Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Why Quidditch Does Make Sense

This post has nothing to do with Catholicism whatsoever, but I have nowhere else as an outlet to post it, so please bear with me. If you have no interest in this sort of thing, just ignore this one; it's probably just about the only thing even remotely close to a "sports" related post that you'll ever see me do.

This is about something that has bugged me for a long time: the magical sport of Quidditch in the Harry Potter universe has never made sense to me. But I finally had an epiphany today that may explain it.

I'm apparently not the only one. In the press conference for the launch of a new website, authoress J.K. Rowling announced that she was releasing some 18,000 words of new material on the Harry Potter universe (not new stories, but new trivia basically), and made the following comment promising a further explanation of Quidditch:

“I don’t think I’ve given all the stuff on Quidditch yet. Men always ask me about Quidditch because the number of, and I love geeky people so I do not say this in a pejorative way, but the number of geeky men who have come up to me to argue with me about Quidditch – I’d be a lot richer if I had a quid for every one. They just think it’s illogical. But it’s not illogical and I had a speech by Dumbledore in the first book that never made it in explaining why Quidditch is not illogical, so at some point I will put that on the site. Thank you for reminding me.”
I can't say what the "explanation" she will offer will be, but I can say that up until this quote got me thinking about the topic again today (and doing a little more research) I would have been one of those geeky men who thought Quidditch was illogical. However, I was helped to make a realization of how it might not be illogical (though I'm not sure it's the explanation she'll ultimately give.)

The objection to the logic of Quidditch that many people have boils down to this (I'm just going to assume that if you want to read this post, you already know the rules): if the Seeker catches the Snitch, they almost always win, so this makes the Chasers and everything with the Quaffle seem superfluous. "No," you'll be told, "Because if the other team is more than 150 points ahead, you can catch the Snitch and still lose!" True enough, but at that point...why would any Seeker of a team losing by more than 150 points ever willingly catch the Snitch?

Sure, there might be rare cases (such as that of the World Cup presented in the fourth book) where a Seeker "knows" his team will never catch up points-wise and so catches the Snitch to end the match even though he knows they'll lose. But such cases of "honor" or "ending things on our own terms" seem like they would be rare. And, frankly, I still have a hard time believing that Krum, within just a few hours of the match beginning (when it's said Quidditch matches can go days and weeks), didn't think his team could make even just the two measly goals that would have been needed to close the gap and set them up for a win (assuming he still caught the Snitch).

Likewise, I understand that if two Seekers were both going after the Snitch, the Seeker of the losing team's hand might be "forced" to catch the Snitch first if he could so as to regain some sort of honor for his team, because otherwise the other guy would get it and the loss would be that much more monumental. But I think this case would be rare too, and in terms of the actual outcome of the game it's still inconsequential--that team still loses. I'm not sure mere "honor" is enough motive to designate as logical the idea of Seekers from the losing team regularly catching the Snitch rather than waiting until the gap is closed.

In general, it doesn't seem like there is usually a reason (no reason internal the game itself, at least) for a Seeker on a massively losing team to not simply wait until his team has made enough goals to cover the difference before catching the Snitch. Which means the team that catches the Snitch will almost always win, meaning that the Chasers and Quaffle-points thing...seems almost always just a superfluous complication.

However, it was suggested to me today that the rankings in Quidditch may not be based on total number of wins, but on total number of points for the season. The play-offs or final cup match might probably be a simple tournament-style thing based on wins, but the regular season play (that determines a team's placement in the play-off bracket) may be based on total points.

And if that's true, then it makes perfect sense why the Seeker from a losing team would be motivated to catch the Snitch (especially in cases where the other Seeker was hot on his trail) for more reason than just "honor." Namely: it may be strategically necessary in terms of total season points.

If rankings are based on total points, it makes total sense that you'd rather get 150 points for your team (while your opponents get, say, 160)...rather than getting zero points (while your opponents get 310). And, in fact, if you were already more points in the ranking ahead of your opponents than the spread between your final scores for that particular game, catching the Snitch (even while losing the match) might actually even ensure that you still outrank them in terms of total season points.

For example, if you have 890 points for the season and they have 870...it makes strategic sense to choose a loss of 150-160 (bringing your total points to 1040 and theirs to 1030) rather than a loss of 0-310 (leaving your season points at 890, but bolstering theirs to 1180).

If this is how it works, then it is actually logical. And logic makes me happy.

1 comment:

Amy said...

hahahahahah I just saw this... amazing. Greekery makes me happy.