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A Harry Potter Protest (aka Quidditch is Bullshit)

quidditchtitleWith the cinematic release of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince coming later this week, I thought I'd revisit something that's bothered me for a long time. Here at Cracked, we've discussed the Harry Potter universe many times before, discussing individual movies, deconstructing the novels, speculating about whether the characters are doing it and arguing about whether us contemplating children doing it constituted an arrestable offense. But one thing we've never discussed is the sport of Quidditch, or more specifically, what a festering sore of a sport it is.

A brief explanation for our readers who aren't children or haven't read the novels or seen the films or eaten the promotional Harry Potter Chicken Sandwich at Burger King. Quidditch is a fictional sport invented by author J.K. Rowling for the Harry Potter novels. In it, two teams mounted on flying broomsticks attempt to score goals on one another in a sort of aerial combination of rugby and baseball. Amongst their number are players whose sole job is to hit baseball sized objects at competing players, in an attempt to maim them. If you think that doesn't sound too bad, you're right. As described, that sport is awesome, like a dinosaur doing a huge jump on a BMX bike.

The problem lies with the Golden Snitch. The Golden Snitch is an enchanted flying ball which darts around the field of play while the game progresses. Two players from either team attempt to capture the Golden Snitch. Capturing the Snitch rewards the team with 15 goals and ends the game immediately. So basically, unless one team has accumulated a 15 goal differential over the other (i.e. a comprehensive ass whupping), whoever captures the Snitch wins. The rest of the players simply don't matter. Even if your team is saddled with rookies, injured players or white guys, so long as your guy catches the Golden Snitch, you've won.

Imagine a football game, where you've got two teams running plays, throwing touchdowns and slapping each other on the ass. You know, football. But at the same time in the middle of the field you've got two guys playing tetherball. And the first guy to wind the ball completely up scores 93 points and ends the game. Your team could have Peyton "Laser Rocket Arm" Manning throwing passes to a platoon of Jerry Rices, and it wouldn't make a difference if the other team had a real tall kid.

How could Rowling have written this down and not realized what a piece of stool she'd created? Clearly the rules of Quidditch were designed to offer a role where Harry Potter could win games single-handedly. In a universe that revolves around Harry Potter this shouldn't be too surprising. That it's done so clumsily boggles the mind--the rest of the novels are otherwise logically coherent. Is it possible Rowling has some sort of dyslexia where she's unable to wrap her head around sports, or even to comprehend what's going on while watching a sporting event? Sort of like what John Madden has?

I'm far from the first person to have noticed this. The real world sport of Muggle Quidditch attempts to take the fictional sport and bring it to life in meatspace. If it helps you to visualize, imagine a sport played by people who enjoy Disc Golf and Live Action Role Playing. Could one of these, horribly, horribly mentally-ill people have cottoned on to the fact that the published rules for the game make no sense? Why yes they have. Muggle Quidditch deals with the Golden Snitch problem in a sensible way--by chasing a spandex clad man across the field while trying to grab one of his three balls.

snitch1Both these men volunteered to do this.

Critically, the value of the snitch has been reduced to three goals, though its capture still ends the game. This no longer guarantees a win by capturing the snitch, but it still makes it nearly impossible to win the game without it. So it's a small improvement, but not a total one. I guess expecting great things while observing people who run around wearing capes with brooms clenched between their legs is a recipe for disappointment and full body shivers.

snitch2Recall that in his first match, Harry Potter caught the snitch by accident, in his mouth.

I suppose I may be overthinking this. The first book where the rules were originally laid out (Harry Potter and the Escape to Witch Mountain) was written primarily for kids, and it's reasonable for Rowling and her Editor to have assumed that children might not care too much about the tactical or strategic implications of the rules for the flying broom game. That nasally-voiced nerds like myself got a hold of the novels was a fluke--a once in a generation turdstorm of commercial success. That I care about the rules for a fictional game says more about me and the priorities I've made in my life (Doritos, Harry Potter, Loneliness) than it does about Rowling.

On the other hand, I have a column to write, and non-nude soul searching rarely gets more page views than angry calls-to-arms printed in capital letters. Extreme action is going to be required if we're to get these novels and films changed now, which as near as I can tell IS THE ONLY ACCEPTABLE OUTCOME. I'm asking all Cracked readers who will be attending this week's premiere of the new Harry Potter movie to do so with a ball hanging out of the back of their shorts. If questioned by theater management or the media, scream, "LOOK WHAT YOU'VE FORCED ME TO DO! LOOK AT THE RUIN YOU HAVE WROUGHT J.K. ROWLING!" Try and swing around a bit to get your snitch to collide with people nearby. If striking people with a spare testicle isn't a positive way to enact change, I don't know what is. Dangle proud, brothers and sisters. Dangle strong.

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Chris Bucholz

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