game is played fast as hell, and that there's definitely a scrappy American player hoping to overcome Asia's dominance and win us our first medal.
The truth is everything you need to know about the shuttlecocked sport is contained in this amazing 4-minute video from NBC's 2004 coverage of the Athens game. Back then, anchor Mary Carillo (who is currently in Rio covering the games) gave an absolutely insane explanation of the badminton—it involved:
- A big red rubber ball
- Spongebob Squarepants
- Other people's kids
- 18 Basketballs
- The revelation that badminton is a watersport
- Christopher Burr denting your Jeep with his rollerblades
- Pool sticks
- The baby duck rescue of 1997
It's just, well, it's perfect.
Carillo's badminton explainer surely baffled viewers when she delivered it twelve years ago, but the sportscaster maintains that she'd been set up. "I was hosting a morning show in Athens that covered a lot of badminton—some table tennis too, but badminton, I'd been assured, was going to be 'the curling of the Summer Games,' Carillo told Deadspin. Apparently her rant was completely unscripted and right in step with her other Service Journalism breakdowns of Olympic events. "I'd already explained a team handball's size by comparing it against various members of the melon family, and when I found out that equestrian horses were listed as 'equipment' I did a rant on the fact that horses needed passports to get into the country and dramatically produced one, so surely they needed an identity upgrade.."
Badminton is alright—mainly it's just hard to spell. America may still be medal-less in the sport, but Mary Carillo deserves an honorary gold.