Thursday, December 1, 2011

Anomaly of The Quidditch World Cup

My name is Anne, I’m a Ravenclaw, and I’m an Anomaly.
A few weeks ago I attended the fifth Quidditch World Cup on Randall’s Island with my fellow New York Anomalous reporter Sue. We recorded a few interviews that we had hoped to publish on Anomaly Supplemental, but sadly the wind made them impossible to hear. However, the day itself was an experience I’ll never forget.
“Quidditch?” You ask. “How can you play that without magic?”
To you I respond, “Silly naysayer, drink some butterbeer whilst I spin you a tail of how muggles came to bottle magic on one glorious Fall day in 2011.”
In 2005, Quidditch was adapted for muggles by Xander Manshel at Middlebury College. By 2007, Middlebury hosted the first World Cup for the sport. The mere idea of the game being played in the real world became so infectious that today there are 446 teams in the United States alone with 38 in Canada, 19 in the UK, 5 in India, 13 in Australia and many more worldwide.

The rules of Muggle Quidditch are constantly in development, but here is a basic rundown of how it works.
-There are seven players from each co-ed team on the field at a time.
-Each player must run with a broom between their legs at all times and must keep one hand on the broom handle.
-There are three chasers, two beaters, one keeper, and one seeker.
-The Chasers are tasked with passing the quaffle, a slightly deflated volley ball, back and forth up the field in an effort to score through one of three goal rings at the opposite end of the field.
-The Beaters compete for possession of the bludgers, aka dodgeballs. These balls can only be used by Beaters to “knock other players off their brooms.” In essence, if you get hit by a dodgeball, you have to run all the way back to your goal posts and touch them before resuming your position on the field.
-The Keeper guards the goal posts and sometimes teams use him/her to assist the Chasers offensively.
-Any player can tackle another player of the same position as long as the opposing player can see you coming.
-The Seeker’s job is to catch the golden Snitch. Doing so ends the game, and awards the captor’s team 30 points.
-OH WAIT. The Snitch is a unbiased, extremely fast, agile, mischievous, PERSON dressed head to toe in yellow with a sock containing a tennis ball hanging out the back of his/her shorts. Snitches have no rules that govern their actions. They can climb trees, jump fences, throw players to the ground, you name it. Their job is to continually confound and annoy the Seekers and to avoid having the tennis ball snatched at all costs. Showmanship is the name of the game, well, aside from Quidditch.

-At the beginning of the game, all players close their eyes and the Snitch flies/runs off into the crowd. About 5 minutes into the game, the Seekers are released to go in search of the Snitch who could be anywhere in the general area of the pitch.
-To read the rules in their entirety, check out the official website for the International Quidditch Association. (NOTE: An International Quidditch exists. For Real.)
Before attending the world cup, I had heard about Muggle Quidditch in passing. As a huge Harry Potter fan, I’d always been curious to see a match but the opportunity hadn’t really presented itself. I’d imagined that these teams were mostly made up of fellow fans who just wanted to have a good time exploring their geekdom together. Surprisingly, Sue and I found that this is not always the case.
These players were true athletes and while a few of them were definitely fans of the books, the game was the passion that united them. They were focused, competitive, physically fit, fast, and agile. Make no mistake, Quidditch is a FULL CONTACT SPORT. While sportsmanship was clearly encouraged, Sue and I witnessed no shortage of tackling, face punching, bloody lips, and broom handle breakage. Each match was action packed and highly entertaining. Speaking as someone who has a limited amount of patience for watching sports, I couldn’t take my eyes off of this game.

When Sue and I had a chance to catch up with one of the Snitches, he admitted that he had read and enjoyed the Harry Potter books but it was watching the game played that got him interested in becoming a part of the Quidditch community. The role of the Snitch caught his attention because he loved the idea of having no rules govern his behavior while everyone else was subject to them. We spoke to a lot of other players who were fans of the book but the game itself was their true passion.
It turns out that another staple of Quidditch is commentary by local comedians. In the books, there is always a commentator narrating the progress of the games and muggle matches are no different. Each game was overseen by a team of two or three local comedians and improvisers. This kept the mood goofy and light despite the fact that the players were playing their hearts out on the field. One fellow attendee remarked that as the day went on, the jokes got worse, but Sue and I enjoyed the commentary for the five or six matches we saw.

One of the coolest parts of attending the Quidditch World Cup was meeting the other people there. The IQA tweeted that there were over 11,000 people in attendance just on the first day of the tournament. Of course there were family and friends of the players there, but a large portion of that number was comprised of Potter fans who had come out to enjoy experiencing a part of one of their favorite books in the real world, and sometimes even in costume! Everyone was sporting their house colors, myself included, and there were even some ghosts, dementors, and ministry of magic officials scattered amongst the crowd. It was like being at a very specialized convention, which made it very easy to meet new people. I was struck by how intelligent, expressive, and thoughtful the children that we met were. Not only had they read the books, but they had put a lot of effort into thinking critically about the story. One almost brought me to tears with her lauding of Harry’s willingness to sacrifice his life for his friends! Everyone was quick to reveal their favorite characters and which house they felt they belonged to, and especially whether or not Pottermore had confirmed their suspicions!

There were tons of representatives from various Potter merchandise venues in attendance. Allivan’s was selling wands, house scarves, brooms, chocolate frogs, and more. There was a Deathly Hallows shop selling various pieces of jewelry sporting the infamous symbol of all “believers.” Another tent was selling apparel from all of the various WizRock bands that were playing on the stage during the tournament. The IQA also had their own booth to sell t-shirts and official uniforms.
Our one complaint about the event was that they clearly had no idea how many people were going to show up judging by the amount of food options and locations they had. For all 11,000 visitors, there was a waffle truck and one food tent, which was especially frustrating because there was no re-entry allowed onto the grounds and no outside food was allowed inside either. While the IQA staff had done an amazing job of sending out a PDF with directions to the event, including a very nice menu of the food they would have available, it was a real chore to acquire any of it. Sue and I waited for two hours in line with hopes of scoring some hotdogs, a chocolate frog, and some butterbeer. However, by the time we reached the front of the line, we were greeted by some not-so-nice employees who had nothing left to offer but cold hot dogs and hamburgers. All the Potter themed cuisine was long gone. This did not cast a pall on the entire day, but it certainly was a downer.
It was a truly magical day when when it came right down to it. The spirit of camaraderie, fun, and competition was spellbinding. I left wanting to take to the skies on my Firebolt and I couldn’t stop talking about the event for weeks afterwards. Magic was alive and well on Randall’s Island but it wasn’t some mystical force. Just like Harry, I discovered that the most powerful magic that day was love- love for the books, for the friends we were sharing the experience with, and for the game itself.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Quidditch World Cup, you can view this amazing half hour documentary Produced by Boxer Films and Allivan’s Wand & Broom Makers, and Directed by Larry O’Flahavan.

Staff writer for Anomaly
Guest-host, Anomaly Supplemental
Photos by Anne and Sue
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1 comment:

Murph E. said...

I like your photo with the snitch. ;)