Medea the Manager: A Cautionary Tale
For those of you rusty on your Greek mythology, Medea was the sorceress that helped Jason and the Argonauts attain the Golden Fleece. She’s been depicted a few ways depending on the author, but because the Greeks weren’t exactly feminists and her actions were pretty ambiguous sometimes, she wasn’t always depicted in a flattering light. While I’m not about to murder my children or betray my father, I can’t help but identify with her a little bit.
Now that my no-longer-super-but-still-pretty-damn-fun series is behind me, I thought I’d take the time to reflect on the last week or so. I’ve intentionally not written or spoken about the Argonauts until the season is over in the past, but the last thing I want is for my reputation for sounding off – for good or for ill, but usually the latter – to impact my players who just shut up and play quidditch.
That worked out just fine last season. This summer, that just wasn’t meant to be.
Getting Back Aboard the Argo
I had a great time managing the Argonauts for the first time last year. We improved from third to second in the MLQ West Division standings, won two of our three series, and three out of four if you count the unofficial games against the Seattle Brewers.
Despite only showing up to MLQ Championships with a sparse 14-player roster, we swept the New Orleans Curse before being eliminated by the defending champion Boston Night Riders – but not before leading them for about 14 minutes in Game 2 of the best of three series. A lowkey consolation game against the Rochester Whiteout ended the year with one last win.
After a season like that, who wouldn’t come back to do it again? There were still goals to achieve, and as a Bay Area sports fan, the ultimate prize was still on the table: beating LA. Oh, and winning the division, too, I guess.
On a personal level, I wanted to take another crack at gunning for Manager of the Year. On the one hand, Rochester’s Harry Clarke totally deserved it last year for creating the slick graphics used for his series and for the championship live stream. On the other hand, I don’t have a single trophy on my shelf after five years of playing, coaching, and managing.
So yeah, I won’t pretend my return was entirely selfless. I wanted something for me, too.
That’s why I was stoked when I was told that the Argonauts would be hosting the first West SuperSeries. A chance to flex my logistical muscles and beef up my resume for a second attempt at Manager of the Year? Hell yes, let’s go. Avoiding having to pay for the cost to drive/fly to Boise too? Even better.
A Salt Lake City Stinger and a Gray Area
I won’t dwell on our sweep by Salt Lake too much, mostly because I spent most of it in the emergency room with an injured player. That weekend was easily the least fun I’ve had as a manager, even now. Nothing seemed to go right on or off the pitch. I came into the MLQ season wondering how many summers I had left in me to manage this team, and that weekend gave me the answer: one.
A few weeks later, the Splash Heard Round the World happened in Boise. While I knew nothing officially, the rumors were coming in thick and fast. I had no idea how much it was going to affect my series, only that it would.
For a control freak like me, knowing that I don’t know something that is going to throw a wrench into my plans is one of the worst kinds of anxiety. When the decision came down that Boise was disbanded and my SuperSeries had been downgraded to an adequate one, I was relieved. As much as I wanted to put on a big event because I had something to prove, doing a regular series was going to be far easier on me and my not-so-healthy mental health.
Medea Gets Called Out
There’s no other way of putting this: that article from The Eighth Man was my worst quidditch nightmare. It’s not even the prediction itself. Ryan Smythe predicted the same thing over at Face Beat It and I didn’t even flinch.
I know I’m a lightning rod for controversy. If you’re a commentator or an analyst of this sport, the moment you say something critical about a team, you’d better be prepared to catch hell for it. A Spartan’s armor, a Skrewt’s exoskeleton, and an Argonaut’s shield have not been enough to protect me from backlash when I shed my Quidditch Mom friendliness to say something critical. That’s true for me and anyone else in a similar position.
Why do you think so few people do it anymore? Why do you think I’m the only woman who currently covers American quidditch with any regularity for a media outlet?
MLQ has such a short season that it should be easy to cover, but the pickings are slim this summer. Quidditch Post doesn’t have the manpower for it anymore. As of today, the Eighth Man has only managed to put out three articles covering five series. There have been five weeks of games and ten series played. Getting people to write for the national stage is hard because it’s always asking for punishment.
Tl;dr: getting people to write quidditch coverage is hard because players take analysis personally. The backlash is almost not worth the bother.
This, however, was different. This felt personal. I was walking my dry and dusty fields, which had been green back when I booked them in April, when the article came out for the second time after one factual inaccuracy had been removed, but the subtext was still there: your team sucks and it’s your fault.
Medea had overshadowed the heroics of the Argonauts. I cried out of sheer frustration, even as I did my best to clear my name with that little evidence I had.
The Argonauts held a tryout in all the major Bay Area quidditch hubs, including Berkeley. I brought up the Argos at USQ tournaments to any player that seemed interested or needed coaxing because they would be a promising addition, all while carrying the burden of coaching one team on the bubble and playing for another team in even more dire straits. Honestly, I even felt like I was being obnoxious about it. Not that that’s ever stopped me before.
I felt like I was one of the hardest working managers. I had to be because that’s the standard I hold myself to. Instead, I was taunted with an accolade I had wanted so badly but didn’t quite attain.
But when I looked back, all I could think was, ‘What more could I have done? What else was I supposed to do?’
I Get by with a Little Help from My Friends
Results talk and bullshit walks, so I set aside my feelings to focus on the task at hand: my home series. Long before I knew we’d be stung with a Salt Lake sweep and Boise would be disbanded before they’d make it out of state, I knew that I could not pull off a SuperSeries by myself.
That’s the secret to my success: over the years, I’ve built up a network of trust. For all the people I’ve pissed off for crying bullshit when I see it, I’ve made far more friendships and connections by putting on good events and treating my volunteers well. When I ask for help, I usually get it. No one can put on an event, big or small, alone.
Luckily for me, I had friends flying in from across the country to help me put on the best event possible. Shoutout to Caroline Flowers for flying in from Texas to referee, and for treating me to room service snacks and bubbly the night before the series to calm me down. Hanging out with Caroline, her shiny new non-quidditch fiancee, my managerial predecessor Natalie Stottler, and her husband/backup snitch David Saltzman the night before settled me down and gave me some much-needed perspective. My fellow California MLQ manager, Justin Bogart, deserves a medal for being my sounding board and sanity checker every time I felt like my temper was going to get the better of me.
My Face Beat It crew came in with a massive assist. Marissa Hondros barely moved here and spent her first weekend as a Bay Area resident refereeing my series. Bruce Donnelly flew in from Boston to be my setup helper and general on-call minion (a thankless role if you have ever seen me in Tournament Mode) all weekend. Smythe drove up to San Jose early so we could work the kinks out of our live stream, with an assist from Harry Clarke’s (and Kevin Oelze’s) previous work.
Even our gorgeous photography was collaborative. I managed to coax Michael Vong, who was flying in from Utah just to spectate, to take photos since I haven’t been able to edit any lately. He used Shirley Lu’s camera, complete with its photographer envy-inducing lens to shoot the games while she did the hard work of editing them.
But most important of all, my team. My Argonauts. My goddamn band of heroes. There’s no Jason here (unless you count Sam Harris scoring ALL THE GOALS). If I had to name the biggest prima donna on this squad, it’s me, no contest.
I walked into Thursday practice to drop off some of their uniforms – I can’t practice and Covel does a great job of running our trainings, so I stay out of his way – and they weren’t even bothered by the pre-series commentary. They made sure I was okay, and then they shut up and got to work. They played good quidditch. They won a game, our first against LA ever, and put a competitive series on when everyone, myself included, was anticipating a blowout.
God and St. Quidditch help me, I love this team so damn much.
Stop, Collaborate, and Listen
First Greek mythology, now Vanilla Ice? Welcome to my blog, I guess. But that’s the lesson I learned over this past week or so.
Quidditch is too young to survive and thrive if we don’t work together to elevate it. I’m not saying be sunshine and roses all the time. I’m not saying to stop being critical, when appropriate. But let’s not be dicks about it, shall we?
We’ll all have more fun that way, and quidditch should be fun, goddamnit.