Friday, September 11, 2015

MLQ: Reflection: Boston Night Riders

By David Fox

Major League Quidditch (MLQ) was like a breath of fresh air for me. I loved having a key role in Emerson College Quidditch’s success through four World Cups, but in the last year I started to feel stagnated as a player—when you’re the captain tasked with developing a brand new team of chasers, you tend to observe and critique as opposed to working on your own game. That’s why I was excited when I found out about MLQ, because it sounded like it would give me an environment that I would thrive in: a team of experienced veterans and talented up-and-coming players where I wasn’t in charge, and all I had to do was show up and focus on making myself better. (Shoutout to Teddy Costa, aka the Allen Iverson of quidditch.)

From the first practice, it was clear the Boston Night Riders’ potential was sky-high. There was so much talent at every position. The deepest, most talented rotation of female chasers to ever play the sport together. Skilled drivers used to singlehandedly carrying offenses and cutting through entire defenses. An excellent beater corps led by the unstoppable Max Havlin. I think after our first scrimmage—with each side talented enough to have a good shot at winning the Northeast Regional Championship if this were the regular season—everyone came away with the same thought, which was later reiterated to us by Harry Greenhouse and Jayke Archibald: this is the best team I have ever or will ever have played for. I didn’t envy our coach’s task of having to balance minutes for so many players used to being the star.

The biggest thing that could have derailed this team was chemistry. I know now, after the fact, that people have given the Boston quidditch community a lot of props for preexisting chemistry, but it isn’t that simple. Just a year ago, nobody would have believed a team featuring 10 players from Emerson and six from Q.C. Boston: The Massacre could work together. Luckily for the Night Riders, that ugliness mostly died down over the course of the 2014-15 season. By the time summer came around, everyone’s first and only goal was winning a championship. Our coaches convinced us to live in the moment, that it didn’t matter what team we’d represented in the past or might play for in the future, but from May until August we were all united under our weird purple and yellow Paul Revere silhouette.

They worked us hard in practice, starting with basic tackling and passing drillsalong with a healthy dose of conditioningand slowly transitioning into more team-based drills. (And then even more conditioning; more than any of us had ever done for quidditch, in the stifling July and August heat.) The team wasn’t just defined by working hard in practice, though. Bonding off the pitch was just as important. We ate pasta dinners in cramped apartments, got pump-up speeches from Harry, became obsessed with the John Cena meme, and played basketball in the rain on the Fourth of July. Our goal was to get to know everyone on the team beyond the hours spent traveling to and from our games.

The only thing better than making a bunch of new friends through quidditch was going out with those friends and dominating the competition. We came into the season with a chip on our shoulders, because it seemed like every quidditch analyst picked the New York Titans as the favorite to win it all both in Toledo and in the East Division. You better believe that all summer long, even as we were figuring out how to play together against the Ottawa Black Bears and the Washington Admirals, we were thinking about taking down the Titans at home in front of our friends and family. The size of the crowd for that series was incredible, with around 200 spectators—many of whom were watching quidditch for the first time thanks to a huge social media effort from all of us. (Hey, MLQ. Maybe next year give us two home series instead of one.) And even though we won all three games out of range, we knew a likely rematch in Toledo wouldn’t be as easy.

At the MLQ Championship it felt like we had a target on our backs, and I loved it. Nobody wants to see the undefeated team continue to be undefeated; they want to see us stumble, and crack under the pressure of our own expectations and hype. Our rematch against the Titans pushed us to the edge, like we expected it to. This was the first time all summer where another team had pushed us, and it was exhilarating to get to play in such a high-level game. We couldn’t just have our beaters blow up the middle of their defense like we had done to every other team. Each goal was a team effort, each defensive stop a moment of pride and a breath of relief at having slowed down the greatest player of all time, Augie Monroe. Based on the comments on the livestream, it seemed pretty clear that many of those watching were hoping that this would be it: the moment where, finally, someone would manage to take down the big bad Boston bullies. But somewhere between that first practice in May and this last weekend at the end of August, we gained the kind of poise and sense of purpose I recognized from Emerson’s 2014 Final Four run: that of a team united top-to-bottom in the pursuit of a championship.

Winning the Benepe Cup meant so much to us—the first team to have its name inscribed on it, the first team to drink champagne out of it. But it’s a bittersweet victory, because it comes along with the knowledge that this is the end of the road for this team. We were the best team ever assembled in the city of Boston, and we have to stop working together just as we were beginning to hit our stride. The only constant in life is that it changes, and as we all go our separate ways it’d be a stretch to imagine that we’ll be able to get the band back together next summer. That’s okay though, because we’ll always have the friendships that we’ve made and the satisfaction that, for one whole summer, the city of Boston was perfect.

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