WHITING | Ironic as it may seem, but you know they take badminton seriously when they try to lose on purpose.
"It was a major black-eye to the sport," Donn Gobbie said of when eight female doubles players representing China, South Korea and Indonesia were disqualified from the 2012 London Olympics for attempting to throw matches for favorable bracket placings.
"What made it so ridiculous was when both teams (China and Indonesia) were trying to lose the same match," Gobbie said. "The crowd was booing like crazy."
And it was a substantial irate crowd.
"That's what people around here have a hard time understanding ... how popular the sport is over there," Gobbie said. "Imagine the United Center filled with fans to watch a badminton match. That's what it's like."
According to Gobbie, there's a reason behind the excitement.
"It's the fastest racquet sport in the world," he said. "(The shuttlecock) often reaches speeds of 200 miles per hour.
"You remember the jumping overhand smashes from (tennis great) Pete Sampras? All those were usually winners. But in badminton, you can get eight or nine overhand smashes during a single point."
Gobbie, a tennis coach at Andrean and Purdue University Calumet, founded the National Badminton League for professional players two years ago. This year, the league will make at stop at the Whiting Community Center, July 5 when the Indiana Racquets take on the Seattle Smash.
The match, which will consist nine singles and doubles games, and will feature two-time Olympian and five-time Czech National Champion Petr Koukal, and fellow Olympian and 11-time Swiss National Champion Sabrina Jaquet (both of the Racquets); and three-time Dutch National Champion Eric Pang (of the Smash).
"All the matches will be played on one court, and the seating for fans will be right next to the action," Gobbie said of the free. "It's not too often when you get to see an Olympian play his sport at such a close range."
The NBL season consists of three dual matches. Other matches include the Racquets taking on the Los Angeles Strings, July 7 in Walnut, Calif., and the Smash hosting the Strings, July 14 in Bellevue, Wash.
"We put this league together to help promote the sport and raise money for the players while they're here for the New York Open (June 29-30 in Flushing, NY) and the U.S. Open (July 8-13 in Orange, Calif.)," Gobbie said.
Before the Racquets-vs.-Smash match, Pang will give a three-day camp for juniors and adults July 1-3 at the Community Center.
At 10 a.m. July 5, there will be a NBL Pro-Am where amateurs will be paired with NBL professionals in a round-robin event.
"Last time we held a pro-am, we needed one more amateur to fill the eighth spot," Gobbie said. "So I volunteered while paying the entry fee.
"The guy I drew was (2005 world champion) Howard Bach. And guess what? We came in last. So you know what type of player I am."