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Fantasy sports

Sunday, January 25th, 2009 | Posted by Theo

One of the things I’ve noticed in a lifetime of reading fantasy literature and playing sports is that the twain seldom meet.  For some reason, the inhabitants of fantasy worlds are apparently not much drawn to games of leisure; I don’t claim to know why that is, but I do have a theory.

If you have ever attended a convention or a book-signing, one of the things that will strike you first about the literary community is that it is not comprised of particularly athletic individuals.  If one were to choose a word to describe the average fantasy author, “sedentary” would probably be among the first to spring to mind.  Now, there are no shortage of overweight couch-potatoes who follow sports on a regular basis, but in general, the more interested in sports an individual happens to be, the less sedentary he is.  I therefore conclude, on the basis of mere superficialities such as BMI, that the average fantasy author is less interested in sports than the average individual.

Supporting this idea is the most famous fantasy sport to appear in a fantasy novel, the inimitable game of Quidditch concocted by JK Rowlings.  Quidditch is indeed fascinating, as it is an almost perfect example of a faux sport designed by an individual who has never played a sport nor spent more than thirty seconds thinking about what the purpose of a sporting event might be.  This may sound extreme, but consider, for example, if the game of basketball was structured according to the rules of Quidditch.

Basketball-Quidditch would look very similar to basketball, albeit with one exception.  In addition to the usual game being played out on the court, an additional player would be added to each side, both of whom would stand behind the out-of-bounds line armed with a bucket of tennis balls.  These additional players would launch tennis balls at the far basket during the course of play; when one finally went in the game would come to an immediate end and 100 points would be added to his team’s score.  Needless to say, since basketball teams seldom score 100 points more than the other team, this additional factor completely removes the value of the rest of the team’s actions; indeed, there is no point to even having the rest of the team take the court in the first place.  One can only conclude that Quidditch is an appallingly stupid sport, rivaled only by cricket for sheer implausibility and lack of entertainment value.

It is a pity that sports are so ill-represented in fantasy, especially when the usual medieval environment is perfect for ancient sports such as the insane Sienese pallo, which is little more than Roller Derby on horseback, or the world’s most famous game involving dead goats, buzkashi.  If writers devoted one-tenth the time they normally spend creating new orc and elf languages to thinking about what orcs and elves do at play, they might find that the fantasy worlds they create are more believable.

4 Comments »

  1. Not that video games are quite the same, but what about BlitzBall from Final Fantasy X? I found that pretty interesting…

    DJ

    AMDG

    Comment by dwjones2000 - January 25, 2009 11:18 pm

  2. I have to agree with your theories,I used to play soccer and hockey when I was younger but just never cared about football or basketball and cannot stand to be a spectator, so I never watch anything anymore. I have included a scene with sports in a book I am currently waiting to get published and its easy enough to see my thoughts coming through the villain mouth.

    “It is exciting to cheer for them,” offered Princess Sayame.
    “And why wouldn’t it be?” laughed Akish-Antum.
    “My ball team is winning. They are the best in all the land,” explained Prince Almek.
    “I understand now, you attach your egos to them, how droll,” said the Gadianton Lord. Almek pretended not to hear him but it was all he could do to retain his composure near the mountainous Sorcerer King.
    The rubber ball was bounced off a hip and knocked through a vertical hanging stone circle. The throng cheered deafening all but the ball players. “They won, we won. I told you we were the best,” shouted Almek.
    “Yes, you won, that you were there watching, your witnessing the event is what got them through the hoop. Because of you they won.”
    “They are my ball team.”
    “Of course, now why don’t we really appease the crowd and find you the best army in the process,” muttered Akish-Antum, getting into Almek’s face.

    Hope its alright I posted that, I am trying to write about true things (in fantasy, ha) even if I don’t care for them for the sake of reality.

    Comment by David-J-West - January 26, 2009 2:24 am

  3. Fantasy is rotting within. The corruption began in earnest with the metastasizing of animal sentience(McCaffrey’s dragons)into, inevitably, today’s all-consuming were-bestiality (Meyer’s lifeless teen heartthrob and Hamilton’s everything).

    Still and all, if only there were more sports involved, I’m sure that would make it all better.

    Comment by NaSultainne - January 27, 2009 5:56 pm

  4. I have a writing project about orcs, and in it I have the orcish equivalent of the Olympics (or more accurately, the Highland Games). As you can imagine, most of the events deal with warrior skills, but I came up with one that is more like a game. The Orc Toss is popular because nothing amuses and entertains an orc more than seeing a body fly through the air.

    I think sports in fantasy should really be a product of the cultures that spawn them. So, orc sports would be all about violence and mayhem. Elf sports would probably be more about introspection and concentration. I imagine elves would develop a sport similar to golf, or maybe tennis.

    Comment by TDoolan - January 28, 2009 1:06 pm


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