Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Continuity and Change in Rock Hill

Three years have passed since the World Cup fled the crisp fall of the Northeast for the sunny spring of the South. Along the way, a regular season emerged from unregulated exhibitions and whimsicality drifted into the forgotten past. Regions crystallized with the dawning of regional championships. Pitch shapes, seeking and officiating witnessed astounding transformations to serve a rapidly evolving sport. A new dynasty replaced the old perennial champions, sparking a distinctly new effort to copy and dethrone the best. Small liberal arts colleges virtually disappeared as large universities seized the spotlight. Community teams became legitimate contenders, raising difficult questions and challenges. The original governing body shed its international obligations, allowing distant lands to flourish or fail.


After three years of adventurous experimentation, a new landscape has emerged. A calmer, more sustainable landscape. A landscape where the World Cup has developed into a consistently on-time and successful championship, fostering competitive and healthy gameplay. A landscape where triumphant wins do not guarantee permanent success and heartbreaking losses do not signal permanent decline. A landscape where each new season and each new World Cup is a new beginning. A landscape where the opportunity of tomorrow beckons.
Photo by Hannah Huddle
Quidditch has reached a stage where continuity is acceptable and change is acceptable. Ever since cramming onto Randall’s Island for World Cup V, the quidditch community has gathered at our national championship with a clear vision for how the drama should unfold. Passionately, the quidditch community picked out heroes and villains. With speed, physicality and finesse, the heroes represented the unlimited possibilities for quidditch. The heroes could propel quidditch forward, past the backwardness of capes. Like a superhuman slugger or a lethal scorer, the heroes were heralded and rewarded with infinite name-drops on blogs and spots on Team USA.


The villains embodied the opposite of progress, holding quidditch back from mainstream appeal. The villains rejected the beautiful game and relied on lucky snitch grabs and pesky beating to eliminate the heroes. Each World Cup, new nameless faces were vilified and accused of playing dirty and taking cheap shots. The unexpected accomplishments of the villains were denied, discredited and ridiculed.


From Randall’s Island to North Myrtle Beach, the struggle between heroes and villains headlined the World Cup. As heroes and villains exchanged blows, the quidditch community desperately clamored for continuity or change. If the heroes were the defending champions, we sought continuity. We wanted the continuation of progress and the triumph of athleticism. If the villains were the defending champions, we desired immediate and radical change. We hoped for restoration of the rightful champions, erasing memories of ugly and unearned victories.


Let’s begin with World Cup V. Played in the breezy autumn of New York City, World Cup V was the precursor to the modern era of quidditch. World Cup V bid farewell to the past and foreshadowed the future. Yet World Cup V was far from perfect. Amid a shaky tournament, the quidditch community was screaming for change. We wanted to see Middlebury lose and a new champion emerge. We began a “Beat Middlebury” campaign to unite hundreds of quidditch players behind our common goal. We were disappointed and angered with the events leading to Middlebury’s fifth World Cup title.

A year and a half later, a rejuvenated quidditch community reunited in the sweltering heat of Kissimmee for World Cup VI. Middlebury was gone and change was inevitable. We were hard-pressed to find a proper villain. However, with certain change on the horizon, we wanted to find the perfect hero. We wanted to see a champion that truly embodied the growing athleticism of quidditch. We needed a shining example for quidditch players across the world. We hit the jackpot. We left World Cup VI elated, celebrating the championship of Texas and imagining the bright future of quidditch.


Fast forward a year to World Cup VII and the quidditch community began searching for continuity in the agreeable air of North Myrtle Beach. We anticipated another epic battle in the finals, pitting the best against the best. We wanted to see another uncontroversial, clear and undisputed champion. We thought we had it all figured out. Suddenly, World Cup VII revealed our misconceptions.

We didn’t expect Texas to win back-to-back championships. We weren’t looking for that kind of continuity. We had longed for undefeated Texas A&M to carry on the illustrious legacy of Texas’ World Cup VI squad. We felt that Texas A&M had been denied a shot at the championship in an ugly semifinal marred by stoppages and injuries. We pointed to the opportunities seized by Texas. We weren’t satisfied, but unlike World Cup V, we weren’t 100% ticked off. The attitude was not the same. We began to move on.
Photo by Sofia de la Vega
Why? We began to see the imperfections in our heroes and the virtues of our villains. We didn’t feel as strongly about upholding continuity or motivating change. Ain’t No Ho in Me recolored our views about Texas’ physical juggernaut, showcasing the likability, resiliency and work ethic of the nation’s top program. After losing captain Drew Wasikowski, Texas A&M abandoned their beautiful passing and flawless off-ball movement for illegal hits and yellow cards. The Lost Boys, the darlings of the quidditch community, experienced a ugly and public breakup that quickly threatened their title hopes and avid fan base. The unattractive physical tactics of Texas State were watched, emulated and incorporated into the “beautiful game.” New experiences made us closer, prompting mutual respect and less blind hate, and the increasing size of the quidditch community made us farther away, diffusing flared tempers and bad blood.

With more complicated characters in the drama of the World Cup, we lifted our habitual pressures off the heroes. The usual intrigue about heroes and villains (Could the heroes retake the World Cup title from the villains? Could the heroes defeat the villains again, retaining the World Cup title?) mattered less. The new World Cup experience would not be defined by complete heroism or complete villainy. The great triumph of heroes at World Cup VI and the crushing victory of villains at World Cup V became a relic of the past. Now that heroes had faults and villains had virtues, desperately screaming for massive continuity and change each year was too tiring and too unrewarding. It wasn’t the end of the world if villains succeeded or heroes failed. We settled for little continuities and little changes, perpetrated by both heroes and villains.


World Cup VIII was the living proof that continuity and change are now an expected and welcome part of quidditch’s national championship. When Texas claimed its third straight championship, we didn’t rush to conclusions and bemoan the state of quidditch. We reveled in the invincibility of Augustine Monroe and applauded the results of Texas’ sprawling intramural system. We cautiously applied the word “dynasty,” recalling Middlebury’s hated dynasty. When community teams avenged their World Cup VII disappointments, we adjusted comfortably and turned the spotlight onto the virtues of postgraduate quidditch. However, we wouldn’t have questioned the state of the sport if community teams had fallen once again. World Cup VIII came and went quickly because there was less built-up anticipation for absolute continuity or change.
Photo by Isabella Gong
As memories of snitch range thrillers, no-look passes and improbable long-range beats faded away, we confronted the sudden and unexpected resignations of CEO Alex Benepe and COO Alicia Radford. Before panicking, we peered around and evaluated the current state of quidditch. We looked deep inside, discovered our acceptance of continuity and change and concluded that quidditch will withstand the inevitable shocks of new league initiatives, new champions and new gameplay debates.


At World Cup VIII, we accepted quidditch for what it is. An ever-evolving sport with infinite possibilities for growth and expansion. A well-established sport with enjoyable competition and enthusiastic players, coaches, snitches, referees and volunteers. A flourishing sport made stronger and more resilient in Rock Hill.

JackthePhan's World Cup VIII coverage is not over! The second part will focus on World Cup VIII's continuites (May 13th) and the third part will analyze on World Cup VIII's changes (May 20th).

Monday, March 30, 2015

Swiss Format and #MatchupMonday

I was skeptical. Too set in my ways. Not ready for change. I liked pools. Pools could have served World Cup 8 well. Why fix an unbroken system? Indeed, I was ready to ruin all the fun of #MatchupMonday with a scathing anti-Swiss format article.

However, like gingerbread and candy canes evoke anticipation of Christmas, Martin Pyne’s colorful mosaic of teams signals the coming of World Cup, the highlight of my year. As each matchup was announced, my rusty quidditch analysis brain delved into details and raced to conclusions. I dreamed up intriguing late round matchups, zeroed in on potential Cinderellas and imagined the intensity of fighting for a spot in bracket play. Almost immediately, I abandoned my reluctance to accept the new Swiss system. Why waste time lamenting the old when you could be enjoying the new? Live in the moment. Find the good in everything. Enter each new experience with an open mind. 

Unexpectedly, I’m excited for the Swiss system. I’m excited for World Cup 8. However, if the Swiss system clearly endangers players or damages the overall quality of gameplay, I will definitely notice and make my opinion heard. But right now? With 12 days until World Cup 8? I can’t wait for my fifth year of surprising twists and turns of quidditch!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Join the Quidditch Media Coalition

Does the quidditch community seem relatively quiet to you? Isn’t there something really huge going on?


World Cup 8 is approaching quickly, with the promise of an innovative format, thrilling competition, riveting underdogs and a new champion. From the final practices and preparations of contending squads to the scouting reports and schemes of the championship favorites, the last month before World Cup can make or break a team. Once the quidditch community descends on Rock Hill, a season of dramatic storylines will conclude. Underrated players will step into the spotlight and x-factor performers will suffer untimely injuries. Regions will exceed expectations and regions will choke. The current rankings will implode as triumphant wins and stunning losses alter perceptions. Strategies will be unveiled, perfected and screwed-up. Intense emotion will be on full display. Lifelong memories will be made.


And the Quidditch Media Coalition wants you to capture the magic of World Cup 8!


On Monday, March 9th, a historic agreement between The Eighth Man, the Quidditch Post and US Quidditch was announced, forming the Quidditch Media Coalition. Inviting all unaffiliated quidditch journalists, the Quidditch Media Coalition proclaimed a unified journalistic approach to World Cup 8, aiming to produce the best and most extensive coverage ever.


I was selected to lead to the Quidditch Media Coalition and promised to recruit an unrivaled staff of quidditch journalists. Because of my background, I'm heading the effort to recruit writers!


FAQs
Why should I join the Quidditch Media Coalition?
  1. determine how the quidditch community remembers World Cup 8
  2. give back to the sport of quidditch by spreading its reach on the sport's most important weekend
  3. participate in a fun community of writers
  4. legitimize quidditch by mimicking the coverage of ESPN
  5. get your writing retweeted to thousands and thousands of followers by universities and news outlets
What will I be writing?
Short game recaps that can include summarizing game trends, commenting on standout players, detailing strategy, capturing emotion, listing basic statistics and gathering quotes. Each writer is encouraged to implement his or her own stylistic preferences and journalistic interests.


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Surprise Shootaround

Storytime
It was Saturday, September 27th and a new season of quidditch was upon us. Immersed in Keystone Cup planning and fretting about logistics, I had convinced my dad to drive me to College Park, MD for Turtle Cup IV. As the first scores popped up on my Twitter feed around the Delaware-Maryland border, storylines and questions began to abound. Villanova had survived a snitch range scare from VCU, UNC had defeated Rutgers 160*-70 and NYU had needed overtime to dispose of a perceivedly weak Capital Madness team, 140^-130*.

Naturally, I bumped into Ethan Sturm, Managing Editor of the Eighth Man, almost immediately after walking through the gates of Maryland's renowned turf fields. I brought up the NYU-Capital Madness result.

"NYU was playing Kyle Jeon at chaser," Ethan remarked.

"It's that bad?" I responded. "Wow. That shows a huge lack of confidence in their chaser game."

We nodded. An hour later, I watched UNC dismantle NYU 160-30* and seemingly confirm my doubts about 2014-15 NYU. I had written NYU off my list. 

Could I have been any more wrong? 

Shifting Balance of Power
Turns out you don't have to be in a European History class to discuss balance of power. Let's examine  our current season. Today's balance of power, region by region, bears little resemblance to what we have been accustomed to in the past. Storied programs have faded, community teams have gained actual relevance and historically strong geographic areas have disappeared. Although a strong argument could be made that today's balance of power was predictable, simply comparing today's upper tier to the elite of yesteryear is dumbfounding. Let's look at the developments in each region.

The Mid-Atlantic has seen Pennsylvania fall off a cliff and North Carolina and Virginia emerge into the limelight. In an ironic twist, now it seems that Pennsylvania is hopelessly isolated, doomed to watch the success of its southern neighbors. 

The Northeast watched graduation gut its pride and joy, Boston University and Emerson College (respectively?). Simultaneously, the Big Apple Quidditch Conference has transformed from Boston's ugly stepsister to a real contender, producing two regional semifinalists that, I believe, still hold untapped potential. Perhaps even more surprisingly, the rise of New York has occurred within the framework of unexpected success from Tufts University and solid rebuilding efforts at BU and Emerson.

The West has witnessed the greatest and most dangerous change of all. College teams have been reduced to minimal relevance as community teams swap and poach key players from each other. The West lacks a super community team like Lone Star QC. A super team would be better! Instead, the West features 5-8 competitive community squads that nearly shut out all college representation in the West's quarterfinals. With greater recruiting capacity, better name recognition, more available funding and facilities for tournaments, college teams always need to compose the foundation of the sport. Having only three different Western universities represented at World Cup 8 should be unacceptable.

Leadership
Whether its due to the strategic advancement of quidditch or the growth of successful programs, quidditch has rarely seen such a dedicated, smart and experienced corps of captains and leaders. Kyle Jeon's accomplishments at NYU are unrivaled. Jeon disassembled NYU and rebuilt it stronger, embarking on a vigorous schedule of tournaments and seizing every opportunity to improve. Jeon's behind-the-scene work overshadows his fantastic play on the field. Jeon's new duel-threat role has showcased his increased speed and strength and highlighted his multi-faceted understanding of the game. Further down I-95, the University of Maryland's senior leadership of Erin Mallory, Bryan Barrows and Harry Greenhouse collectively delivered a regional title and held off a strong bid from UNC. In addition, Maryland's leadership has developed a highly advanced offense. For an in-depth explanation of the ingenuity of Maryland's offense, check out an excellent and thorough review of the Mid-Atlantic champions from Boston Quidditch Scene. Boston Quidditch Scene did a fascinating job of noticing and articulating the contrasts between "linear" Northeast offenses and Maryland's dynamic machine. I believe over-reliance on offensive beating and linear offenses can become a death trap come April and incessant snowstorms certainly aren't helping the Northeast's chances.

Off-Ball Giants
In basketball, big men dominate the list of all-time top scorers. Monstrous defenders in ice hockey and soccer inspire fear in the hearts of goalkeepers. However, in the early years of quidditch, height was often treated as a ticket to a green headband and tall players were locked in as ballhandlers. History is history, but limiting height to solely ballhandling roles is an antiquated and foolish approach for today's best offenses. In fact, several teams have begun using big men exclusively as effective off-ball weapons. 

Exhibit A can be found with Lone Star QC and chaser Josh Tates. The nation's top-ranked team recently reaffirmed Tates' place on the roster, proceeding with its terrifying plan to create an unstoppable force in the paint. With raw athleticism, Tates can perfect the art of high-flying alley-oops much more quickly than learning how to pick out smart passes and take care of the ball as a ballhandling keeper.

Exhibit B lies with Maryland's Eric King. Teaming with Harry Greenhouse on Maryland's starting line, King has harnessed Greenhouse's overlooked passing ability and point guard skills. With consistent positioning behind the hoops and a quick catch and release, King relieves the burden of scoring from Greenhouse and presents an opportunity for high-percentage shots. As a former fantasy GM/coach of Greenhouse, it is no coincidence that King plays alongside the 2014 Northeast Fantasy Champion.

More to Come
No promises for more blogging, but I'm hoping an exciting announcement is in the works! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Storylines to Make MARC Interesting

After an extended break from quidditch analysis and writing due to the Keystone Cup, I'm back to bring you five storylines from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. While Maryland will win MARC easily, fascinating questions abound in the middle and lower tiers of the Mid-Atlantic.

1. Can Villanova's offense pick up steam? Despite having an athletic group of chasers, Villanova's offense has struggled mightily against organized defenses. Villanova seems hesitant to challenge opposing chaser defenses and content to pass the quaffle around midfield. I'm not expecting Greg Habeeb to turn into Eric Reyes or Brad Armentor, but Villanova's smaller ball handlers have to attack and penetrate more. Villanova's offense rarely forces defenses to collapse anywhere. If Villanova's offense can force defenses to collapse on its ball handler through penetration, its talented off-ball chasers like Julia Fillman will find more open space and score more goals. Penetration is Villanova's key to avoiding embarassing losses to Virginia and George Mason.

2. Is the Mid-Atlantic's balance of power shifting towards the south? Historically, Pennsylania's trio of Villanova, Penn State and Pittsburgh have been dominant, top-tier squads in the Mid-Atlantic. Last year saw the emergence of Richmond and North Carolina as regional contenders. This fall, I believe Richmond and North Carolina have vaulted over Pennsylvania's storied trio. However, the Mid-Atlantic's changing balance of power is most evident in the lower tiers. Look at Pool A. Appalachian, Johns Hopkins and Lock Haven. Hailing from the Tar Heel State and participating in the Carolinas Quidditch Conference, Appalachian has gained significant experience against higher-level and lower-level teams. The CQC has given Appalachian a place to develop young players, test new strategies and experience the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. In addition, Appalachian has improved alongside North Carolina.

Lock Haven, which is located in central Pennsylvania, has failed to improve thanks to relative isolation. Without many local tournaments geared towards developing teams, Lock Haven has traveled to Turtle Cups III and IV. Lock Haven's treks to College Park, MD have been rather pointless, featuring obliterations from Maryland, Emerson, the NYDC Capitalists and more. Furthermore, as Villanova, Penn State and Pittsburgh have declined, Lock Haven has lost valuable opportunities to compete and has stagnated. 

Johns Hopkins is in the middle. Hopkins has had the benefit of some local competition with George Mason and Capital Madness, but the Beltway quidditch scene is far from thriving. While Johns Hopkins will no longer be challenging top-tier teams, a 110*-20 defeat of George Mason shows me that Hopkins is still contending for a bid to Rock Hill, SC. 

Appalachian will qualify for World Cup VIII. Lock Haven will not. Johns Hopkins is on the fence. 

3. Richmond or North Carolina? After Turtle Cup IV and Keystone Cup, I am fairly certain that either Richmond or North Carolina will meet Maryland in the finals of MARC. I am big fan of Richmond's ball handling duo of Jeremy Day and Brendan "Bo" O'Connor. Day and O'Connor display similar confidence and strength, but offer fresh legs with each substitution. Often overlooked, chaser Ian Mitchell provides power and experience on- and off-ball for Richmond and often acts as the glue on both ends of the pitch. 

I expect North Carolina to give us more of the same. Aggressive beater play from Kyle Bullins, constant fast-breaking from Max Miceli and Andrew McGregor, improvement from role players like Emma Troxler,  Alex Crawford and Justin Cole and no defense. North Carolina will likely secure the number one seed going into bracket play on account of its propensity to play long, high-scoring games. 

If Day and O'Connor can conserve energy and stay healthy during a pedestrian pool play schedule, Richmond should be capable of slowing the pace and springing an upset on the Tar Heels. Watch for Richmond's seeking game, which attracted significant attention at the Oktoberfest Cup, to come up big again at MARC.

4. Can Capital Madness make the next step? DC's first true community team has proved vulnerable to dramatic highs and lows. Capital Madness has shown remarkable strategy, focus and determination under the leadership of James Hicks, but sometimes falls victim to the emotion of impact chaser Steve Minnich. If Madness can stay level-headed and keep its composure, Maryland's beaters should prepare to feel very uncomfortable and Penn State should fear a loss. In addition, I hope Capital Madness' hodgepodge of chasers has gotten James Hicks' creative juices flowing. I could see Sam Medney acting as the ball distributor like Missy Sponagle. I bet Minnich and utility Robby May could execute a plethora of handoffs like Texas State or premier Canadian squads. However, with limited chaser depth, I think Capital Madness is prone to lapses against lower level teams. While its pool lacks a legitimate upset threat, the first round of bracket play is dangerous for Capital Madness. I fully expect Capital Madness to qualify for World Cup VIII through the consolation bracket.

5. Can the Philadelphia Honey Badgers do the unthinkable? The City of Brotherly Love's historically notorious community team has been the feel good story of the fall in the Mid-Atlantic. The Honey Badgers made bracket play at Turtle Cup IV, upset Macaulay and the New York Badassilisks at their inaugural BAQC event and enter MARC with a respectable 4-5 record. The key to the Honey Badgers newfound success has been seeking. The Honey Badgers have only missed three snitches this year, with a 70% snitch catch percentage and a 60% SWIM. If the Philadelphia Honey Badgers qualify for World Cup VIII, I will find a way to mention my hometown Badgers in every article I write from now until April.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Keystone Cup Knows and Don't Knows

What I Know: The inaugural Keystone Cup was a definite success! Logan Anbinder, Megan Seidel, Clay Dockery, Michael Clark-Polner, Amanda Dallas and Walter Makarucha were instrumental to the success of the Keystone Cup. Teams made my life easier by reporting to games, referee and snitch assignments and exhibiting good sportsmanship. Despite PSATs at my high school and other events preventing an enormous spectator turnout, a number of new spectators, young and old, had their first experience with quidditch today and enjoyed watching. Congratulations to Ball State for taking home the Keystone Cup. Today was a great day and I look forward to next October for Keystone Cup II.

What I Don't Know: How anyone, including myself, is going to analyze the Keystone Cup and make sense of its results. Good luck.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Keystone Cup Update

As many of my readers know, I am hosting a tournament called the Keystone Cup in Haverford, PA on October 18th, 2014. The tournament is scheduled to include Ball State, Bowling Green State, Michigan State, North Carolina, Pittsburgh, Richmond, The Warriors and Villanova. I have been immersed in planning the Keystone Cup for the past four weeks, leaving little time for me to blog. However, I'd like to assure my readers that the The QuidKid is only temporarily inactive and will back and better than ever after the Keystone Cup!

Keystone Cup updates, announcements and more can be found on the official Keystone Cup website, keystonecupquidditch.blogspot.com, or the official Keystone Cup Twitter account (@KeystoneCupQuid). Furthermore, the Keystone Cup launched an Indiegogo Campaign yesterday to raise funds for the inaugural tournament.