Monday, September 12, 2011

Fantasy Sports

I'm not going to be talking about Fantasy Football Leagues, or anything of the sort.  Frankly, I don't know much of anything about those.  Rather, I want to talk about the use of sports in fantasy fiction.

Now, I should preface this by saying, I'm not really a sports fan.  At all.  I went to Penn State and watched a grand total of half a game, and that was only because a sick friend wanted someone to take his season ticket so it wouldn't go to waste.  I've lived with sports fans, my cousins and brother-in-law are big fans, and my agent is a huge hockey fan, so I'm aware of the mindset behind sports fandom.  I don't share it, but I get it. 

And, more importantly, I'm aware of how sports is important to societies as a whole.  This is crucial in fantasy fiction.  Unfortunately, it doesn't get quite the amount of coverage as it should.

Probably the biggest use of sports-- pure, game-for-the-sake-of-the-game sports-- would be Quidditch in Harry Potter.  It's a flawed game, designed with a significant failure in sports logic-- the Seeker can instantly turn a 14 goal blowout into a victory-- but it as a cultural point for the wizarding world, it's great.  Quidditch matches matter to the people playing them, and to the people watching them, even though nothing plot-wise is ever riding on them.  Does it matter if Slytherin wins the Quidditch Cup?  Not in the grand scheme of things, but it matters to Harry and his friends, so it matters enough.  Though, if there is a flaw in the use of Quidditch, it's that it's the ONLY sport in the wizarding world.

I've only used it, so far, in Thorn of Dentonhill and other Maradaine books in a glancing way.  The main game I've mentioned is tetchball, which is sort of a bastard child of rugby and cricket.  I have a few others, but I haven't used them too much.  Yet.

Are there other good examples?  Most I can think of are more gladitorial fights rather than actual sports. 


Rob Bartlett said...

I think there are other sports in the Wizarding World--Quadpot is the American version. As I understand it, the Ministry has an entire department devoted to it, which also covered things like the Tri-Wizard Cup and something called "Gobstones." To be honest, I can understand there being only one major league team sport; The Wizarding population is incredibly small.

I would think Tournaments could be good for a lot fantasy settings, if they have the typical medieval one. So far, the Fire & Ice series is the only one I can think of it where they play a pivotal role in the saga's series of events.

dbonfitto said...

I'd argue that Battlestar Galactica was more fantasy than sci-fi, so I nominate Pyramid.

Marshall Ryan Maresca said...

Rob- Tournaments tend to be used in fantasy settings, which mostly becomes Jousting and Archery. Valid sport, of course, but at least with Jousting, it comes close to gladitorial stuff. (Though boxing and similar martial arts stuff does as well.)

Dan- Pyramid from BSG is a good one. While I never quite understood how the game was played, it worked. I especially like how they showed people just having a pick-up game of Pyramid. Not something you can really do with Quidditch, for example.

jheaton said...

There's competitive dueling in the Harry Potter universe as well. Moving away from the idea of athletic competitions, there's exploding snap and gobstones. And wizard's chess, but as far as I know that's the same as regular chess with animated pieces. Outside of the Potterverse, I remember that baseball plays an important role in Michael Chabon's Summerland, but i can't think of any examples in fantasy literature.

There was a sport called Parisi Squares in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and a whole episode of DS9 devoted to baseball.

dbonfitto said...

If you don't have enough players, pads, balls, and vertical wall holes to play Pyramid, you just play it with tile-like cards and chomp cigars.