The Eighth Man

Butterfly Effect: A Presumably Meaningless Grab

Credit: Isabella Gong

Credit: Isabella Gong

I don’t think many people see 10+ goal blowouts as being terribly relevant to the game. These score lines really only prove the winning team is just a tad better at quidditch than the losing team. I’m glad to say that I haven’t received many of these losses in my career, and that the few I have were at the hands of some of the best teams ever assembled. If you’ll indulge me, I’m going to lay down a chain of events that may have radically changed the face of probably the most notable blowout I ever withstood: Ohio State’s complete dismemberment at the hands of the Tony Rodriguez-era Lost Boys in pool play of World Cup VII (170-50*).

Ohio State was never going to win that game in a million years, at least not with the way I had coached the team for that showdown. For those that didn’t watch, there wasn’t even a hope of an upset. The Lost Boys opened the game on a 60-point run in less than five minutes, effectively ending our chances before our starting line had even subbed out. It was one of the more impressive displays of elite quidditch you could find, knowing that Ohio State was (deservedly) ranked No. 19 entering the tournament. With the snitch coming into play and our team down double digits, we told sophomore seeker Mitch Boehm to not bother defending and try to keep from getting capped at 120 points. With no real beater help, Boehm and Steve DiCarlo had a quick battle that ended with the snitch in Boehm’s hands (and he somehow missing a shoe). However, it was too late. The Lost Boys had just scored to go up 15 goals, ending the match perfectly at the hard cap. Demoralized, I went to bed not really paying attention to how brackets shook out, knowing that Lost Boys and the University of Texas had both capped out every game and it would likely come down to a coin flip to see who the top seed.

Day two arrived with the Lost Boys as the second seed and Texas at the top, but on a supposed tougher half of the bracket. Texas would have to go through Baylor University, a team that had notoriously bothered the Longhorns with its zone defense, in the Elite Eight before facing the winner of newly formed Lone Star Quidditch Club and Texas A&M University in their semifinal match. The Lost Boys, on the other hand, were projected to play University of Michigan in the Elite Eight and the winner of a University of Boston versus Emerson College rivalry game in the Final Four. The quidditch world looked forward to a slug fest of epic proportions in the final–the West’s premiere community team with some of the sport’s biggest personalities facing off with whichever Southwest powerhouse came out on top. The Lost Boys were too deep, too organized and too talented to have anything stop them from facing the Southwest’s best.

As we know now, a not-so-little school called LSU was perfectly constructed to take down the West Coast’s stars in front of one of the best crowds that I’ve ever experienced (watch the mayhem unfold here). Simultaneously, Texas State University caught four straight snitches before failing to grab a fifth in one of the more unlikely finals runs in quidditch history. Texas won its second of three straight world championships, albeit in controversial fashion after the injury-marred semifinal against rival Texas A&M. Ohio State themselves became one of the tournament’s bigger surprises as Boehm’s momentum from his inconsequential suicide catch carried him to grabs that lifted the Buckeyes past University of Richmond, Villanova University and Michigan on their way to the quarterfinals.

I consistently remind myself of how important it is to find the silver lining in tough moments, looking back on that snitch grab. Boehm was, at the time, one of many past Ohio State seekers that weren’t the most reliable, athletic or imposing, with our snitch-on-pitch play being a notable weakness. That grab became the first of four in a row on the way to one of the proudest moments and biggest turnarounds in Ohio State lore. The momentum of World Cup VII propelled Ohio State to its highest ranking in history during the fall 2014 season, thanks in no small part to the seeker rotation of Boehm and Brien “Baby Beluga” Polivka. I’ve always wondered how things would have been different if DiCarlo, and not Boehm, had ended that match. Would Bohem have had the confidence to bring us past talented Villanova and Michigan teams? How would our team have responded in our first game with a 180, and not 120, point loss lingering in our minds? The answer, it turns out, stretched much further than I had imagined.

1379350_10151876730358463_1809501313_nBoehm may be the owner of the most important capped-out snitch grab ever.

Texas did not actually receive the top seed in the World Cup VII bracket based on a coin flip. Both the Lost Boys and Texas won every game by at least 120, but the teams were not locked in the more-overlooked tiebreaker: snitch catch percentage. Each team had caught two snitches on day one, but Texas had a team drop out late and only played three games. The Lost Boys had played four, meaning the Longhorns’ percentage was 67 percent, while the Lost Boys finished at 50 percent. If Boehm did not come up with that snitch grab, the Lost Boys would have risen to 75 percent and grabbed the top seed away from the Longhorns.

From here on out, this article becomes speculative, and I encourage you all to doubt and debate how I think the tournament would have carried on:

Texas plays Texas State in the Sweet 16, not the final. A closer win than expected becomes Texas’ lone hiccup on their way past Michigan and Emerson–who can’t handle Texas’ physical beating presence–and into the final. LSU misses out on capturing the most thrilling upset of the tournament (and one of the best in history), as I don’t see them capable of defeating a Texas squad that recently annihilated them that February. Ohio State flips sides of the bracket with McGill University, and even if we had beat an unknown but very talented UNC squad, we run into our regional rival Bowling Green State University in the Round of 32. Regardless of that potential victory, even the most diehard Buckeye fan likely doesn’t see us beating Baylor in the Sweet 16.

Texas State no longer owns its signature moment in its program’s history. Without a run to the finals featuring his elite driving ability, it’s hard to imagine Eric Reyes making 2014’s Team USA. Ryan Peavler and Beth Clementi don’t get the recognition they deserve as one of the best beating duos in the country. Texas State’s reputation– without that finals run, and no other regional championship finals run– is likely far below what they have today. Whether that would be good or bad isn’t important; it definitely would take away a part of the Southwest’s mystique.

However, the team that clearly is most affected here is the Lost Boys.

A top seed puts the Lost Boys’ path to the final as: Austin Quidditch, University of Maryland, Baylor then Texas A&M. The first two matches go to Lost Boys based on Austin or Maryland’s lack of athletes capable of stopping either Rodriguez or Vanessa Goh. Baylor, especially back in this era of the dominance of their zone, is a much more interesting matchup. The Bears had just firmly crushed Texas at Diamond Cup just a few weeks before World Cup and entered Cup ranked No. 4. Although a close match with both teams relatively fresh at this point, the Lost Boys’ beater core is deep and talented enough to keep control away from David Gilbert and Brittany Ripperger. This pushes the Lost Boys into the semifinals.

West historians will tell you (as they told me) that the seeds of the Lost Boys/Los Angeles Gambits split were sown before World Cup VII began. Nothing had been solidified, but that was likely going to be the Lost Boys’ last tournament with the roster as it stood. But I’d like to lay down a chain of events–in my opinion, the most likely outcome of this alternate timeline’s tournament–that could radically change the West’s community team scene.

The Lost Boys play a thrilling semifinal match against Texas A&M. The quidditch community is treated to scenes of Drew Wasikowski point-defending Rodriguez, Becca DuPont trying to find open space away from Goh and, potentially (still), the most physical match of the tournament. When all is said and done, I believe the Lost Boys’ seeker beating secures them a trip to the final after a brutally long affair.

Texas, on the other hand, runs over a No. 9 Emerson team that can’t handle their physicality. This allows the Longhorns to save their key pieces, and Texas enters the finals the fresher team.

The Lost Boys’ tired legs from back-to-back slug fests begin to show as they play their third Southwest powerhouse in a row. A match that starts hotly contested begins to run away from the community team as Texas pushes the pace and uses their advantage in fresh bodies. After taking the top seed in the bracket, the Lost Boys have to watch as Texas pulls the final snitch and secures its second straight championship.

It wouldn’t be hard, in this scenario, to imagine yourself feeling cheated out of a championship if you were a Lost Boys player. You had taken the No. 1 overall seed in the bracket, knocked out The Eighth Man’s No. 4 and No. 1 teams back-to-back only to lose in the finals. In fact, those first two wins undoubtedly hurt in the long run and may have cost the Lost Boys the title. Having played or watched both teams multiple times that weekend, I would take the Lost Boys over Texas in a three-game series. While the West insists that many Lost Boy players were already considering defecting from the team before WCVII, it’s not hard to imagine the team sticking together for one final season, one final push for a title they feel they deserved.

I don’t think I need to point out how different the West community teams would be the next season. A Lost Boys team with the same roster has to be an early season favorite to win a title and creates a very strong narrative with Lone Star of community team dominance in USQ. The real-life Lost Boys still made the World Cup 8 semifinals without some of their biggest pieces from World Cup VII. On paper, it’s hard to believe they would have been worse off with those names back in the fold.

No matter your agreement or disagreement with my alternate timeline, I know I have at least made a strong case for not giving up when matches go south in a hurry. It stretches much farther than simply pride for your own team. You simply never know how your seemingly meaningless plays can affect the outcome of teams you will never face, and I think you owe it to them to give every match everything you have.

You can agree with me on one final point. If Boehm doesn’t catch that undefended snitch, the world is robbed of the second best DiCarlo gif in existence.

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One Comment

  1. Jack

    June 24, 2016 at 4:32 am

    I love OSU but I don’t see the beating the UNC that shocked the world that year. Their driving ability with max and Lee surprised everyone from a smaller Mid-Atlanitc team. Kyle and Courtney would’ve been more than enough physically for Fritz and Evland and the speed and outside shooting threat of Chris would’ve broken the defense allowing for easier drives.

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