Violence Has No Place In Quidditch
This post is going to be a lot more serious and longer than my usual posts are. This post is about violence in Quidditch, particularly as seen at the Philly Brotherly Love Cup at Chestnut Hill College.
A little personal background: I have been playing Quidditch since I was a freshman, was a Captain my sophomore, and have played Basketball from middle to high school. I broke my knee playing Quidditch this February. I have grown up wrestling with my brother and many friends and tackle and am tackled in return. In summary: I am fine with playing physical games. I absolutely love that Quidditch is a co-ed contact sport! It is ridiculously fun, the bruises are worth it, and the people are quonderful (Quidditch wonderful for those who are not used to my quocabulary).
And Vassar Quidditch is my perfect fit. We are the second oldest team in existence, and since we have formed, we have strived and maintained a high reputation of friendliness, fair play, and no violence. We have taught Quidditch to many, and seek to pass on the torch of Quidditch’s spirit to as many teams and people as we can.
Because if there is something at stake here, it is the spirit of Quidditch.
The whole point of Quidditch is that it is inclusive: teams consists from hardcore athletes training for marathons to those who never played a sport before. Quidditch is about the intense sport that you play with a broom between your legs and you have to realize that yes, you are indeed Queen of the Quaffle because you just dodged that bludger and scored past two chasers, but you are also running with a broom between your legs; you just flipped the finger to a lot of expectations and kept it all tongue-in-cheek, self-deprecatingly aware and yet all the more gloriously independent due to that awareness that you can be silly and not care.
Quidditch is a sport where two Seniors show up to practice in a banana and a hot dog costume just ‘cause.
Vassar has a reputation for being “lovey dovey nerds who play well”, and we work hard to emphasize the quove in what we do. We talk to our freshmen about playing cleanly, well, and keeping the spirit of the game. From the beginning, we tell them stories of our difficult moments and how we overcame (or did not) the issues that come with playing well. We have completely decimated other teams (score wise) and they came back with hugs and congratulations, promised to cheer for us in other matches, and repeated how much they loved playing with us, how it was a pleasure to find such excellent sportsmanship. And one of the Holy Tenets of The Broooers, which I am almost 90% sure is in our Binder of Secrets (accessible only to Captains), is that you play “aggressively, not violently”.
I think that distinction is being lost with a lot of teams.
We went to the BLC with a team primarily composed of freshmen, in what was going to be their “trial by tournament”. Most of our veterans simply couldn’t make it as our Fall break had just started, or went to the Yale/NYBadassilisks meet up the week before. Instead, they had a “rite by fire”. : (
They took it like the champs they are.
The first game was ridiculously rough for the freshmen, because we played Stonybrook fresh of the bat, and while I have my respect for the team, it was not a good match. It was aggressive, a lot of rules were broken, and their Chasers kept ignoring the times they were bludged/beat and the refs did not discount scores from bludged chasers. More importantly, the aggressive playing was not called out by the refs.
Part of that was misunderstanding. A teammate calmly informed one of their beaters that the rulebook says you get in the way of another team’s beater from grabbing a bludger. To quote exactly from Rulebook 5, p 19:
“The Third Bludger - Any team in possession of two bludgers may not guard the third bludger and must allow the other team to recover it. A beater is said to be guarding the third bludger when she is near the bludger and making a clear effort to prevent the opposition from recovering the bludger, at the referee’s discretion. Possessing or guarding the third bludger is a back to hoops offense; repeat offenders may be cautioned.”
Said player was surprised, thanked my teammate for the correction, and continued play without guarding the third bludger. Successful correction. The rest was not so successful.
The SUNY Geneseo game was fine. We have a cordial relationship, I am used to playing with them and am comfortable with the level of physical contact they play with, and our freshmen mostly had fun. There was some worry with some tackles, particularly when they cornered the freshmen. One of the worse tackles was probably when a SUNY Geneseo girl tackled Peter, our beater and a Captain, and ripped his shirt.
The NYBadassilisks game was honestly wonderful. I’d like to take a moment to thank them for playing with a level head and speaking to the refs, offering their players for bludger refs, and overall making the tournament wonderful for us.
But watching other games, I couldn’t help but notice aggression running at really high levels, with teammates getting angry over how their friends were treated and “returning the favour”. Like beautifulabsurdity said, both SUNY Geneseo and Stonybrook degenerated in their game into a horrifyingly ugly spectacle.
I understand getting angry when your teammates are hurt, the other team is playing dirty, or the refs are not doing their job. But teams need to stop and keep their game clean. They need to be able to stop their own players. They need to talk about these issues before a game so that they know how to react.
We have a system were the Captains are the only ones on our team allowed to talk to the ref. It makes their job easier, and keeps relationships cordial. If a ref makes a call you disagree with, it does not matter – calmly do what they ask of you, and report to your Captains. They will talk to the refs about concerns, changes, rule misunderstandings and the like. It is part of their duties, and they have discharged them well. Captains always read the full rulebook, and make sure to discuss changes with the team so everybody is up to date.
We also have a system for anger. At its most basic, it is: if you are angry, get out of the game. We will sub you if we think you need to get out, and you need to be prepared for this, or you can’t play. If you are angry, talk to your Captain, but do not, and I repeat, do not take the low road; there is no point in playing if you will not play well. Never hurt; never aim for the player; breathe twice, or thrice, or maybe ten times; tell your teammate to calm down if you think they need it. It has worked. The Broooers have faced violent teams in the past, other teams have been in the same quandary, and they kept their game clean, fair, and are a prime example of a properly self-regulated team. Examples that come to mind are UMass Amherst, NYBadassilisks, and Penn State.
I think a lot of teams need to sit down and work these issues within themselves. A lot of the teams who were violent were also good enough that they did not need the violence they exhibited to win – it was heartbreaking to watch foul play mar an otherwise exemplary team. The primary responsibility, really, lies in the players and teams to be able to either regulate themselves or teammates, and to foster a culture that makes this easier. Ultimately, the players are the ones doing the dangerous/aggressive actions – not the refs. To quote fuckyesquidditch, “Like any decent athlete and human being, you continue playing a clean and professional game or you’re just as to blame.”
That said, refs are a crucial part to the game, both as an added incentive to keeping in the rules, and to be able to step in when things explode beyond the team’s regulatory levels. Refs are supposed to cut off the opportunities for things to boil over.
Being a referee is hard, thankless work. You are responsible for helping set the tone of the games, at times the tournament you are in. If you do not have a clear understanding of the rules, or the confidence to step in, you won’t do well. I have reffed. My friend Molly was a referee at our last Butterbeer Classic, and she was wonderful. She told me later it was a stressful experience because at times the teams get angry at her for calling things, but that she valued more the safety of the players to being liked by all the teams – and that takes a lot of strength of character. But they can make a huge difference.
After our Captains talked to the refs, things began to get better – they began to enforce the bludger/beat rule very strictly, talked to teams before games about acceptable levels of physicality, and dealt with our concerns with attention and respect. One referee in particular at the BLC – I think his name was Chris, he reffed during our second match with Stonybrook – made a huge difference. I am intensely grateful to Chris, as the second match was completely different from our first match. It felt like Quidditch again! So referee training has to happen before a match, and you need to be careful in who you choose and what they enforce. I am very glad that the IQA, and Benepe, are taking this seriously and apparently made promises that this will not be repeated in the World Cup.
I am also severely heartened by the response in tumblr, the discussions we are having, and the overall civility (with few exceptions) I have seen regarding these issues. The fact that the Quidditch community is willing to sit down and talk this in depth and no “flame wars” are erupting, is a testament to the fact that despite these events, we can keep the Quidditch spirit alive!
As we say at Vassar, please try to “tackle with a hug”!
Your friendly Broooer Cami