Friday, December 20, 2013

Around the League

With the absence of competition this December, I'd thought I'd take a break from analyzing video and breaking down the fall season. Here's a wrap up of what's caught my eye around the league in the past few days. **Note: The opinions in this article are my own opinions and are separate from the opinions of the IQA.**

1. The biggest headline in the community over the past few days has been the announcement of Quiyk's Fantasy Draft. Eight captains, chosen by Quiyk Marketing director Ben Nadeau, will pick fantasy teams in a snake style draft from a pool of players past and present over the course of a couple months. Using the Quiyk tumblr blog to announce and explain their picks, there is sure to be heated debate. Ultimately, the winner of the giant fake fantasy tournament (fantasy squared??) tournament will be decided by a popular vote. While I really hope the most deserving team wins, there is sure to be controversy with a popular vote. I say let's just enjoy it! We've always talked about doing a huge draft like this! Expect fun-spirited analysis of the fantasy draft from my end. While I prepare my mock draft, here's three things to think about.
  • To what extent will non-active players be drafted? Former USC chaser/keeper and potential Olympian Remy Conatser is likely to be drafted, as well as several of last season's best beaters from teams like Texas, LSU and UCLA. Are these players more likely to occupy bench spots simply because they aren't still playing? 
  • Lesser known players on star teams vs. star players on lesser known teams. Will role players on a top five teams get drafted more than stars on teams that aren't ranked? This is sure to become a topic of debate towards the end when two or three bench spots are yet to be filled. 
  • With the announcement of the eight GMs, speculation will begin about who will shake up the draft with unpredictable picks. How will the other GMs react to a specific GM forming an ultra-physical team or a team with many players in one region? Which GMs are going to make predictable picks? Does a GM need a few risky picks to make their team more appealing to the voters?
2. The IQA released the results of a recent league-wide poll about whether to hold North American regionals in the fall or in the spring. Eastern Canada, the Mid-Atlantic, the Midwest and the Northeast all voted convincingly to keep their regionals in the fall, while the South and the Southwest voted to continuing playing their regionals in the spring. The West, whose regional championship has been held in the spring and the fall, voted 55%-45%. Because the results were not decisive enough, the West will receive regionals bids for both the fall and spring. 

As we've seen the past two years, changing the West's regional championship from season to season can have huge implications on the dynamic of the rest of the season. In the fall of 2012, when the Western regional was slated to take place in the spring, the Western region hosted and traveled to two of the biggest interregional tournaments of the season. This fall, the fall of 2013, when the Western regional occurred during November, there were no big interregional tournaments during the fall. The West is a region that is very willing to travel so when we move the regional championship, we have to consider that we are also probably moving the most interesting interregional tournament of the year. For instance last year, both the Hollywood Bowl and West by Southwest produced fascinating results. 2014's Diamond Cup, the Southwest tournament that the Lost Boys will be attending, is sure to have greater implications in February than it would have had in October, with World Cup VII staring down the teams. 

3. The IQA Events Bid Manual was unfurled this past week and there's a lot to talk about. First of all, it looks fantastic. This is exactly what I want recreation departments and tourism boards across the country looking at when they are deciding whether to bid for a World Cup or any other major event. I love that the IQA has clearly set aside five major events, World Cup, Regional Championships, IQA Open, Global Games and QuidCon, to be the trademark events of our sport. Let's go through new and/or interesting information for each event.

World Cup--The facility requirements for future World Cups seem to be very similar to what Kissimmee provided at Austin-Tindall Park. With the smashing success that was the World Cup's sixth installment, this a great place to start. The other thing I was surprised about was just how much money in financial support is required for a bid. $30,000 is a number that says to me, "wow we are really doing something special!" 

Regional Championships--Regionals are basically desribed as a smaller World Cup. The most interesting new information about regionals pertains to the seasons they are to take place in (which I covered in #2).

IQA Open--Excitement has been growing about an official announcement of the IQA Open ever since Alex Benepe made a surprise appearance in an #IQAForums thread discussing the event. The IQA Open will be, well, open to all teams, regardless of their competitiveness. A tournament like this has been needed for a while and with the launch slated for spring of 2015, you have to wonder if it's too little, too late. I want this tournament to succeed, but certain things are going to have to happen for the IQA to become "a large-scale, interregional tournament that is a keystone even for teams each year." 

Geographic placing of the first few IQA Opens is essential. It has to be in the middle of the country, in a place where there is (at least) some hope that it will attract teams from every single region. Secondly, I have argued before that this tournament should be geared towards the whimsical teams. But with the title of the event unveiled, the IQA Open can't succeed with only whimsical teams. I beleive that the IQA Open will do best if it truly does welcome every team from Texas to the Badassilisks. Whether competitive teams attend the IQA Open at first will determine it's long term success. While this may ambitious, I also think that there shouldn't be traditional pools. Maybe give teams the chance to choose their competition? That way we can avoid boring, pointless blowouts and have games that both players and spectators will enjoy.

The IQA will be taking bids for March or April excluding the regular World Cup weekend and the weekend before. To attract competitive World Cup teams, (and then attract other teams by adding legitimacy to the event), I think there has to be at least three weeks between the Open and the World Cup. If the Open was in early March, World Cup teams could use it to get extra practice under their belts, but would also be at risk of injuries that devastate World Cup hopes. If the Open was in late April, the competitive teams could play their future stars and underclassmen, as captains would get a preview of what their team would look like the following season. The downside of a late April Open is fast-approaching finals for college students and the fact that with World Cup over, teams might not be as motivated to travel. All in all, we didn't get too much information on the Open, but it's satisfying. I can't wait for more official information. Don't know what to the think about the requirement that facilities must have the "ability for up to 600 players to camp out on site."

Global Games--It's official. The Summer Games in Oxford have morphed into a biennial competition between national teams. While it was nice to have the correlation between the Oxford Exhibition and the London Olympics, it would've been difficult to commit to holding a quidditch tournament in Brazil in only three years and another tournament in Japan in seven years. With the tournament occurring twice as frequently, we will soon enter discussions about Team USA (including whether to keep deserving 2012 USA members on the team vs. giving the chance to new people), be fundraising to get as many European nations as possible overseas, and see those wonderful Quiyk jerseys. Also, from what I understand, the 2014 Global Games will not be selected using the new bidding process, but from 2016 on, they will.

4. Diamond Cup has garnered a lot of attention as being the best non-World Cup/regional tournament scheduled for the spring. It's going to be awesome, don't get me wrong, but it's really just going to be the Southwest and the Lost Boys. I'd like to point your attention to the Beantown Brawl 2014. By the time it's teams list is complete, I expect every relevant, bracket play-contending team in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Eastern Canada to be attending the Brawl plus hopefully some Midwest teams too! A competitive indoor tournament right smack in the middle of February is perfect for the regions struggling to improve with snow on the ground and freezing temperatures. With approximately a month and a half until World Cup, teams shouldn't have to be extra cautious about injuries at the tournament, with promise for intense gameplay.

I'm going to do everything I can to be there. I think there's a very good chance I can make it, but it might require an Indiegogo campaign. What would be some perks you, my readers, be interested in? Private scouting reports? Team pictures with me that become my Facebook and twitter profile pics?

5. I'd like to congratulate the Horn-Tailed Horcruxes and Oklahoma Baptist for donating over 500 books during the IQA's fourth annual book drive. I don't normally write about things like books but hear me out. The Horcruxes, a community team based in New Jersey, reached 500 books collected as of mid-November and had their success covered in an IQA article. The article encouraged OBU to make a late charge at first place, as the Southwest team finished only 10 books behind the Horcruxes. 

When explaining quidditch to my friends, arguing with random people in comments sections, or even among the quidditch community, we are often trying to fight negative perceptions about our sport. The first negative perception that always comes up is that players are just a bunch of Harry Potter nerds running around with brooms. I strongly believe we should continue to fight that perception, but the book drive is hurting because of our crusade against the "nerd" perception. The first annual book drive, which occurred during a time when we were quicker to embrace the quidditch's nerdy side, collected close to 9000 books. More teams should be doing what the Horcruxes and OBU did. While more and more teams put their time and energy into on-field improvement, strength and conditioning, and fundraising for travel now, we need to have more donations to the book drive next year.

I think I am in a unique position to argue why the book drive and literacy are so important. Many of my readers are in college or graduates, and rarely, in the college or professional world (unless you're a teacher), do you come across someone who really struggles to read. I go to the public high school in my town and yes, there are kids who really struggle to read. Most of these kids are not illiterate, but have an extremely low reading level. It is so sad for these kids--I can't help but think how are they going to get good enough SAT scores to attend college? Or will they ever be able to get a stable job?--but more books can help increase their reading level. So next year, before you dismiss holding a team book drive because it may increase negative perceptions of your team on campus, think of these kids. The kids who I see in the hallway, in the cafeteria and in my classes everyday. 

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