Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Texas Dynasty and Continuity

Texas captured its third consecutive World Cup championship. And by Sunday morning, it was kind of inevitable. Quietly, Texas eased through Swiss play, dispatching Arizona QC, Crimson Elite and Tufts in relatively low-profile matches. Victory after victory produced a perfect rhythm of success. The time and place for constructive losses had passed. A brief scare from Blue Mountain forced Texas to gear up, showing off its vaunted and unmatched Sunday willpower. Ultimately, tougher preliminary competition allowed Texas to transition seamlessly into single elimination. Unlike World Cup VII, Texas faced no close calls, walking over the LA Gambits, Blue Mountain and the Lost Boys. Nevertheless, as the thrill of bracket play arrived, Texas became a formidable locomotive, steaming across rickety train tracks at a breakneck speed. With an uphill battle ahead, Texas exploded into a higher gear with a surge of physicality and aggressive Ain’t No Ho In Me spirit. At the bends, Texas proceeded with caution and avoided disruptive mistakes. Texas would not be derailed before reaching its destination.

Rooted in World Cups VI and VII, Texas has mastered the art of controlled chaos. Beaters Michael Duquette and Freddy Salinas teetered on the edge of command and chaos, racing up and down the pitch and flying into tackles. Chasers Paden Pace and Ryan Davis pushed the limits of composure, while Monroe subbed in to restore a confident and relaxed calm. Amid the action-packed quidditch, Texas definitely made defensive miscues, fumbled away possession and earned yellow cards. However, the shortcomings were never enough to seriously threaten the three-time defending champions. The errors were always corrected appropriately and in time.

By sunset, Texas’ controlled chaos confronted its biggest challenge yet. With the World Cup title on the line, Texas stared down the former teammates and quidditch legends who had built the foundations of controlled chaos years ago. To defeat Lone Star, Texas could not abandon either control or chaos. Texas needed the perfect storm.

During its entire championship run, Texas’ win over Lone Star was the most eerily reminiscent of World Cup VII. Although World Cup VIII Lone Star was more battled-tested than World Cup VII Texas State, Texas reacted to both teams similarly and overcame almost identical challenges to claim the title.

At brooms up, Texas barreled into gameplay and quickly fell into a 20-0 hole. In back-to-back years, chasers Tyrell Williams and Chris Scholtz capitalized on an unorganized Texas defense and notched a pair of goals. Almost by design, Texas was forced to play from behind. Like a true dynasty, Texas barely blinked and proceeded with unshakable trust in the system. If they could erase an early 20-0 deficit, why couldn’t a mix of experienced leaders and gritty role players propel Texas into snitch range later? At World Cup VIII, keeper David Acker and chaser Marty Bermudez heeded the call and fired back with two goals. With any hidden doubts or perceived weaknesses flushed away, the time for Augustine Monroe had arrived.

Every season, quidditch analysts obsess over flashy scorers and new impact players from coast to coast. Who will be the difference at World Cup? Who will make the clutch snitch catch or score the go-ahead goal? Predictions and speculations about the World Cup litter quidditch articles and discussion. However,  when the dust clears, Monroe has clearly claimed the Most Valuable Player award and quidditch analysts collectively shrug and move on. With the entire quidditch community gathered around one pitch, how has Monroe’s World Cup championship game dominance escaped the spotlight? Indeed, Monroe is the ultimate silent assassin. Projecting a cool confidence, the quidditch community expects Monroe to dance through defenses and pick out the perfect pass. For three consecutive years, Monroe has jogged onto the pitch and seized control of an evenly-matched championship game. By World Cup VIII, it was entirely predictable and mind-bogglingly unbelievable deja vu.

At World Cups VII and VIII Monroe’s heroics verged on hero-balling. However, Monroe’s hero-balling never seems like a desperate attempt to cover up his teammates shortcomings. Monroe takes the temperature of the opposition and jumps into the action at the ideal time. Like a true superstar, Monroe’s heroics always make Texas appear more invincible. Whether it’s the spectacle and pressure of the World Cup or the never-failing loyalty and support of his teammates, Monroe has defied the odds and solidified a preeminent place in quidditch history.

However, history is never clear and certain until it happens. As the seconds ticked away in Rock Hill, Lone Star weathered Monroe’s storm and unleashed a series of well-timed goals to stay in snitch range. All signs still pointed to a Texas three-peat, but reasonable doubts loomed larger with each resilient, high-energy response. For a deep team like Lone Star, crunch-time plays overwhelmingly came from Texas A&M alumni. Players who have been knocked down repeatedly at the World Cup. Players who have chased an elusive championship for years. Players who have felt cheated, outplayed, outmuscled and unlucky. Players who bounce back from adversity year after year. Wasikowski scored twice, defiantly exploding down the side of the pitch. DuPont lunged for loose balls. Was it a desperate hunger to avoid falling short? Or was it a liberating, nothing-can-hurt-me-now feeling of invincibility?

At the end of the day, Wasikowski and DuPont left without a championship trophy. Yet, World Cup VIII was not a loss for Texas A&M’s tortured alumni. Texas A&M alumni weathered a blistering performance from Monroe and answered with grit. Thanks to Wasikowski, DuPont and Lensing, Lone Star and Texas were neck and neck. In crunch time, Texas A&M alumni carried the flag for Lone Star. For the first time since World Cup V, the quidditch community enjoyed a snitch range championship game. Texas A&M alumni stepped up and exceeded expectations without winning the World Cup.

Overall, World Cup VIII belonged to Texas. Overcoming opponents, injuries and graduations, Texas hoisted three straight championship snitchsocks into the World Cup air. As Texas stormed the pitched, smiled for pictures and lit the tower, the quidditch community contemplated the future of the Texas dynasty. Next fall, throngs of athletes will show up for tryouts. Newer faces will step into leadership roles. Undoubtedly, Texas will have the athleticism and hunger to win a fourth consecutive championship. But will they have the composure? Mr. Clutch will be gone. The Texas dynasty could become the Augustine Monroe dynasty, a de facto Longhorn dynasty extended by the Texas Cavalry. Or the Texas dynasty could be finished. For the first time in quidditch history, a defending World Cup champion could be dethroned at the World Cup. Lone Star QC and Texas State University will be back. Whatever the future holds, the continuity of the Texas dynasty has defined the past three years of quidditch. The Texas dynasty has been fun to watch.

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