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).

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