So many things have gone downhill or been degraded in our culture, but I never thought badminton rackets and shuttlecocks would be among them. Baseball mitts, hardballs and wooden bats feel just as good as they did when I was a kid, and a lot of other sporting equipment — basketballs, squash rackets, golf clubs, footballs, tennis balls — hasn’t changed. But badminton rackets (or at least the ones that I recently bought in a Big 5 Sporting Goods store) are small and thin and cheaply made, and shuttlecocks are made of run-of-the-mill plastic. Yes, you can buy a nice classic badminton racket and feathered shuttlecocks, but you have to search around online. They’ve become a connoisseur thing. Like saddle shoes.