In Defense of Quidditch

Every so often, people complain about quidditch (the wizarding sport from the Harry Potter books) being illogical. I’d like to say a few words in its defense.

Now, I’m not going to try to argue that it makes sense. Honestly, it actually doesn’t. But that’s what makes it realistic, because Muggle sports don’t make sense, either. And in fact, everything that people criticize about quidditch either has an analogue in Muggle sports, or is due to a misinterpretation.

Point by point:

There’s a useless extra zero in the scores
Quaffle goals are each worth 10 points, and the Golden Snitch is worth 150. Why not make them 1 and 15 instead? I don’t know. But is that really any worse than a sport where the score goes love-15-30-40-game, instead of 0-1-2-3-4? Probably not. At least in quidditch, they’re always worth the same amount, instead of sometimes being 15 and sometimes 10.

The Golden Snitch has way too much weight in the scoring, making the Seeker way too important
In the few Hogwarts games we’ve seen, maybe. But that’s just because Harry is much better than most players his age. By comparison, if you had a high school pitcher who was much better than average, you might think that there’s nothing to baseball beyond strikeouts, but that’s far from the truth. We’re told that it’s quite normal for a quidditch game to last the better part of a day, or even multiple days. That’s plenty of time for a team to rack up a lead much greater than 15 quaffle goals. And in fact, in the one quidditch game we see where Harry isn’t playing, one team does in fact build up a lead that large, and so ends up winning, despite the other team’s seeker being better.

Speaking of that World Cup game, no real player would be so unsportsmanlike to end the game when his team was losing
That depends on the culture of the game, as “sportsmanlike” can have completely different or even opposite meanings in different games. Take chess, for example: Almost all high-level chess games end when the two players agree to end them, and it’s considered a serious breach of etiquette for a player to not concede once it’s apparent that he’s losing. Maybe a similar sense of sportsmanship holds among quidditch players.

It’s way too dangerous
Certainly the game is not without its risks, but remember that in addition to spells to make broomsticks and bludgers fly, there are also spells to slow the fall of a player, and to instantly mend most injuries. With standard magical precautions in place, there’s no reason for the game to be any more dangerous than American football, and probably a fair bit less.

Any other objections I missed, or counter-rebuttals to my rebuttals?

I pretty much am OK with the game, but I do think that Krum ending the game when they were losing was terrible.

A World Cup Final no less.

Yeah. But they have a seeker who is still in school, like 3 years older than Harry. And he is their national seeker. I’m not buying it.

Bob Feller was still in high school when he first pitched in the majors.
Jim Ryun ran in the Olympics in the summer between his junior and senior years in high school.

Pele was 17 when he scored in the 1958 FIFA WC Final.
Mbappe was 18 this year.

  1. In a real world sport, no one would give two figs about high school level play.

  2. The rules should only fall apart in professional league play, because they were developed and codified back when the sport was still young and everyone who played it was just having fun and was sort of crap at it. With quidditch, that has already happened at the junior level, with all of the roles becoming redundant except the Seekers (similar to how, in professional baseball, everyone except the pitcher is mildly ancillary). We shouldn’t see that sort of flaw at the junior level. The game should be balanced so that all roles are equally important when played by high school students. It shouldn’t be until professional play that we start to see unbalanced strategies and play styles that make most of the rules moot.

Re this thread, plus Quidditch content of the one about Slytherin which spawned it: I have a theory, which I periodically trot out on SDMB, to the effect that J.K. Rowling – like myself – dislikes sports, and is bored by them. In Quidditch, she has dreamed up a basically insane sport, which barely “works” at all; but which nonetheless has hordes of obsessed and super-enthusiastic followers, many of them super-knowledgeable about all aspects of the game and its players. (I love the passage in one of the books which has – of all people – Luna Lovegood, certainly not a “sporty” type, as commentator on a Quidditch match in progress: her commentary is splendidly irrelevant to the proceedings.)

#1 & #4, completely irrelevant complaints against the game.

#3 is also not a valid complaint. When games are hopelessly out of reach professional teams routinely allow the game to end without trying to score additional points, or with the game.

#2, however, is my main complaint, it is a valid complaint, and renders the sport unworkable as a competitive endeavor. Catching the snitch is worth both 15x a normal score, and ends the game immediately. There are 6 other players on the team who are playing with the quaffle. Beating each other up, flying like madmen, all in the effort to score what is essentially a nit in comparison to catching the snitch, a job where exactly one player is assigned. A player, mind you, who is playing a game seemingly unrelated in any way to the game his 6 teammates are playing.

We’re playing a team game passing a ball around playing offense and defense, trying to score or prevent scores, and the key to actually winning and losing is a game of hide and seek played by two players uninvolved in the other part of the game.

The point of the rules of Quidditch is to create a scenario where Harry is the hero, NOT to develop a game structure that makes objective sense.

Sure, you’ll see it in international soccer, and even occasional talk of young soccer prospects in the US. But you don’t see it in the major American professional sports and the last two big names I can think of that people were paying attention to in high school were both in basketball with Kobe and LeBron. Nobody really bypasses the minors in baseball these days, college is basically a requirement for the NFL, and the NBA has the one-and-done rule that keeps high schoolers from being drafted. The NHL probably has the closest, with the 18-20 criteria meaning most would be drafted while playing college or junior league hockey.

As others have said, it’s not a game designed to make sense. Without the snitch, it’s a perfectly fine goal-oriented game that only needs a time limit. The snitch exists purely to make the protagonist a hero.

Michael Phelps broke world records at 15 and 16 and 17, and he was still in his teens when he of course won half-a-dozen Olympic gold medals.

Cheesesteak already made every point I was going to, up to and including the fact that JKR made up the sport just so Harry could have something to be a star at.

Sage Rat, I’m confused. First, you say that no one should care about high school level play (except, presumably, the high schoolers themselves). And then you say that the rules should be balanced around high school level play, even though nobody should care about it.

Cheesesteak, yes, any individual quaffle score pales in comparison to the snitch, but that doesn’t mean that all of the quaffle scores pale in comparison. Quite the opposite: Usually you’ll have many times more points from quaffles than from the snitch.

Depends where you live, but sure they would. Chicago isn’t quite the high school football town it used to be, but high school sports are still followed actively here, by many. I still check out what my high school football team does (went to finals this year, but lost), and the all-time sports attendance world record for a number of years was a high school football game in 1937 when 120,000 fans attended to watch the public league champ play the Catholic league champ.

I get the impression high school football is quite followed in places like Texas.

It’s nowhere near implausible that that much interest would be placed in high school sports, especially in such a “regionalized” setting as Hogwarts.

That it is the cumulative season score that wins the cup, so you could win all your games (of which there are only 3, one against each of the other houses) and still lose because of run-up scoring in some game you didn’t play in.

It would be like if an American football championship was determined by the total offensive yards gained during the season and not by the games won.

All that said, the Golden Snitch completely breaks the game for me. I have no issue with scoring, danger, or anything like that. From the first time I read the books, Quidditch felt broken because of the game mechanics, and nothing in the interim has swayed me.

I think that’s just the tiebreaker if two teams have the same record. In the book where that happens, the Griffindors all talk about how they’re still in the running, because one of the other houses beat Slytherin. In other words, if one of the other houses hadn’t beaten Slytherin, Slytherin would win the cup no matter what the game scores were.

I will say that a grand total of six games in the entire season, three for each House, sounds awfully low, but that’s an issue with Hogwarts, not with the sport itself.

I’d vote a slightly different reason - it’s not that she’s bored so much as she doesn’t understand them. She never played a game like that in her life, and doesn’t understand the appeal, so can’t create a game that makes sense. She should have asked someone. A few tweaks to the play and most of these objections would have vanished.

Of course, I never realized the true reason for the game until this thread - that it is solely a reason to make Harry a star. But it makes sense.

I have not read the books, and only have a vague recollection of the movies, but is there any way for the spectators in the stadium to actually see what’s going on with the snitch chase, or are they merely informed when its caught?

  1. I take it you have never lived in Texas.

  2. This one I agree with.