Not Harry Potter? Not a Problem
BU Quidditch team faces toughest opponent: gravity
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Click on the video above to see scenes from the Intercollegiate Quidditch World Cup and hear members of BU’s team describe the sport.
Katie Stack has been enchanted with Harry Potter and his magical escapades since the fourth grade. She spent hours reading the series and reenacting the boy wizard’s adventures with her friends.
She is in college now, but Stack (CAS’11) continues to live out her childhood fantasies. She plays Quidditch, the international sport of the wizarding world, which has players zooming around on broomsticks and using balls to score points and knock one another off course.
The earthbound variation is called Muggle Quidditch. The sport originated in 2005 when a student at Middlebury College adapted the game for the nonmagical world. Its popularity quickly spread, and today more than 150 colleges throughout the United States have Quidditch teams.
Sean Culleton (CAS’10) founded the BU team last spring, and by this fall the sport had taken off. The team holds scrimmages every Sunday afternoon on the BU Beach and in October competed against 11 other schools in the second annual Intercollegiate Quidditch World Cup, held in Vermont, at Middlebury.
“The entire season has been leading up to this event,” says Raven Villegas (CAS’12). “The World Cup is the ultimate Quidditch experience, and I’ve been dreaming about it for months.”
While the wizards in the Potter series play Quidditch on flying broomsticks, Muggles (author J. K. Rowling’s word for nonmagical people) run holding a broom between their legs. It’s a lot harder than it looks, and just as awkward, says Stack, who is team captain while Culleton is studying abroad.
“We’re a small, kind of ragtag group,” she says. “Not everyone has brooms yet, so some people play with Wiffle bats or lacrosse sticks. And we only have two hoops. You’re supposed to have three on each end of the field.”
As in the fictional game, each Muggle Quidditch team has seven players: three chasers, two beaters, a keeper, and a seeker. Chasers score points by throwing a quaffle, or volleyball, through one of three hoops (worth 10 points) while trying to avoid bludgers, or dodgeballs, that are thrown by beaters. (If chasers are hit by a bludger, they must drop the quaffle.) The keeper’s job is to protect the three goalposts, while the seeker must capture the snitch — a sock stuffed with tennis balls carried by a person (typically a cross-country runner) dressed in gold. Capturing the snitch nets an additional 30 points and ends the game.
The big game
After a night of heavy rain, the morning of the World Cup dawns clear and cool and students clad in colorful capes and bearing shields and banners crowd the Middlebury campus. The tournament kicks off with a small parade. As the bells from Mead Chapel clock tower chime the familiar notes of the theme of the Potter movies, 12 teams quickly cut across campus to Battell Beach, where two very muddy Quidditch fields await them.
Stretched out on the bleachers, chaser Mike Platco (CFA’11) watches the first few matches. “The competition really doesn’t look that bad,” he says. “I don’t think there are any superstars out there today. And I think the mud will work to our advantage, because it will slow people down.”
Before its first game, the BU team gathers in a large white tent to plan strategy for the match against Emerson College. “Seekers, make sure you know the score before you grab the snitch,” Stack says. “If we’re behind by more than 30 points, just concentrate on keeping the other seeker away. We don’t want to end the game if we’re not going to win it.”
“Remember,” adds Villegas, “if you’re not muddy, you’re not playing hard enough.”
At the first chords of the Dropkick Murphys’ “I’m Shipping Up to Boston,” the BU Quidditch players burst from the tent and sprint around the field, sneakers sloshing through the mud. Seconds later, the Emerson team barrels onto the field, fists waving in the air. Warily eying their opponents, both teams hover over their brooms as Middlebury snitch Ryan Scura disappears into the crowd.
“Brooms up!” an announcer shouts, and the game begins.
Clutching the quaffle in one hand and broom in the other, Platco dashes across the field, an Emerson beater at his heels. Skillfully dodging a bludger, he stumbles and awkwardly hurls the quaffle toward one of the gold hoops as he plunges into an enormous puddle. As the quaffle sails past the keeper and through the goal, Platco’s teammates erupt in jubilant cheers. BU has scored its first 10 points.
The competition quickly intensifies as Emerson scores 30 points and BU another 20. With the score tied at 30-30, the methods of attack grow ugly as players shove, trip, and tackle one another in a desperate quest for the quaffle. Moments later, snitch Scura reappears on the field, his gold uniform glowing as he does a quick handstand before darting among the other players. With BU seeker John Hall (CAS’11) in hot pursuit, Scura runs backwards, twisting and turning as he expertly evades Hall’s reach.
When Emerson’s seeker joins the chase, Scura tucks his chin into his chest and slams into Hall, snatching his cape and knocking him into the mud. Snorting, Hall rushes after Scura, who teasingly shakes the scarlet cape like a matador before sprinting for the bleachers. But capture is only seconds away. As Hall and the other seeker close in on him, the snitch spins and falls under the bleachers. Both seekers pile on top of him, but when it’s all over, Emerson’s seeker victoriously clutches the tennis ball–filled sock, and BU falls 30-60.
Despite the loss and their sodden uniforms, the BU players are pumped. “It was so much fun — we were tackling everyone!” Abdullah Al-Mutairi (SAR’11) says breathlessly. “We were fierce!”
“I think I left my butt somewhere in the field,” Villegas says, examining her mud-streaked legs. “That was way intense.”
Wiping her sweaty brow, Stack tosses her broom on the ground and grins at her teammates. “It was a really close game,” she says, “and we almost had it. I’m confident that we’ll win the next round.”
Out, but not down
After a brief rest, the team wanders to the sidelines to take in the theatrics that extend beyond the playing field. Costumed spectators, jugglers, stilt walkers, and unicyclists roam the crowd, and a Middlebury chemistry professor gives an exploding potions lesson. Several owls, courtesy of the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, hoot and flutter in their cages, while on the far side of the field, two farmers walk a pair of alpacas.
An hour later, BU is back on the field, this time facing Louisiana State. The game goes quickly, and the score is only 10-10 when Scura skips onto the field and pelts seeker Andria Metz (CAS’11) with gold water balloons. The scuffle between snitch and seekers is short, and in the end, no magic can save BU from falling to LSU, 10-40. The team is eliminated from the tournament.
“It’s disappointing,” Stack says, “but I think we played well, considering this was our first major game. It was definitely worth the four-hour drive to get here, and I’m already thinking about next year.”
As is Villegas. “We’ll come back stronger than ever,” she says. “Just give us another year.”
Middlebury College won the Intercollegiate Quidditch World Cup. Vassar College came in second, and Chestnut Hill College placed third. For more information about Boston University Quidditch, visit the team’s Facebook page. Check out the video above on BU Today‘s Facebook page.53 Comments