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Flippin' the birdie

I have always lived with the sincere belief that everyone is born with at least one God-given talent that they can do better than almost anyone else. The key to success in life is figuring out what that talent is before you die.

Can you imagine what the world would be like if Rembrandt, Da Vinci or Grandma Moses had never picked up a paint brush? What if Shakespeare became a pirate instead of putting ink to paper? What if Michael Jordan had never picked up a basketball? What if Donald Trump had never done whatever it is he does?

I think that's what separates us "regular" folks from the "famous" people. They've just been lucky enough to have stumbled upon what they are truly good at. The rest of us are just hanging around trying to figure out what our "thing" is. For most of my life, I've wandered the planet trying to determine my "special" talent. Sometimes the planets align themselves in just the right way, and I'm happy to report that I may have found my calling.

I recently made the delightful discovery that I am an awesome badminton player. In fact if I were a little younger, had received the proper coaching and training, I might possibly have been one of the world's best badminton players … ever. Alas, I probably won't turn professional now because when you combine the facts that I'm in my late-40s and up until the time of writing this, I thought the word was spelled "badmitton" instead of "badminton." I guess that none of us world-class athletes are known to be brainiacs. It's because we spend so much time in the gym honing our skills.

I discovered that I was a prodigy when my mother sent home some 50-year-old badminton paraphernalia with my daughter a few weeks back. The equipment had just been gathering dust up in the storeroom, and Mom thought she would enjoy playing with it. The equipment consisted of three or four banged-up, warped rackets, and three shuttlecocks, or as we in the sport refer to as "birdies."

That's it. There was no net. I imagine that it deteriorated into dust back during the first term of the Reagan Administration. But that didn't really bother us. The way I see it, a net would just hamper my natural fluidity and grace when playing the sport. I'd hate to cheat any of my neighbors watching me play and enjoying my graceful leaps, bounds and spins.

My daughter and I just go out in the backyard and whack the birdies around. There aren't any boundaries or rules to speak of. In fact, it's kind of an added challenge to play around the trampoline, hammock and cable television wire. It's tough, but real athletes adapt.

At first, her 8-year-old coordination prevented her from hitting the birdie on a regular basis, or sometimes, at all. When she did manage to get ahold of one, I was pleasantly surprised to find the natural ease I had in returning it to her. It almost seemed second nature as I flicked the racket about, flipping the birdie back in her direction.

The more we played, the better we got. She was able to hit the birdie much more consistently, and I started to get more confidence in my play. It has gotten to the point where I almost feel bad when I violently smash the birdie back toward her wide-eyed, terror-stricken face. I tell her I'm sorry and try to explain to her that when you're riding a thoroughbred, sometimes you just have to let the horse run.

The other day when we were playing, I noticed that she was showing vast improvement. Not only was she hitting the birdie more often, but she was also hitting it to areas beyond the 2-3 foot radius I can comfortably cover without sweating and/or hurting myself. She audibly giggles when she hears Daddy's knees make funny noises.

Evidently, my wife had been practicing with her while I wasn't home. I guess that she doesn't derive the same kind of joy that I do in my total badminton domination of a little girl. My daughter's getting pretty good. In fact, sometimes the master has become the student. She'll probably take the sport to heights that I can only imagine. Apparently the birdie doesn't fall far from the tree.

So it is with this in mind that I come before you today to announce that I am now retiring from the sport of badminton. It's tough stepping away from the game I've so deeply loved and cherished over the past month and a half, but I don't want to be one of those guys that held on for too long. No, it's time for a new breed of superstar to step into the spotlight and take the reins. I've had my moment in the sun.

What would have happened if I had taken up the sport back when I was in my teens? One can only imagine. Sure, I'd most likely have made millions traveling around the globe playing in the Professional Badminton League. I'd probably still be playing in Europe somewhere on the senior circuit, trying to shoo away all the badminton groupies who would just be after me for my fame and fortune. It would have been a totally different kind of life, but I don't know if I would be truly happy right now. It leaves a person to wonder what could have been.

But don't feel bad for me. No, I was lucky enough to find my purpose here on this planet before it was too late. So I wish all of you readers the best of luck as you travel through life. I hope that you all somehow stumble upon the one thing that you're better at than anyone else and makes you happy.

What will I do in my retirement? Well everybody had better look out next summer because I'm pretty sure my mom has a 50-year-old croquet set buried in that storeroom somewhere.

You can contact Wallace at gwallace@bcrnews.com. You can follow him on his blog at http://gregwallaceink.blogspot.com.

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