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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.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu. Alan Wong can be reached at alanwong@bu.edu.

53 Comments

53 Comments on Not Harry Potter? Not a Problem

  • JT on 11.13.2008 at 5:26 am

    This… is… AWESOME!!! PLEASE update the schedule on the website!!!

  • Anonymous on 11.13.2008 at 10:19 am

    where can I sign up???

    I’m totally psyched! Why didn’t I know this was on campus?? maybe we could get the science kids to design a way to make you guys fly… it can’t be that hard, right?

  • kcornuelle on 11.13.2008 at 10:54 am

    quidditch

    I have to say, this looks ridiculously fun… hagrid at the end, though, is hilarious!

  • Anonymous on 11.13.2008 at 3:36 pm

    hmm...

    This explains what I saw happening on the BU beach the other day…

  • LSU Keeper on 11.14.2008 at 3:56 am

    Clean up your game, BU

    Hey, BU quidditch. It was really fun playing against you guys at the World Cup, but you have a couple of “bad habits” that you should drop before playing again. The refs at Middlebury were useless at best and the following things from the video were major penalties that went uncalled:

    At the cup, I noticed your seeker was much too rough on the snitch. At 2:34 minutes left, your seeker pushes the snitch to the ground. You’ll notice the snith throws his hands up in a “wtf?!” gesture.

    Second, and this one is important because of the danger, you’ll notice at 1:50 minutes left, your keeper puts one of our chasers in a headlock and drags him to the ground. Not only is this highly illegal, but you can seriously hurt someone that way.

    I’m not trying to be petty–we make mistakes, too. I just want to make sure that all the games are fair, safe, and fun. The refs certainly didn’t have that on their priorities.

  • rogue Anonymous on 11.14.2008 at 4:34 am

    Great show

    You guys have a great go of it! I love it! The best is your not in front of a tellie. lol

    alabama
    USA

  • Anonymous on 11.14.2008 at 8:44 am

    old news, the unicycling community have been playing uni-quidditch since at least 2002.

  • Anonymous on 11.14.2008 at 9:18 am

    What a wonderful story

    Hey guys,
    This whole quidditch thing is FABULOUS! You did a great job. Can’t wait to find out a lot more. And, the unicycling quidditch team sounds really interesting!

  • Anonymous on 11.14.2008 at 1:48 pm

    T-Shirts

    Is there any way I can get a BU quidditch shirt???

  • Krystina on 11.14.2008 at 2:04 pm

    Hahahaa

    This is hilarious. But I thought the snitch was worth 100 points? Maybe I haven’t read Harry Potter in a while.

    I have to come see one of these games. This is amazing. Hahahahaha. Go BU Quidditch!

  • Mike Raleigh on 11.14.2008 at 3:32 pm

    Great video, and a great activity!

    This is good, clean fun. It’s nice to see people involved in positive activities and getting excercise.

  • Bakubear on 11.14.2008 at 3:35 pm

    This game sounds amazing.

  • I wanna play! on 11.14.2008 at 8:11 pm

    Snitch is worth 150 in the book, but as I’m sure it is hard to score very many the way they play, 30 seems reasonable

  • Andrea on 11.14.2008 at 11:03 pm

    Wow...

    Where can I watch a game around BU??

  • Jason on 11.15.2008 at 12:27 am

    WOW

    Dude. In a way that’s cool, but in another, it reminds me of D&D. But it’s still cool.

  • Anonymous on 11.15.2008 at 7:54 pm

    Wow, I thought I was lame!

    But this is REALLY lame!

  • Anonymous on 11.15.2008 at 8:18 pm

    this is amazing beyond all belief

  • Eva Sollberger on 11.16.2008 at 5:30 pm

    7Days Quidditch

    hey guys,

    wonderful video! this is the coverage I did on the same games:

    http://www.7dvt.com/2008quidditch-world-cup

    BROOMS UP!

    Eva in Vermont

  • Anonymous on 11.17.2008 at 8:27 am

    Quidditch?

    Meh.

  • Anonymous on 11.18.2008 at 6:35 am

    There is already a muggle quidditch. Its called football, or soccer.

  • Anonymous on 11.23.2008 at 5:14 pm

    A bit sad

    I love harry potter, but this is just plain sad

  • J.R on 11.25.2008 at 10:24 pm

    It's Nice to see everyone!

    Hello
    I Think it’s really nice to see Harry Potter’s
    Quidditch games being played.

    I hope you take it world wide!
    Everyone needs to play Quidditch in collage.
    or not in collage, let’s see the world cup being played.
    I would pay to see that!

    J.R

  • cwc on 11.26.2008 at 5:54 pm

    This would be a great sport if it was actually in the air, but these morons look silly running around with brooms between their legs…

  • Anonymous on 11.26.2008 at 10:25 pm

    that's harry potter with pants!!

    haha, very funny!

  • Anonymous on 11.29.2008 at 6:17 pm

    DORKS!!!

  • Patrick on 11.30.2008 at 7:38 pm

    Quidditch

    I really wanna play it looks awesome :) i hope i get to play it soon.

  • LemonFaerie on 12.02.2008 at 3:45 pm

    I would go back to college for this, I LOVE it! You guys are awesome, how fun is that? I have now told my kids that I will not pay for them to go to college unless they attend one with a Quidditch team. Cheers for bringing a little piece of Harry Potter to life, and to having good, clean fun while doing so. I’m going to Alivan’s to get my own broom!

  • Anonymous on 01.03.2009 at 1:59 pm

    how is it a “world cup” when it’s only played by one country?

  • Jenn on 01.08.2009 at 4:10 pm

    Great Article

    Hey what a great idea to expose such a cool sport and culture really. Sounds like a great time wish we all could have played in college. Awesome article, keep us posted for next year…

  • betsson on 02.03.2009 at 3:13 am

    I would like to play a sport so much fun :) Thanks for video.

  • Jason on 02.04.2009 at 11:42 am

    Great Article

    If to comment this educational post I must admit that I have recently made a profound research. Anyway thanks for good info.

  • Anonymous on 02.17.2009 at 2:46 am

    omg

    this is the biggest tragedy to come to sports ever. once again, nonathletic people are making up new sports in order to try to fit in. (sigh) in order to make up a new sport one must be good at a real sport.

  • concerned on 03.01.2009 at 4:01 am

    Time to Lawyer up

    Next to Apple, J.K. has been #1 for taking her fans to court over harmless fun like this. They better offer her a sacrifice of the t-shirt sales, or she may just sue everyone involved.

  • Anonymous on 03.17.2009 at 7:40 pm

    God bless you. This may be the most freakin ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen. I’m also a little frightened. Haha.

  • Anonymous on 03.18.2009 at 12:09 am

    Yeah, my high school has a Q club. I was in it for a few weeks, even went to a practice. But I quit it.

  • Wow on 03.25.2009 at 9:43 pm

    Thank Christ I went to school somewhere else. Also glad I spent my college education on valuable things like getting laid, drinking, and getting valuable experiences (i.e. President of my Student Class). Not being the Quidditch grand poo-pa.

  • Anonymous on 04.22.2009 at 9:18 am

    JHall is the best quidditch player alive

  • Anonymous on 04.22.2009 at 6:52 pm

    I WANT TO PLAY!! This looks AMAZING!!! Like the coolest thing EVER (and I’m 17)!!

    Just inspiring.

  • Anonymous on 07.14.2009 at 3:32 pm

    Jesus H. Christ, am I seeing what I think I’m seeing?

    This is awesome, hilarious and slightly worrying all at the same time!

  • Marcela on 07.14.2009 at 3:47 pm

    Quiero jugar!

    Quisiera saber mas al respecto…. me encantaría jugarlo… existe este deporte extremo aquí en México???

    Alguien me puede mandar las reglas por escrito? quisiera organizar un torneo con todos mis amigos!!

    Fabuloso! no lo puedo creer, mi sueño hecho realidad

    Gracias Harry!!!! XD

  • Anonymous on 07.14.2009 at 3:50 pm

    noseeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

  • Anonymous on 07.22.2009 at 4:46 pm

    any chance we can see you guys practice ?

    love the idea.
    Any chance you can post your practice schedule ?
    would love to watch you guys practice.

  • Anonymous on 08.02.2009 at 12:58 pm

    oO Great that they are

    oO
    Great that they are getting some exercise, but still.. Running around with a fake flying-broom between your legs..
    damn.. get a life

  • green your business on 10.30.2009 at 2:16 am

    playing Quidditch would be every kid’s dream. nice that harry potter has given rise to cute fantasies and wishes.

  • Anonymous on 11.04.2009 at 2:50 pm

    Snitch

    Fantastic:
    “the snitch [..] is just a fast dude [..] with a tennis ball in a sock around his waist”
    I would love to see footage of the snitch running around with seekers behind him.
    Can’t wait to play myself!

  • Simon on 11.10.2009 at 3:59 pm

    whow!!!

    EXCELLENT!!!!! why didn’t I came up with an idea like this?
    any new schedules???

    thanks!
    - Simon -

  • Anonymous on 11.28.2009 at 10:36 pm

    the dude from BU was hot.

  • jenny on 02.22.2010 at 5:03 pm

    Awesome

    I want to play Quiddish !! Amazing ! casino sans telechargement

  • Anonymous on 07.01.2010 at 11:46 am

    To all the people that are calling them dorks or unathletic:

    Why are you being so derisive? They are having fun, getting exercise, and celebrating something that they enjoy and makes them happy. Why should it matter to you if they are happy doing something that you would not personally enjoy? It doesn’t affect you at all, so why in the world do you find it necessary to criticize and degrade them?

    Look at yourselves, come on. Have some maturity.

    Maybe Quidditch isn’t something you would personally partake in, that’s fine, but it is completely unreasonable for you to be so haughty and derogatory. So what if they don’t share the same interests. Do you feel superior when you spit out half witted insults at them?
    If you have a problem, do something productive about it, instead of flinging hurtful remarks and lashing out judgments.

    Honestly.

    Anyway, I think it’s wonderful that BU has a Quidditch team. It looks really fun!

  • Joyce on 08.19.2010 at 8:20 pm

    Quidditch Tournament

    Come play for kids charity at Southern New Hampshire University one day during Columbus Day weekend 2010. Get your team together now. You have Monday to recover.

  • BU Quidditch on 11.20.2010 at 10:08 pm

    BU Quidditch T Shirts

    For the person that asked about BU Quidditch shirts, you can find them here: http://www.cafepress.com/mugglequidditch/7487212

  • Jamal Jenkins on 07.18.2011 at 10:05 am

    Oi Oi

    I’ll be watchin this if nobody nicks my smibbly bibbly, I will!!

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