OFFICIAL’S WHISTLE – Funny moments

This time I have decided to share with you some funny moments from court – the truth is that some of them where not funny at the moment, or at […]

This time I have decided to share with you some funny moments from court – the truth is that some of them where not funny at the moment, or at least not for the umpire on duty, but for umpires sitting behind the court it was the comedy of the year, I can tell you.

By Michaela Bencova, Badzine Columnist.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

Apart from actual badminton play, there can be something else happening on court and the main actor can be the umpire/service judge or player or shuttle or simply anything else, like a piece of equipment.  So in this small article I will describe the ideal nightmare match.  And believe me, all of the situations mentioned below really happened.

Sometimes the organizer of the tournament or a television crew prepares traps for us – just imagine the nervousness before the finals.  Oh yes, even the umpire is nervous.  Everybody – the umpire, players, line judges and service judge – is ready somewhere in the corner of the hall at a meeting place.  The hall is full of spectators, the lights are switched off so the hall is dark.  Then suddenly music starts and a strong spotlight shines on the ceremonial marching onto the court.

The umpire, as first in line, is completely blind because of the spotlight and he/she has to lead the group behind him on court.  On the way are steps, cables, advertising a-boards and more.  So it has happened few times that the umpire trips over the steeple and tries to keep his/her balance.

So we manage to get on court and then the toss – who will serve, receive, which side etc.  Most of the time we use a coin – the toss is made and the coin falls on the floor and begins rolling, rolling and rolling, of course across the whole court.  If we are really unlucky, the coin gets stuck under something, a net post, perhaps, and we can’t even see it, let alone reach it.

The toss is made, players start to warm up and we need to climb up the chair.  In England some years ago, they used to use special umpire’s chairs which were inflatable.  The umpire sits down on the chair which is on floor level and the umpire him/herself starts to pump the air into the chair and chair is lifted up.  Can you already now guess what the problem was? The air never stayed there for the entire match so during the match, during a rally in fact, the umpire’s chair started to slowly descend.  So the umpire during the rally had to pump up the air into the chair again.  So about 4 or 5 times in the course of a match, the umpire was going up and down, up and down.

We are ready to start the match – quite often we have to fight with unpronounceable names.  Just now try to say “Ladies and gentleman, on my right Kunchala Voravichitchaikul, Songphon Anugritayawan, Thailand.  On my left Rasangi Ranatunga, Niluka Karunaratne, Sri Lanka.  Kunchala Voravichitchaikul to serve to Niluka Karunaratne.”  And if we have the microphone on the pole standing next to us, then we start “Ladies and gentleman, on my riiiigggghhhht…” [meaning banging the right hand into the microphone pole].

We have finally started the match.  What can happen during the match?  This is the ‘funny moments’ article so I will not mention arguing players, blind line judges etc.  But some months ago I was reading on one player’s blog that during the match, from the pocket of her shorts, fell out a pair of underwear – panties – which got stuck there when she was doing her laundry and she hadn’t noticed until…perfect timing!  Right in the middle of a match.

During the Denmark Open a long time ago the no. 1 Danish female player, one of the top players in the world, was ready to serve and…missed the shuttle during the service.  The match was televised and hall was full of people.  Another situation that does happen, though not very often, is that the shuttle gets stuck in the strings of the racket, usually when a string has broken.  Or the shuttle or the racket is accidently broken into 2 pieces.

And then there are the moments when the players are not happy with the shuttle and it comes time to change it.  At the German Open some years ago at the umpire’s briefing before the finals they told us not to be shocked when the players would want to change the shuttle – nothing else.  Not to be shocked at what?  Nobody knew in advance.  During the first final, the men’s doubles – it was televised so the hall was dark with only lighting on the court – one player asked to change the shuttle and suddenly from the speakers burst some music that sounded like a roaring laugh.  At first, everybody was shocked and paralysed and then everybody started to laugh.  It was difficult afterwards to keep a straight face.

In other shuttle-changing cases, it has happened a few times that after long tiring days of officiating, a service judge has simply fallen asleep and players have been left waving the shuttle just in front of the judge’s nose but got no reaction.  Actually most of the time players would just take a new shuttle from the dozen by themselves.  Yes, it has happened several times, at several different tournaments, with several different service judges.

Of course, after each game, players have to change ends of the court.  Sometimes there is not enough space between the courts so players climb under the net.  This gives the net ample opportunity to catch earrings, bottoms of T-shirts or watches.  Once we even had to use scissors to rescue the player!

So hopefully we manage to get to the end of the match.  We shake the hands with the players, we make our last announcement about who won the match and we start to climb down from the chair and ….oops, we are left hanging there because we forgot that the tiny microphone we clipped onto our T-shirt was fixed to the chair.  So we are down but the T-shirt is still up.

As I said already before, all these situations have really happened, though, thank god, never all together.  If you saw any other similar funny moment on court, just let me know and we can put them together again later on and share them with everybody.

So this month it was on funny note.  Next time we will likely be back onto a more serious topic – service, service laws and discussions connected with preparation for changing the service laws.  However, we always welcome your suggestions for any other topics you’d like to see discussed in the Official’s Whistle.

About Michaela Bencova