Quidditch World Cup in New York

99 Problems, But a Snitch Ain’t One

quidditch shirts photo

Living in New York has taught me one thing above all else. When it’s sixty degrees in November, SEIZE THE DAY. Go outside and enjoy that warm sunshine, because this day could be last balmy day for five months. This Sunday was one such day, too warm to spend inside. Sandwiched on NewYorkology.com between walking tours and string quartets, one listing stood out: free Quidditch World Cup.

Dude, I am so there.

Despite having read (and re-read) all of the Harry Potter books, I didn’t know quite what to expect from live quidditch. Two blocks away, I heard cheering.   Though the atmosphere was jovial, I quickly realized that these quidditch players weren’t joking around. Even though they ran around on brooms and often in capes, these players want to win as much as any other athletes.

Emerson quidditch team photo

Quidditch could best be described as a cross between soccer, dodge ball, and basketball. With three referees, one snitch runner, seven balls and fourteen players running around on brooms, quidditch is organized chaos. On each team, three chasers take the quaffle and score ten points by throwing it through the opposing team’s hoops. Two beaters throw bludgers (dodge balls) at opposing players, who must retreat to their end of the field when hit. Each team has a keeper defending the hoops. Players wear colored bandannas to denote their positions, as only the seeker can chase the snitch.

But how to replicate the snitch? In Harry Potter’s world, the snitch was a flying ball with a mind of its own. In the world of muggles, the snitch is a quick, agile runner dressed in gold, with a ball dangling from the back of his waistband. One “snatches the snitch” for thirty points by taking the ball away from the snitch. Easier said than done.

the snitch runner photo

The snitch can fight back without being called for a foul. I witnessed snitches running out of the park, running through other matches, and generally taunting their seekers. One particularly entertaining snitch–the first snitch, ever–repeatedly took down seekers who were a foot taller and forty pounds heavier. According to the Savannah Quidditch League, an ideal snitch is a “cross country running ex-wrestler who loves quidditch.” Bonus points if they’ve taken clown classes.

Quidditch is a surprisingly brutal sport. Chasers with quaffles in hand were frequently tackled. These tackles were not the flag-football variety, but full-contact tackles where someone ate astroturf. All teams were co-ed, and women tackled and were tackled just as roughly as men. No player ever stopped running.

Unlike the fictional version, live quidditch matches usually only last about twenty minutes. Teams line up in front of their hoops. The announcer commands to the teams, “heads down, eyes closed.” The snitch runs and hides, to appear later in the game. At “brooms up,” the teams are off and running. Each quaffle goal is worth ten points, and snatching the snitch is worth thirty points and ends the game. If the teams are tied after the snitch is caught, a three-minute overtime decides the winner. The game moves quickly, and could change in an instant.

I’m hooked. As a spectator, that is. I’d get run over on that field.

Quidditch World Cup poster photoLeave it to a generation that grew up with Harry Potter to bring this game to life. Never did I think I would see quidditch played live, outside of some show at the Harry Potter amusement park. To quote the poster of the Quidditch World Cup, “We hold no illusions about magic, yet consider that anything is possible.”

Congratulations to Middlebury College, the 2010 Quidditch World Cup champions. I’m already looking forward to 2011.

Middlebury College 2010 Quidditch World Cup champions photo

Here are the rest of my photos from the 2010 Quidditch World Cup Final.

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