By Ryan Smythe
Exhibition games are awful, terrible, no-good ideas for quidditch tournaments.
For those who don’t watch sports very often, there has been an ongoing debate over the necessity of preseason games in the NFL. These games, played with the same brutal full-contact aggression, have no bearing on the regular season. Yes, they are great situations in which to try out quarterbacks, but that can just as easily be determined through practice and a few regular season games.
The key to the issue is this: playing four extra games prior to the regular 16 to 20-game season ostensibly increases the risk for injury in an already injury-riddled sport. Sound familiar? It should, since Team Canada’s Erin McCrady broke her collarbone in one of these games this past weekend.
Getting injured sucks. Not just for you, but for your entire team. McCrady is a spectacular beater, and her team felt her absence in the bronze medal game against Team UK. From what I got to see of the games – don’t you just love nine hour time differences? – Team UK brutalized Team Canada’s beaters. Her presence on-pitch might not have been able to stem the bleeding alone, but it’s possible her presence could have kept the game in range just long enough for one of Team Canada’s excellent seekers to pull for the medal.
Don’t worry; I’ll be touching on seekers again later on in this article.
There’s no reason to assume the outcome might have changed if McCrady was able to cleat up for that game; however, that doesn’t stop me and countless others from wondering. Now, the Facebook forums have been plagued by people complaining about officiating, the final outcome, and personal, most recent issues within the community. In order to offer something constructive to the conversation, let me propose an alternative to exhibition games, which have a distinct advantage over the current format.
Have local teams play in their spot. How awesome would it be to see the Deurne Dodos play the Radcliffe Chimeras, or the Paris Titans play the Milano Meneghins leading up to the games? Obviously their teammates on the national teams would be watching from the crowd in this case, but it gives international exposure to the local-ish teams as the livestream is tested out for the World Cup games. More importantly, it keeps World Cup players safe. In some cases, these people flew across the planet to compete – it would surely be a shame to have them on the sidelines while their national anthem is played.
This would easily translate for each quidditch location. If 2018 is played in the USA – even though it should really be held in Australia – then get the local teams to play in the exhibition. Host it in the Northeast? QCB and Rochester United get a summer rematch. What about in LA? Who wouldn’t want to see a Lost Boys versus Gambits match every chance they could? Don’t even get me started on how good the exhibition games could be if the Southwest showed up. As we saw this World Cup, there are a lot of fucking talented players around the world. Why are we endangering our national teams days before the biggest quidditch tournament in the world?
If anyone didn’t anticipate me talking about the gold medal catch: surprise! Margo Aleman’s potential game-winning pull was called back due to charging, a call I have very rarely heard, even when I had my nose broken by a seeker’s headbutt. Every American who disagrees with that call needs to take a moment and realize that Team USA didn’t play well enough to protect itself from that chance. If you allow the other team to stay in range, then you can lose that game. Team Australia stayed in range and showed the Americans that it’s past damn time we stop even casually referring to our US Nationals as World Cup.
It’s even more important to stop attacking World Cup referees. They are certified refs, they made calls they believed were correct, and they did their jobs to the best of their abilities. That’s all anyone can ever ask of any human being. If you disagree with the unquestionably legendary call from the World Cup finals, and you’ve never volunteered to ref at an actual tournament, then it’s time to shut your goddamn mouth and get off your ass. Be more like Erin Mallory, a ref so good that Team Australia requested her personally on the field. And just think, if you work hard enough to become a certified Head Ref, you could even make money at official games! WHAT A GREAT IDEA.
Does officiating need to improve across the board? Fuck yes, it does. Is Team USA about to go through some serious growing pains? If it wants to win in 2018, it does. Team Australia put the world on notice that the US isn’t the best anymore. USQ put together a team of some our sport’s most elite players, and it didn’t matter. Team Australia fought for and earned its nation gold medal. Dameon Osborn has claimed the official title of “FBI’s Most Talented Booty” (SG is drooling and celebrating somewhere), and honestly, we should all celebrate that. Let the Americans be angry; it’s the only way we know how to grow. But every other country needs to understand that this is only the beginning. Quidditch is a properly global game now, and the USA is no longer guaranteed to reclaim its gold in two years. Your time to strike is now because that podium just got a new name on top. Who’s next?