The Rebuild of Quidditch at UF

As the remnants of an Epilepsy Walk cleared out, Flavet Field became an empty plane of grass and dirt. Dust clouds flurried, rustling the browning vegetation. The field would have remained empty, if it weren’t for the singular white van parked towards its center.

Gainesville resident Hao Wang emerged from the vehicle, carrying a cubical black and silver box. Ushering the speaker to the stage, he set it to blast songs from Disney films at a volume that could be heard across the entire field.

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Coach Tim Derrick helps his team set up for the Swamp Cup. This event consisted of multiple scrimmage games and educational lessons for new players.

Saturday was the 2017 Swamp Cup, an effort to attract players and spectators from across Alachua County, regardless of experience in the sport. This wasn’t a baseball outing, football game, or a soccer tournament. Hosted by the University of Florida’s Quidditch team, residents of the county gathered to bring the fictional sport from the Harry Potter book series to life.

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Team members assist new players with a warm-up exercise. These players are being taught mechanics that apply to playing a legitimate Quidditch match.

“We’re very accepting that you don’t know how to play, this is not a sport people grow up playing,” said Gainesville resident Meg Cannan. She has been a member of the team since August 2016.

Tim Derrick, the six-year coach of the team, said he saw this event as not just a casual set of scrimmages between teammates. There are two nights a week already reserved for that. This was an attempt to attract new players, the start of a plan to resurrect a team that Derrick said had split over the past year.

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Coach Tim Derrick joins his team members in a Quidditch match. He plays himself to help teach new players by example.

Cannan said the UF Quidditch team used to be the second best in the region. One of the factors that makes Quidditch stand out from traditional sports is that college teams and community teams play in the same league.

She said this led Florida’s Finest, a team dedicated to conglomerating the most skilled players from across the state, to recruit the strongest players from Florida universities.

“UF’s team was a victim to this system, and because of that we are struggling with membership,” she said.

According to their official Facebook page, “Florida’s Finest is the premier Quidditch community team in Florida, with members hailing from Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Gainesville, and Jackonsville (Jacksonville).”

Choosing to temporarily drop out from the official United States league, Derrick said he spent the year trying to reinvigorate the team, attracting new members to come play through weekday scrimmages and events such as this.

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Team members and new players engage in a game of Quidditch. Each player carries an orange or blue “broom,” representing the team they are on.

Derrick said a major dilemma of coaching a sport that originated from fiction is the variety in player skill levels. As he allows anyone interested to join his team, he said he receives people who run the gamut of athletic ability.

“You get people who have never played a sport before,” he said. “You have to teach them how to play the game and how to be an athlete.”

It is this struggle that Derrick said motivates him to revitalize his team.

“It’s rewarding when they finally figure something out,” he said.

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Coach Tim Derrick advises new players. Newcomers were placed on teams with experienced members so they would learn through play.

Derrick said the decline of the Harry Potter mania has changed Quidditch in Gainesville for the better.

“Non Harry Potter fans have started seeing it as a sport,” he said.

He said this change in perspective has allowed for people who have never read a J.K. Rowling novel, or seen a single film in the saga, to become immersed in the game.

Wang, a member of the team, said, “People get injured every tournament, this is a full contact sport.”

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Meg Cannan struggles to keep hold of the ball. Quidditch is a co-ed sport, despite being full-contact.

Cannan said it was the friendliness and sense of community that convinced her to join the team, and believes that is what will attract others.

“I love the people.”

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Top 4 Films of 2016

I don’t get why people say 2016 was a bad year for movies. Yes, I can count the amount of great films that came out this year with my fingers. However, i’d much rather have a handful of greats than a slew of pretty goods. Although there definitely were more 2016 releases that I enjoyed, here are the four that stood out above the rest, proving that 2016 was an unforgettable year for the medium of film.

 

#4- Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

Director: David Yates

Writer: J.K. Rowling

Genre: Fantasy

I am a huge Harry Potter fan. I credit J.K. Rowling as the person who shaped me into the avid media consumer I am today. Without the story of the boy who lived, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here writing this piece. When a prequel series was announced, written by Rowling herself, I was very hesitant to build hype. Especially with the transition of medium from novel to film, I knew I couldn’t allow myself to get too excited. There were so many opportunities for failure with this movie; I am so happy to say that Rowling didn’t screw it up. Fantastic Beasts was fantastic. It did everything a great prequel should. Despite having some subtle nods, it didn’t rely too much on the original work. It had intriguing, well-written characters that weren’t just cardboard cutouts or carbon copies of Harry and company. It managed to work as a satisfying, self-contained story, while still building the foundation for the rest of a five-part saga. Although this isn’t a full review, I couldn’t go without mentioning how much I loved the movie’s 1920s New York aesthetic. Although there were some jarring plot holes, everything else about the movie was so good that I can’t dwell on them too much. Far superior to the other piece of Harry Potter universe media that was released this year (i’m talking about you Cursed Child), Fantastic Beasts is a real treat for any potterhead.

 

#3- This House Has People in It

Director: Alan Resnick

Writer(s): Alan Resnick, Dina Kelberman, and Robby Rackleff

Genre: Horror

I was very tentative about placing a short film on this list. After all, a TV movie under 15 minutes long can’t possibly convey as much as a 2.5 hour theatrical epic, right? Wrong! This House Has People in It managed to do that and more. Alan Resnick has finally made a name for himself by producing one the most clever, intriguing, and genuinely scary horror stories of all time. If you are unfamiliar with Adult Swim’s infomercial block, it is a late-night home for experimental short films disguised as infomercials. You may have heard of some of its more famous products such as Too Many Cooks and Unedited Footage of a Bear, both of which I would also highly recommend. Despite its 12 minute run time, This House Has People in It is one of the most densely packed movies ever made. It is literally impossible to absorb every detail it has to offer, even with multiple viewings. For a fantastic analysis and in-depth explanation of the short and its expanded material, I would highly recommend checking out NightMind. Even if you don’t end up watching this film, I would still give him a look, he’s one of the best horror analysts on YouTube. This House Has People in It might not grab you upon your first viewing. In fact, you may initially find it funny like I did. With each subsequent viewing, however, you begin to pick up more on what is actually happening. Then you begin to think about it. The genius of the film is that this mental process is part of the movie itself, an essential component of its fear building. Hold onto your bed sheets, because you will not be sleeping after experiencing this horror masterpiece.

 

#2- Kimi no Na Wa (Your Name)

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Writer: Makoto Shinkai

Genre: Anime Drama

Kimi no Na Wa, or Your Name in english, would have definitely taken the number one spot if it weren’t for a last minute sneak up. Your Name is the definition of perfect melancholic storytelling. It fills you with such strong and potent emotion, but it’s very difficult to decipher whether these feelings are of happiness or sadness. The only other movie in recent memory that has made me feel this way has been Wolf Children, one of my all time favorite films and overall pieces of media. Although I can’t say Your Name is one of my favorite movies, I can say it is a must see. You may groan at the premise; yet another body swap movie. However, this is the seminal body swap story. Never has this trope been executed more perfectly and originally. Despite being centered around the oldest trope in the book, there truly is nothing like Your Name out there. It takes beautiful animation, relatable characters, and a phenomenal soundtrack, and puts them in a blender to give you an experience. Although an anime film, its medium is by no means a barrier to entry. I would highly recommend this movie to audiences of all ages and backgrounds, regardless of anime experience. If subtitles aren’t your thing, Funimation is working a dub that seems pretty promising. In whichever format you prefer, go watch Your Name. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll even get a bit turned on.

 

#1- Arrival

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writer: Eric Heisserer, based on short story by Ted Chiang

Genre: Science Fiction

Arrival was a film made for me. As a fan of science fiction, relatable characters, and alien stories; this was a homerun. It was the only movie this year that managed to become one of my all time favorites. I can go on for pages about how much I loved Arrival. However, I don’t want to talk too much about it, as I do plan on doing exactly that in an in-depth analytical review in the near future. Arrival was directed by Denis Villeneuve, who you may recognize from his work on Prisoners and Enemy, two great movies. Arrival is by far Villeneuve’s best film to date, and what elevated him to one of my all time favorite filmmakers. However, we can’t give Villeneuve all of the credit. I recently discovered that Arrival is based on Ted Chiang’s short story Story of Your Life. Although I have not yet gotten a chance to read it, there is no way it will go unread before I write my full review. Further, science fiction is my thing; it’s probably my overall favorite genre of fiction. However, Arrival goes beyond the typical boundaries of what the genre has to offer. Its unprecedented storytelling method, excruciatingly gorgeous cinematography, and unforgettable characters make it one the best films of the decade. Although I can’t say it’s my favorite science fiction movie, it’s definitely my favorite “alien invasion movie.” That’s just it though, I can’t even bring myself to call it an alien invasion film without precautionary quotation marks. Arrival is just so much more than Independence Day or War of the Worlds. It’s the story of a woman, and the events that reshaped the course of her life. In Amy Adams’ best performance, we come to know the character of Louise Banks, befriend her, understand her, and even cry for her. If not an active consumer of complex fiction such as myself, it may take a few viewings to fully appreciate and understand everything this movie has to offer. But those subsequent viewings are well worth the price of admission. Arrival is a movie I just can’t stop thinking about, and that means something to me.