High-flying sport comes down to earth

    If Muggle Quidditch were to spread to Northwestern. Photo by John Meguerian / North by Northwestern.

    The scene is set for an epic showdown. The opposing teams rev up and the air is thick with competition and the will to win. The crowd is ready too – many have traveled far to get here, to see the national champion crowned.

    Players are tense, brooms at the ready.

    Finally, the Snitch is released and the game begins.

    If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter series, you know exactly what’s going on: a game of Quidditch is starting. In this version, however, the brooms don’t fly and neither does the Snitch. In Muggle Quidditch, players run the Quidditch pitch with brooms between their legs and the Snitch is not a magic ball, but rather a running human dressed entirely in yellow.

    Sound silly? Maybe, but Muggle Quidditch is sweeping the nation.

    Though there are several different variations of Muggle Quidditch—from leagues dedicated solely to young children to community leagues that welcome players of all ages—the sport has been most successful among colleges, specifically with the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association, founded by students at Middlebury College.

    The IQA has enjoyed tremendous success as an informal league and has hosted two Intercollegiate World Cups, the second of which was held in October of 2008 and attracted 11 teams from colleges in the United States and Canada. Though the IQA does not yet have a precise list of member schools available, as of the spring of 2008, they reported inquiries from over 180 colleges interested in starting Quidditch teams of their own.

    Muggle Quidditch’s popularity is concentrated primarily in the Northeast and teams tend to thrive at schools with traditionally high academic standards, like Princeton and Vassar. This is unsurprising considering the sport’s literary roots and the strong fanbase the Harry Potter novels have at such schools.

    What is Muggle Quidditch?
    Like traditional wizard Quidditch, Muggle Quidditch teams consist of seven players (three Chasers, two Beaters, a Keeper and a Seeker). Unlike traditional wizard Quidditch teams, however, Muggle Quidditch teams must also recruit a Snitch. In most cases, the Snitch is a cross-country runner dressed in yellow who has free-run of the entire campus on which the game is being played.

    Though scoring can vary between leagues and even individual teams, most generally adhere to the scoring system from the novels. Chasers can scored ten points by successfully sending the Quaffle though any one of the three goal hoops (in Muggle Quidditch, often some variation of hula hoops attached to PVC pipe). The most common adjustment to scoring in Muggle Quidditch is a reduction of the value of the Snitch. To “snatch the Snitch,” a player must grab a tennis ball in sock that hangs from the Snitch’s belt.

    Then there are the brooms. IQA teams play with custom brooms carried between their legs. Some teams even choose to include capes as part of their uniforms. Rules and uniform decisions like these might seem silly, but for diehard Muggle Quidditch players, they add to the experience of the game.

    How would a Muggle Quidditch team fare at Northwestern?
    All of the necessary physical components for a Muggle Quidditch team exist at Northwestern (really, all you need are eight people, three balls, hula hoops and an open field), but could such an innovative (nerdy?) sport thrive at NU the way it has at Middlebury and other colleges in the Northeast? It wouldn’t be the first time Northwestern students have taken something traditionally East Coast and made it their own (take our lacrosse team, for instance), but some NU students are skeptical of the “magical” sport.

    “I love Harry Potter, but that’s taking it a little far,” Weinberg junior Yazmin Harris said. “I don’t know if I’d participate in that. It’s cool in a way I guess, but I don’t know if it’s for me.”

    Still, Northwestern could successfully support the off-beat sport. There are more than 200 members in the Harry Potter Appreciation Society group on the Northwestern Facebook network and the school is home to strong intramural programs, including the less-than-traditional dodgeball.

    Northwestern also fits the bill when it comes to the correlation between success on the Quidditch pitch and success in the classroom – remember, brainiacs often reign supreme in the sport. With a combination of numerous fans of J.K. Rowling’s wizarding world, a love for quirky intramural sports and high academic standards, who knows, maybe the Wildcats will be represented this fall at the third annual Intercollegiate World Cup.

    “I could really see people getting into that,” Communication junior Jackie Grinvalvs said. “I think it would be best as an intramural. It’s kind of crazy. I don’t know if you’d put that on your resume … Quidditch Master.”


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