Monday, September 7, 2015

MLQ: Reflection: Detroit Innovators

By Ryan Sparks

This summer, roughly 300 people took a gamble. Prior to the summer of 2015, summer quidditch belonged exclusively to fantasy tournaments. With each passing summer, fantasy tournaments became far more numerous, and the quality of play in these tournaments dropped. With that in mind, Ethan Sturm and Amanda Dallas joined together with the idea of creating a competitive summer league, and before long, Major League Quidditch (MLQ) began to take shape.

When I was given a link inquiring about summer residence, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All I knew was that this was giving me an opportunity to continue playing the sport that I love. Frankly, I had my suspicions that this was an attempt at professional quidditch, and I was beyond excited. When I was contacted by Alex Scheer (who I would soon find out was the general manager for the Detroit Innovators) about tryouts, I was elated. As a Michigan native, I had dreams of Andrew Axtell (University of Michigan) and Chris Barnard (Blue Mountain Quidditch Club) rushing for a quaffle together, and David Prueter (Central Michigan University) tossing alley-oops to Jacob Heppe (Michigan State University).

Soon, these dreams were dashed. Axtell had moved to California, Barnard was welcoming a child into the world, Prueter was recovering from a broken ankle, and Heppe was nowhere to be found. From the onset, Detroit faced the steepest odds of any team in MLQ. The Indianapolis Intensity was basically Ball State University’s team. Rochester Whiteout was made up of almost entirely of players from the University of Rochester and the Rochester Institute of Technology. Cleveland Riff was almost exclusively Bowling Green State University and Ohio State University. Detroit, however, was an amalgam of teams, pulling players from a wide variety of places. In the end, though, I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

This summer gave me the opportunity to get to know so many players that I likely never would have become friends with otherwise. These various players became more than just friends. By the end of the summer, we had become a family. It took a long time to create the chemistry and trust that would make us into that unit, but it was a wonderful process to be a part of. Every hardship we faced, from the roster debacle against the Indianapolis Intensity, to the referee difficulties we faced in our Cleveland series, helped to unify us.

MLQ faced tribulation all season long. From the growing pains of establishing a new league, to scrambling to find viable replacements due to last-minute drops, MLQ went through the wringer. All eyes were on Toledo, Ohio last weekend for the MLQ Championship, as everything had to go right for the league’s premier showcase. This tournament had the potential to make or break MLQ. What occurred was a high-level tournament that was well-staffed, well-publicized, and most importantly, well-run. Through their partnership with Destination Toledo, and a pre-existing connection between MLQ Events Director, Alex Scheer, and Toledo-area sports station, Buckeye Cable Sports Network, MLQ was able to deliver on every single promise they made. From securing cheap hotel deals for players, to providing a livestream for spectators who were unable to make the trip to Toledo, the MLQ staff came through in a big way. 

My personal highlight came during a trip to get breakfast following the tournament, and, while discussing the tournament, the server asked me, “Are you guys talking about quidditch? I saw it on TV this morning, and it looked really cool.” MLQ was able to bring new eyes to our sport and assist in its growth via a high-quality tournament, a professional setting, and an unwavering commitment to quidditch.

When this summer started, the eight teams and the staff of MLQ took an enormous risk. This league could have been a complete and total bust. The MLQ staff put their reputations on the line for this league. MLQ could continue on and grow, or it could become a punchline to be passed around the quidditch community for years to come. If it succeeded, it would revolutionize the sport in a way never seen before. If it failed, it could have very well destroyed any hopes that quidditch ever had of becoming a professional sport. When you get a chance, thank the MLQ staff, the GMs, and everybody who had a hand in the league’s inaugural season, because Major League Quidditch was a resounding success.

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