Thursday, March 11, 2010

I've got a bone to pick with J.K. Rowling

I'm bothered. Hot and bothered.

Although my wife would argue I'm just bothered. (That's when I argue back, "Nuh uh.")

Why am I bothered?

Because of J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter." That's why.

I am proud to call myself a sports aficionado. I've spent the better part of my life watching sports, every sport. I've seen jai alai matches, Aussie rules football, rugby, wife-carrying contests, cheese-rolling ... not to mention I recently bowled a 203. That may seem off topic, but it's not. The point is that I've got an open mind when it comes to sports. If people are going to hit something, throw something, kick something, or just look at something competitively (I might not actually watch that), I'm like Mario jumping down a green pipe.

And that's precisely why I have a problem with J.K. Rowling and her nonsensical sport: Quidditch.

Don't get me wrong, nerdlings, I'm all for wizards and broomsticks and the entire "Harry Potter" lot, but if you have the chance to create a sport, one that's supposed to captivate the youth of the world (and their creepy adult counterparts), don't make it irrational.

Under Rowling's quidditch rules, a quaffle (apparently we're doing alliteration today, kids!) that is thrown through one of the three goal hoops results in 10 points. All fine and dandy, right? Well the golden snitch, the walnut-sized golden ball that zips around the field at whim, is worth 150 points if caught. And the game ends the second the snitch is caught.

What kind of kindergarten rules are we dealing with?

Based on the progression of play and the number of anti-goalscoring variables that Rowling has also sewn into her game (bludgers that basically kill the little wizardlings when they get hit by them, goalies on freaking broomsticks that guard the goal hoops, a rule where only one chaser is allowed in the scoring area at any one time, etc.), the likelihood of a chaser scoring more than 15 goals before the snitch is caught is practically zero. That's the only way the game is even remotely competitive, if some little fucker scores 15 goals before the snitch is caught. That's it. Otherwise, the game is utterly pointless outside of the two seekers who try to catch the snitch.

Why even have anyone else on the field, J.K.?

Why even bother writing the "700 fouls" of quidditch that apparently aren't open to the fictional public because people might "get ideas"?

Why not just have two kids play rock, paper, scissors (lizard, Spock?) to decide the matches?

It's an embarrassingly-convoluted game system.

Let's put it into context.

Imagine a hockey match where every goal that was scored was worth one goal. Sounds pretty normal, right? Now imagine that two extra players didn't play with anyone else in the game, they just sat in little fairy costumes suspended above the ice by wires ... waiting. When one of them perked up, catching a glimpse of a tiny, mechanized marble that'd been silently released onto the playing surface, he somersaulted down toward the ice with his opponent grasping to keep up. Whoever caught the marble, tossing and turning around the rink like a frightening cat toy, got the equivalent of 15 goals and the game immediately ended.

Would you watch that?

I mean, aside from the fairy dancers hanging from the scoreboard, would you watch that?

Of course not! It's illogical. Logic is what defines sports, it's what makes things tense, logic creates balance and order to the games we watch and play. If a queen could obliterate all the pawns by crashing into the third pawn from the left, people wouldn't bother playing chess. Sports are meaningful because both teams have an equal chance to win the game and each player is responsible in some way for the success or failure of his team. Quidditch seems like the sport of someone who doesn't understand sports. It's a blend of an individual sport (like tennis or golf) and a team sport (like soccer or hockey). There's a reason why those sports don't exist ... well, other than NASCAR, which you could argue is a blend of the individual (driver) and his team (of redneck mechanics). But NASCAR isn't a sport. So there.

If Major League Baseball added a 10th player to the game, each team having someone stand where the ball girls usually stand, watching the field for a small, cyborg mouse to catch that would result in 100 runs and an immediate end to the game, would that be better?

Crap, bad example. It's baseball. Of course people would rather watch that.

The rules of sports are constantly being adjusted to match the needs of the game. The NBA removed hand-checking by defenders so players could score points easier. The NFL did the same with its defensive backs. The NHL widened the goals and shrunk the pad-size of the goalies to create a more-balanced game. Goalies had become overly-important, overly-dominant, and, ultimately, overly-responsible for the success or failure of the entire team. So what'd they do? They fixed it!

Even J.K. Rowling herself must've realized her mistake, writing two inane stories about games where seekers caught the snitch and lost.

Bravo (golf clap).

I guess the rest of the world isn't as bothered about this as I am, because "muggle" quidditch has become a bit of a phenomenon across colleges worldwide. Yes, muggle quidditch, which apparently involves people dressing up like Doug Funnie, putting wooden broomsticks between their legs, and running around throwing balls into hoops. I can't even fathom how the damn snitch fits into their game.

Have I been out of college that long?

We just used to play basketball. I guess that's out these days.


  1. 3 things:

    1) I definitely would not watch the hockey game itself, but I would watch the two guys dramatically descend from the wires and chase the marble.

    2) Nascar teams are generally composed of ex-college athlete redneck mechanics. (See Jimmy Johnson 24-7 HBO).

    3) I'm coming to Seattle this Monday until next Sunday, let's get some drinks and debate quidditch!

  2. Well I thought you knew what you were talking about when you said

    "only one chaser is allowed in the scoring area at any one time."

    That's some obscure quiddich knowledge right there. But then you said

    "the likelihood of a chaser scoring more than 15 goals before the snitch is caught is practically zero."

    There are 3 chasers, and they can work together all the way up to the scoring area to set up plays, just like in muggle sports. If you don't think there's potential for strategy even with the 1 chaser restriction then you're a sports idiot. Yeah, that's right, the Googlebot is going to see "sports idiot" on your blog.


    Second, you're basing your understanding of quiddich off of two few games. Rowling clearly says that there have been games of quiddich that have gone on for 3 days before the snitch came back. 3 days. That's plenty of time to get 160 points up on the other team.

    Plus, there are the 2 stories you mention about snitch-catching-teams losing. What do you want, a quiddich alminac? There are only like 7 games in the books, so that's 9 games total, which means just over 1/5 games are decided on goals, not the snitch.

    But yeah, I still agree with you. That game sucks.

  3. Fair play, keeper :)

    I have no arguments about my own sports idiocy, I just do my best to embrace it and try to use it as a strength. Much like a one-armed man entering an arm-wrestling competition.

    If Rowling says a quidditch game lasts 3 days, I feel dreadfully sorry for the players. Three straight days of chasing around a tiny flying ball? Good lord ...

    At least in cricket they take breaks for tea.

  4. Erik, you didn't even mention the unnecessary factor-of-ten inflation in Quidditch. Why not have each goal by the chasers be 1 point and catching the snitch be 15? I guess people like to see high-scoring games. Maybe soccer would be more popular in the US if each goal was 100 points.

    I completely agree with your rant. As much as I like the books, quidditch is one lame, ill-conceived sport.