The Inglorious Return
If you’re looking for in-depth analysis of this weekend’s Tegan and Sara Invitational, you’ve come to the wrong place. That’s not my forte as a writer anyway. I’m just here to talk about me and my feelings. This website has my name on it, after all.
Still here? Cool.
I realized just how unprepared I was to return to the pitch when I couldn’t find my mouthguard on Friday night. I found my old USQ ID (and Carlos Cuevas’s too, oops), several whistles and referee cards that I don’t need anymore, and a pair of torn receiver gloves. But my pricey and perfectly fitted SISU mouthguard? Nowhere to be found. Ten bucks and a quick run to the sporting goods store down the street later, I was in possession of two poorly fitted but still good-enough-to-not-get-me-carded mouthguards.
You can stop reading here if you want because that should tell you all you need to know about my inglorious return to the pitch: I was not prepared.
I had a plan. I usually do. After I had some post-retirement time to think about what I wanted to do, I realized that I couldn’t remember what it was like to just play. I knew SJSU would be hosting their NCQC event at Spartan Stadium. The idea of returning to the pitch at my alma mater, in the venue I’d been trying to book for ages, would make for an awesome narrative. The prodigal daughter returns home. The Spartan turned Skrewt returning, only to play against her own team. If I came back in 2017 and started practicing, I’d be (somewhat) ready for the first weekend of February. It would have been a great story.
Then Chris Lock had to ruin it by scheduling a tournament in the damp, foggy purgatory that is Sacramento in the winter.
The last time I borrowed a Skrewts jersey, I borrowed Kevin’s to spite whoever submitted some silly Quidsecret. Petty? Sure, but I have a habit of letting petty things get to me that I’m trying to break this year.
This time around, I asked Tyler Barton for his. Not just because it fit better and our names are relatively similar (though that helps), but because he’s the sort of Skrewt I want to be. He’s a supportive teammate and friend, always fired up to win, leads by example, and no one has a bad thing to say about him.
All things I try to strive for.
After packing my mouthguard and everything else I would need to play quidditch (uniform? check. cleats? check. contacts? oops, wound up playing in glasses liked a scrub), I piled into a car with a bunch of other Skrewts for a quick road trip, complete with rookie hazing.
There were 21 Skrewts on the roster but only 12 of us made it to Sacramento. We only played two games. “We” meaning the team, not me—I rode the bench like a champ in our first game against the Fighting Farmers. I secretly expected a blowout considering our low numbers. Instead, we took the lead only to eventually lose in double overtime.
I have never won a game in overtime. Overtime is bullshit. Double overtime is double bullshit. Remember: this isn’t meant to be analysis, just me venting.
And look at that, I feel better.
My tournament anxiety had settled down to an acceptable level of nausea (that’s why I don’t eat much at tourneys—I’d rather leave the Skrewt Puke to Miles and Tails if she comes back) by the time our Utah State game rolled around. I love those kids and I’m glad I got a change to play them since they won’t be at West Regionals.
I took to the pitch with far more sideline fanfare than a scrub of my caliber deserved. Honestly, it made me feel like a bit of a fraud. My teammates work harder and deserver far more cheering than I do. Only when I had time to think about it later did I realize that most people just haven’t seen me play.
And then I remembered how hard playing is. I am an out-of-shape and out-of-practice 31-year-old woman and I felt it in every aching muscle. I remember why I got into volunteering in the first place: so I could pull my weight without playing. Without running, which I hate. I played sports in high school, but that was ages ago and I was always in a pool. I’d be down for a game of water polo quidditch any day. Pool noodles instead of brooms? Even better.
Since that wasn’t an option, I had to stick with running with PVC between my legs. Or rather, running, subbing out, praying for death/wishing I did more cardio, and then doing it again. The highlight of my beating game against USQC? I almost made a tackle, remembered that two-handed tackles are not actually a thing, and got rightfully sent back to hoops for being naughty.
That wasn’t the my favorite part of the game though. No, that would be my donning of the yellow headband for the first time since off pitch seeking.
I’ve done some seeker beating in my time, but this was my first time doing the actual blocking of another seeker. When I wasn’t constantly being sent back to hoops by Utah State’s beating, I was facing down none other than Blase Barker, one of my #50ShadesofShame.
Quidditch reunions are funny like that.
While there’s been some kerfuffle about how counting seekers towards the gender ratio will impact how teams play their non-majority gender players, the Skrewts are nearly 50/50. Their recruiting and development of non-male players is part of why I decided to join them.
I ended up enjoying putting my body between Utah State and victory far more than I was expecting. Eventually they did pull the snitch and win the game, but I came away thinking that this is something I should practice in the future. I look best in black, but yellow could be a good look.
While I may still be winless as a Skrewt, that was one of the more positive ways to go 0-2. I’m used to finding moral victories; I’m pretty sure I have a losing record as a player.
I’m just happy to be a part of a team again. Being an RC, a TD, or any other concoction of alphabet soup can be a lonely existence.
And we learned. With 12 players we were one double overtime away from the championship half of the bracket. More of us will be back on the 4th. I’ll be prepared. I’ll be more ready for the glorious return to Spartan Stadium I was hoping for.