Editor’s Note: After our bit of annual summer break where our volunteers were on (well-deserved) holidays, or studying, or working, we are back with an article by our former CEO Austin Wallace. Of course, we are still looking for volunteers, the more we are, the merri- …er, I mean the more articles we shall be able to produce for you all. In short: We are back, and right off the bat, we bring you news and thought-provoking articles, and hope to see debates not only on Facebook, but – and as we at QP always have – welcome all counter-articles. You don’t have to be part of the set QP staff to shoot one-time articles, get in touch with via Facebook or e-mail. – Mel Müller, EIC
Disclaimer: All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Quidditch Post as a whole.
By Austin Wallace
Does quidditch need brooms? Hundreds of times over the past four years, I’ve answered yes, with conviction: The broom is a constraint that helps make our game unique, just like only throwing backwards in rugby, or dribbling in basketball. Can you imagine anyone stopping LeBron James if he did not have to dribble?
The broom’s main function is to slow the game down, make it a little bit harder to catch and run, and balance out beating and chasing. A broom also provides a convenient way to tell if a player is knocked out.
If I am being honest with myself, though, when I first gave that explanation, it was just the best way to get a doubter to try the sport. I knew brooms were a part of quidditch, so I had to explain them as best I could. Eventually, I said it often enough that I had myself convinced, all without really considering their question. Could removing brooms really be a good idea?
We do not know. We have never tried it on any sort of meaningful scale.
What we do know is that a significant majority of people resistant to even trying our sport say it is because of the brooms. This is a sentiment that seems to be shared in communities worldwide.
It is true that many of those potential recruits would find another reason not to play even without brooms, and many who do try would not stick around. Removing brooms could even cause us to miss out on those for whom brooms were part of why they join. Even a widespread resistance to brooms is not reason to immediately remove them wholesale. It is, however, a good enough reason to consider and test what such a change would look like.
There are many things that help make quidditch “quidditch”, and how fundamental each aspect is to a person’s idea of quidditch will differ. For me, brooms are on the same level as the snitch and even the hoops. Quidditch without one of those would be much different but still recognizably unique in the landscape of sports. To me, quidditch has two foundational elements: bludgers differentiate our gameplay, and a universal gender rule differentiates our sport’s culture. Brooms are not on that level, and as such, I do not think are exempt from examination any more than the snitch is. As it turns out, that examination does not come out overwhelmingly for one side or another.
Without brooms, quidditch would be faster, and I think that goes beyond simple running speed. Without brooms, two-armed tackles of some flavor would likely be allowed and it would be much easier to bring someone of similar skill/speed down in the open field. At the same time, catching, cutting, and jumping would all be made much easier. In a sense, you are nerfing hero-balling, while buffing long passes and alley-oops. Seeking would be even more intense, with fewer drawn–out games and even more beater focus. A high–paced, athletic, pass-heavy game, with more intense beater battles sounds like a more entertaining sport to to me. Off the field, it might even help dealing with universities, fans, and insurers who continue to be resistive.
On the other hand, without being able to consistently drive through even one or two quaffle players, maybe the top teams will just be even more conservative, waiting until their beaters completely clear a lane. An effect of faster gameplay could be that athleticism will matter even more than it does now, which would exclude even more people from higher-end quidditch and make the best athletes even more untouchable. Whether that is balanced out for those competitive but less athletic players by potential growth in the sport and a more robust middle-tier of competitiveness depends on who you ask. Finally, while two–armed tackles allow smaller, skilled tacklers to bring down larger players, increasing the speed of those collisions may result in more severe injuries. Whether other potential changes like eliminating charging and head–first tackles is enough to reduce injuries is impossible to say without significant testing.
Whether or not you believe the sport is currently dying, to have any chance of surviving in the very long term, we will need to make changes. We will need to walk the fine line between attracting new players and fans while retaining the reasons we all stayed in the first place. It is hard to get people to try our sport, but once they do they are usually hooked. Trading that for most people trying it, but few loving it, is a lateral move at best.
It is understandable to dismiss the removal of brooms as something we shouldn’t consider because of how core they are to the idea of quidditch. Remember, though, we are 15 years into quidditch as an organized sport. Fifteen years into league-organized baseball, batters were able to tell the opposing pitchers where to pitch; in hockey, players were years away from being able to pass forward in the offensive zone. Quidditch five years ago still had off-pitch seeking, and in 50 years will be almost unrecognizable. It is our job as a community to make sure quidditch continues to evolve in a positive way, and leave it as special as we found it.
To that end, I will be organizing at least one set of filmed games with no brooms in Vancouver, and I hope I can help coordinate others in partnership with teams around the world. It may be that this sport is not defined by its handicap, but by the tension between bludger and beater, and by the unique mix of people who play it. We should not be so confidently convincing recruits with justifications that we aren’t even sure of.