Barcelos Explains It All: USQ’s 2018-2019 Events Announcement

By Elizabeth Barcelos

USQ revealed the locations for their regional and national championships, and Quidditch Facebook (or whatever your forum or discussion of choice may be) is probably already blowing up with the same people complaining about the same things (Rochester, again?). While it’s true that some things haven’t managed to break from the mold of the status quo, there are signs of positive change.

But are things changing fast enough?

Rolling back to Round Rock

SJSU Quidditch might have been waving the Spartan flag, but their new jerseys were a rush job so that they’d be able to compete as Amazon Quidditch. Photo Credit: M.Vong Photography

First, the headliner: US Quidditch Cup 12 is returning to Round Rock, Texas. I’ve been attending IQA/USQ championships since World Cup 7 (*Editor’s note: the US called Nationals ‘World Cup through the WC8 season because of course we did*), and I can say with confidence that it is the best venue we’ve ever had for our national championship in that time. Other than the wind which sucked, but was the least of this season’s weather-related problems at USQ events it was a great venue for players and spectators alike. I’m looking forward to spending next season watching games from the VIP balcony, margarita in hand.

As a resident of the great state of California and a proud product of our state university system, I can’t ignore the law banning state funds being used to travel to states like Texas. Is legislating morality right? No, and it’s hurting college sports—but I stand by the spirit of the law.

Voting with your wallet is arguably more powerful than any vote you cast with your ballot. I don’t want my money going to a state that thinks it’s okay to pass a laws keeping same-sex couples from adopting. The straights have not exactly kept the sacrament of marriage sacred or created healthy family environments with our 40-50% divorce rate, y’all.

You could argue that the law ended up having no effect on quidditch. The UC schools had no problems traveling. Cal and Anteater Quidditch aren’t technically affiliated with their schools, which is a loss to UC Berkeley and UC Irvine. SJSU jumped through some hoops, including a short-lived rebranding as Amazon Quidditch to keep from representing the school, before getting a last-minute exception from the university president that allowed us to travel as SJSU Quidditch as long as we didn’t use club sports funds, something we were lucky to have in the first place.

But this isn’t just about the law. This is about people.

Walking the walk, not just talking the talk

Ra Hopkins was the first nonbinary HR for a US Quidditch Cup final. But USQ events haven’t always been safe spaces for minority players like them. Photo Credit: Shirley Lu Photography

First, some backstory: at West Regionals 2017, the Skrewts were warming up for a game near the chain link fence that separated the facility from the street. A car drove by, lowered its window, and a shrill voice screamed, “QUEERS!” before hitting the gas and driving off. Two of my teammates at the time were nonbinary. Not all of our cis players are straight.

It’s one thing to reclaim a slur, which some of the Skrewts have chosen to do. It is another thing to hear it flung at you like an insult. This was in Peoria, AZ.

Later, when we qualified for US Quidditch Cup 10, one of our teammates decided not to join us in Kissimmee, FL. He had experienced enough racism during his time in the south and didn’t want to go through it again.

Here’s USQ’s comment on how LGBTQIA+ and POC issues impacted this year’s events bidding process.

“USQ remains committed to providing a safe space for all athletes, fans, officials, and volunteers, particularly including people of color and those who identify as LGBTQIA+. The safety of these attendees is put into heavy consideration when evaluating bids, and USQ staff looks at many aspects of a city’s level of inclusivity and safety, including local, regional, and state laws, indexes that measure equality and other issues, local partnerships, and community feedback. The city of Round Rock has been a very supportive partner in this regard.”

I am sure that the City of Round Rock, the Sports Capital of Texas, has indeed been a supportive partner. It’s bad business to be bigoted in the sporting events industry just ask North Carolina. The NCAA boycotted the state for their championship events until NC repealed their transphobic bathroom law. USQ doesn’t have anywhere near the clout of the NCAA, but these issues should and do still matter.

A detail that might have slipped your notice is that Sarah Woolsey and Mary Kimball are taking point on going to conventions and overseeing the whole bidding process, delegating longtime location scout Joe Pickett to a consulting role. This is good news. Once upon a time, when USQ was a baby organization and our leadership was green and inexperienced, they absolutely had to rely on an industry insider to help them land bids.

However, Woolsey has been working on USQ events for five years and Kimball’s been at it for four. They know what they’re about, or at least they should by now. In any industry, your connections are gold, and since Pickett is based in Florida, that may explain why we had so many South Carolina and Florida bids in the past.

All of USQ’s options for nationals this year were in states with questionable stances on LGBTQIA+ and other minority rights. I can probably chalk that up to Woolsey and Kimball inheriting a framework from a predecessor based in the south.

There needs to be a visibly bigger push to seek out competitive bids in more progressive areas in the next few years, or all of USQ’s talk about inclusion is going to ring hollow. How inclusive can a sport really be if it keeps holding major tournaments in places where their minority players feel unrecognized, unwanted, and unsafe?

Regionals are pretty damn super

The Rain City Raptors will be one of the teams invading the West next season. You might see this matchup at next season’s West/Northwest super regional. Photo Credit: Elizabeth Barcelos Photography

Okay, enough of my moralizing. Here’s something to be happy about: super regionals are going to solve the second biggest problem we had at regionals last year.

Several regions featured three team community regionals, and playing teams three times over does not an interesting tournament make, even if it is a technically fair way of allocating bids. By bumping up the requirement to five teams from three and creating super regionals, it’s like USQ saw a problem, listened to community feedback, and addressed it! Amazing.

I’m revealing my West Coast Bias here, but Placer Valley is the perfect place for the inaugural West/Northwest Super Regional. Maidu Park has hosted two regionals in the past, and it’s NorCal location makes it about as accessible as a West location can be for the Northwest. MLQ seemed to think so too since it placed the first West SuperSeries in Argonauts territory. Utah, the other option, doesn’t have nearly as playable weather in early February. Ankle deep snow? Hard pass.

However, being able to hold a regional without snow is a luxury few regions seem to have, though we did get some intense lightning and hail this past regionals. The Northeast community teams will most likely escape Rochester to play in the Mid-Atlantic’s Maryland super regional, but those college kids are back to the status quo.

In another first, this year’s fall regionals will be condensed from four weekends down to two, with Great Lakes and Northeast taking place on the weekend of October 27-28 and Midwest and Mid-Atlantic taking place on November 3-4.

We can hope that the chances of playing in poor weather conditions are diminished by wrapping up regionals early, an issue that loomed large over every USQ event last season. Also, there is a big overlap in the GL/MW and NE/MA volunteer pools. Since those events take place on separate weekends in this condensed schedule, it’s likely volunteers won’t have to choose between regionals.

Final thoughts

Let’s go back to the idea of voting with your wallet: USQ’s regional and national championships are the main product that they sell us, the paying players. I never got my patch last year, so regionals and nationals are all the bang I got for my buck. If you got one, I will pay you cash money. Seriously. Hit me up.

You don’t need USQ to play quidditch. There’s fantasy if you want to play for fun. Feeling more competitive? MLQ and conferences like the Western Collegiate Conference and Massachusetts Quidditch Conference cater to that.

What USQ does with its events matters. Splitting regionals into college and community divisions was a good first step with unintended consequences like three-team regionals that have been addressed this year with super regionals. In that respect, USQ is serving its player base. These are changes we needed to see.

However, these aren’t the only changes we need to see. Our minority players need more than promises. Actions speak louder than words, and USQ needs to visibly act on their inclusive language when seeking out future bids for their events.

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