Okay so my teammate Santi gave the IQA a diary of his WC experience, and it made me all nostalgic and want to do the same. Except I’ll refer to mine as a journal because diaries are for little girls. Santi.
A week before Western Regionals, flights from LA to Florida were on sale with Southwest. When I found the sale, I hesitated for a few hours before telling the others on our team’s Facebook page because honestly, I knew that I’d have to do well at regionals for us to qualify for the Cup and I didn’t want people to buy tickets and resent me should I fail. But eventually, after watching a few motivational YouTube videos, I realized that it was time to start living up to the cocky reputation that I’ve somehow acquired and finally have some confidence in my abilities. So I bought my ticket and told my teammates to do the same. We were going to the Cup, I was going to make sure of it.
Fast-forward to our quarterfinal game against ASU at regionals. We were down pretty much the entire game, and honestly, we weren’t playing amazing quidditch - we were tired and physically outmatched. When the snitch came on pitch, I subbed out, swapped my white headband for a yellow one, and went at him as fast as I could. Whoever won this game was going to the Cup. Soon, I had that sock in my hand. I celebrated with my team for a bit, and then I fell to the ground. We’d made it.
A few weeks later, the team all gathered together to watch our pool get announced. My heart fell when I learned that we’d be playing Maryland and Macaulay, because I had friends on both teams. I’ve played with Maryland players in two tournaments, and played against them in three. No one on the team knew them like I did, and I honestly didn’t think we stood a chance of beating them.
After that, our team struggled to get our heads back into the game at practice for a few weeks. I was quite honestly annoyed with how complacent we seemed to be, so I made a bet that we wouldn’t even make it to the Sweet Sixteen of the Cup. If we did, I would get a tattoo of the Lost Boys crest. Dan and Santi made the same bet, and thankfully, we got a few solid practices in.
Eventually, the weekend of the Cup finally arrived. I had a schedule on my phone of all the games I wanted to see, and the first two matches I watched were as great as I’d hoped. Skrewts pulled out a narrow win against Florida, and Macaulay put up a surprisingly good fight against Maryland for the first few minutes of their game. Then, it was our turn. I’d taken a look at Arkansas during the opening ceremonies, and took note of how big some of their players were. Size plus southwest equals physicality, so I knew we were going into that game underestimating our opponents. And it turns out I was right… we really had to fight to stay up that game. I played my usual scrappy point defense, but eventually their point chaser just got sick of me and told their keeper to take me out. The giant just barreled right at me in front of his chaser and I landed really harshly on my elbow. Something felt a little… off, but it was the first game of the biggest tournament of my life and there was no way I was giving in to pain that early. Soon, the snitch came on pitch, and despite the fact that we didn’t expect the game to be close, the scoreboard said that whoever caught the snitch would win. I subbed out, switched headbands, and waited for Mollie to come back. I felt bad for having to take her out of the game, but I’d seeked against our snitch a few times back in the Northeast and knew I could make the pull. After one or two attempts, I succeeded and we won.
The team’s captains then pulled me aside before our next game and said our greatest weakness as a team were our occasional long shots that resulted in turnovers and quick opposing goals, and that changes to that failed strategy had to start with me. Suddenly, I understood why I’ve gotten the aforementioned reputation… I literally had to walk away to keep from cussing them out. They were citing me, one of our top scorers, as one of our biggest weaknesses? Me, whose long shots got us a crucial goal against ASU and two that kept us in the game against UCLA? Me, who had only even taken two shots against Arkansas? I told my best friend Tony, who I’d recruited to the team after months of trying to show him how much potential he had if he played for the right team, that I was just not going to chase for the rest of the tournament. I knew my abilities and if the captains felt that despite being one of our only scorers in important games this season, I was bringing us down in some way, whatever. But Tony said all the things I needed him to say - that they were just trying to make me become the best player I could be, that I was good and could prove anyone who doubted me wrong, that the team needed me, and that I had to try my hardest for him because it was his first Cup. I was still too annoyed to warm up or play for the first few minutes of our game against Illinois, but eventually Tony’s words sunk in and I realized that I was in Florida and had a chance to play the game I loved. So I subbed in and scored several quick goals, making a point to glare back at our sidelines as I dunked each one in. Then I subbed out, grabbed my yellow headband, and caught the snitch. I helped us win, but I didn’t do it for the team… I just did it for me. And it was the least satisfying victory I’ve ever had in the sport.
Going into the Maryland game, I had zero expectations whatsoever. I’d said hey to my friends on the opposing team a few hours before and flat-out told them that they were going to have an easy time beating us. And honestly, I felt more allegiance to their team than I did my own, so I didn’t even care about that. But when that game started, something told me all of my previous ideas of how it would go were wrong. And that, if I tried my hardest and actually followed the captains’ advice, I could help put our team on the map in a big way. I could help bring us to a stage that’d allow the quidditch community to see how amazing Tony, Mohlman, Amanda, and all my other teammates are. Suddenly, looking over to my sidelines and seeing their looks of joy over the fact that we were keeping the game close, I wanted to win for them.
We had bludger control, and I took the ball on the left side, knowing that Maryland’s beater would come at me. Instead of taking a desperate shot at the wide-open short hoop, I followed the captains’ advice and passed the ball off to Tony so he could get the easy goal on the opposite side. We were in the lead. Our game became all about smart passing and tight coverage, and ten minutes later, we were still in it. I found myself marking my friend Patrick, who was coming up with the quaffle, and our beater came from behind me and took him out before he could pass. I picked it up and made my way to the hoops, and rather than attempt to block Ricky’s bludger and get a goal that I’d been craving, I drew him to me and then passed it across the field to Ross, who drove it in. I then subbed out and played the waiting game, knowing that I could catch our snitch. After a few minutes, he came back, and rather than try to get a go at him herself, our off-pitch seeker Mollie ran at a diagonal over to me. All I had to do was run a straight line and I found myself face-to-face with Midriff Snitch. Despite having seen him snitch several times and gotten to know him personally, we’d yet to face-off on the pitch before that moment. He sent me flying over him, I pulled the sock while I was in the air, and then collapsed roughly right on my throbbing elbow and took a very large mouthful of dirt and grass. The refs deliberated but I stayed on the ground, knowing that my catch was good. Soon, my whole team ran over and jumped right on me. We did it. Not just me. Not just Tony. We all did it. And I was so happy. For the first time, I really, really felt like I’d found a family in the Lost Boys.
Our game against Macaulay was a blow-out, but it was one of the roughest in the tournament for me. Mason, the southwest snitch known for making games go for an hour, was our snitch and we were so far up that Macaulay had to seek-block me the entire match. Both the seeker and snitch kept making contact with my elbow, and something seemed incredibly, horribly wrong. My arm felt like it was on fire. The team rotated a few people in as seeker as I sat on the sidelines, trying to figure out what was wrong with me, and eventually Mollie got a great catch. And thank god she did because if I kept playing that night, I don’t think I’d have been able to play at all on Day 2. I walked off the field and asked David Moyer, the Miami seeker who I respect more than nearly every player in the league, to look at my elbow. He took a picture and asked if he could walk me to the medical tent, increasing my respect for him even more. I got there and the medics told me I had bursitis - a pus pouch that protected my elbow had ruptured, and all of the pus was collecting at the tip of my elbow, swelling it to the size of a baseball. They said that I should go to the hospital, where doctors would prescribe me a shot or steroids or maybe even a few weeks of physical therapy. Fuck. They wrapped me up and I walked over to my team to break the bad news. But I vowed to wait until Day 2 to make any decisions - if I could lift my arm, I was playing.
I woke up and the pain was even worse than the night before. But the swelling went down, so there was no way I was gonna be a little bitch and give up. We’d topped our pool, and as much as I didn’t really want to get a tattoo, I wanted to help us get to the Sweet Sixteen. I knew NYU wasn’t a gimme, having played against their keeper John Gaffigan before. But I knew that if I played my usual point defense, I could keep him from making a single one of the long shots for which he’s known. I fought my hardest and kept him from being able to form his usual offense for several minutes, but eventually the pain forced me to sub out. We let Mollie have a go at the snitch, and then Andrew, but NYU started creeping their way back up in points and I finally volunteered my services. After a few minutes, the game was over, the sock in my hand once more.
I was getting a Lost Boys tattoo.
Finding out we had to play USC next was completely surreal. Rewind to my first ever experience as a Lost Boy. I’d never practiced with the team before, and only had met a small number of them, when we had our first game of the season against USC. I got lost on my way to the field, and when I finally arrived, the team was losing 70-0. “Oh okay, screw this, I guess I’ll join that other LA community team,” I thought immediately. But then I put on the extra jersey that’d saved for me, got in the game and scored on my first possession. When I heard Andrew say “Hey, he can keep that jersey,” from the sidelines, I knew I was going to stick with the team. But man, did I hate losing like that… especially when I’d be undefeated in the West prior to that game (fyeah Squirtle Squad, FireMercs 2012). So yeah, flying all the way to Florida just to play them again felt wrong but also… entirely appropriate.
The game started and we took an early lead. And we just never lost momentum from there. I got to score a few goals, and when some of their players high-fived me after doing so, I realized that these guys weren’t the enemies I’d made them out to be the whole season. USC was actually filled with some amazing people who were as friendly as they were competitive. I actually wish it’d been a little closer so I’d have had the chance to go after a snitch at the same time as August, but having him seek-block me was fun too. Eventually, though, I got it and we were moving on to the Elite Eight.
The ELITE EIGHT. I mean, what?! Suddenly we had gone from “the best community team in the world” to one of the best teams in the world.
You all know how that game against BGSU went. It’s being hyped as the “best game of quidditch every played” and I’ve gotta say…. in my opinion, it wasn’t. It was the most SPIRITED game of quidditch ever played. And I’m not talking about the whimsical “spirit of quidditch” there… I’m talking about the fact that while both teams were exhausted and weakened beyond belief, every single person in that game put every ounce of strength they had into helping their team. There was a point where I was thrown down by the stands directly onto my elbow, and I haven’t told anyone this before.. but I blacked out for a moment.
I could hear people chanting my name but it felt like it was from miles away, and for about fifteen seconds, all I could see was white. But eventually, I refocused and saw my best friend hobbling along with the quaffle. Our beaters, despite the fact that I was screaming profanities at them like a jackass, were doing literally everything they could think of to finally gain bludger control. Looking around, there wasn’t one person who wasn’t putting in 100%. So I stood back up and kept going. The snitch brilliantly used my shirt collar as sort of a steering wheel - every time I went low, I’d get strangled against it. Every time I went up, he’d pull me back down and the shirt would cut into the back of my neck, made worse by the horrible sunburn I had there. But I kept going as long as I possibly could. When I subbed out, I found a cold water bottle in my hands, and people willing to dump water on me or massage my tired muscles. Turning around, I found that the Skrewts, our regional rivals, were some of our biggest fans that game. The whole West was there, cheering us on. I’m the type of person who takes a while to truly warm up to people, but I will forever have the utmost respect for every person I saw in that crowd. There wasn’t one person who looked like they secretly wanted us to fail, like I probably would if I were watching a rival play. The amount of genuine love that I felt that game… I’ve never experienced in any other sport in my entire life. I don’t think it could possibly exist outside of quidditch.
I went back in and gave it my all once more. Then Andrew did. Then Tony did. Then Mollie. We all did everything we could for the team in those final moments, and while it didn’t turn out to be enough to win, it was enough to make me realize that I truly do love this team. It’s far from perfect, but it’s the closest thing to family I’ve ever had. I know now that moving across the country to play with them was absolutely the right move, and that I’m going to rock my tattoo with pride. We were the Lost Boys, the team that never grew up and never gave up.
Next came the part of World Cup I regret the most. Our region made a giant tunnel for us to run through, and despite the fact that I was okay with the loss and knew that I had nothing left to give in that game, I didn’t feel worthy of such an honor. So I just stood to the side and watched my teammates run through. My sole goal for next season is to earn another tunnel; then, I’ll run through it no matter what.
So yeah, that was my World Cup experience. There were some highs and some lows, but I don’t regret a second of it. That is, until I look in the mirror and see that despite the fact that I’m done peeling, my skin is two different colors and I look like I have leprosy. Or until I accidentally lean on my elbow, which is still swollen pretty badly. But I mean, #YOLO. Surgery can wait, I’ve got two tournament in the next two weekends.