While the Harry Potter canon does not contain enough quidditch statistics to do any meaningful analytics, there is enough information about how the game is played to highlight some competitive inefficiencies that could be exploited. You might be asking if there is a need to take a hard look at quidditch, whether there is a need to examine a fictional sport this closely. I’m inclined to argue absol-fucking-lutely. This sport is rife with inefficiencies. So much so that before we even get to that, we have a more pressing issue at hand: whereas the almost 200 years of baseball’s existence has seen some players truly master the sport, it is entirely possible that nobody has ever been good at quidditch, despite it having been around in some form or another since 1050.
Take for example Harry Potter. Potter is immediately handpicked by McGonagall to play the most important position of the Gryffindor team the very first time he steps onto a broom, despite never having played, seen, or even heard of quidditch before. He doesn’t even try out – McGonagall is so impressed with seeing him catch a ball on a broom one time that she and the Gryffindor team are immediately confident he is the best possible seeker Gryffindor can find. This is the quidditch equivalent of being cast as the lead in a play simply for being able to stand and talk without vomiting all over oneself; if people are impressed by that, there’s something terribly wrong with the production.
In the films, we get to see first hand how bad everyone is at quidditch. In Philosopher’s Stone Harry Potter catches the snitch by outmaneuvering Slytherin’s seeker, despite the fact that Harry has been on a broom maybe twice(?). The Slytherin seeker pulls up as to not crash, and Potter holds out just a bit longer. With Potter inches away from the snitch, the Slytherin seeker makes the insane strategic choice to fly off the opposite direction of the snitch. It does not pay off and Slytherin loses to a small boy who is seeing his first Quidditch game at the same time as he is winning it.
The pattern of people being terrible at quidditch continues in the next film. Draco Malfoy becomes Slytherin’s seeker despite also being terrible/not really having a grasp on what he’s supposed to be doing. The first time he faces Gryffindor, with his fingers an inch away from the snitch, he turns around to taunt Harry Potter instead of catching the snitch. Less than a minute later, he’s lost the snitch, fallen off his broom, and his father is looking away out of disgust. He remains the best option for seeker Slytherin has after that, somehow.
Even once we get to the professional level – the finals of the goddamn World Cup – it seems as though nobody has a solid grasp of the sport. Viktor Krum is introduced to us as potentially being the best seeker in the world, but it’s debatable that he even understands quidditch or how sports work in general. In the 1994 Quidditch World Cup final, Viktor Krum caught the snitch, thus ending the game, and losing it to Ireland 170-160. Viktor Krum did this because he wanted to go out on his own terms. He decided there was no possible way his team could score anymore, and chose to lose the game, but prove he’s a good seeker. That’s buck-fucking-wild. This was the World Cup final. For him to believe so little in his own team despite them having made it that far is douchey, to say the least. More importantly, what athlete ever in history has given up when they still have the chance to win it all? Quidditch goes on until the snitch is caught; it can last weeks. All he would’ve had to have done would’ve been to prevent Ireland’s seeker and he could’ve kept his team in it. Viktor Krum chose to show the world he’s the best, by losing.
Try and imagine a real-world version of that for a second. Picture the 2010 Vancouver Olympic hockey gold medal game. Imagine if during that tense sudden death overtime that Sidney Crosby had scored the golden goal on his own net. Imagine the shock of his teammates. Imagine the press scrum afterward where Sidney fucking Crosby – at the top of his game – told journalists he wanted to show the world he was the best, even if it meant losing. Imagine Roberto Luongo walking out of Canada Hockey Place, down Abbott St and straight into the Vancouver Harbour in the hopes that the ocean would take him and the memory of it all away. That event would be profoundly embarrassing for Sidney Crosby, Canada, and the entire sport of hockey. It would be embarrassing for the very concept of sport. Viktor Krum actually did that. And had a career in quidditch after that. The bar for being quidditch is so low that you can violate the trust of the entire sport and go on to still be a respected player.
Scour the Harry Potter series and there’s only one conclusion you can come to: nobody is great at this sport. Nobody seems to have a grasp on how to play to sport at all, let alone master it. Therefore there is space for us to take a look at the game of quidditch and its rules in order to find inefficiencies to exploit. There are strategies not being used that could revolutionize the sport. All of which we’ll take a look at in our upcoming piece – Quidditch Abstract Part II: Kill The Seeker.