In between games of Quidditch, players stood around regaining strength while discussing the new Hobbit trailers. One player remarked on the lack of dragons in the cut, a good point considering the dragon would likely play a large part in the film.
Then it struck me: Watching people play Quidditch is like a fantasy world… without dragons.
No one is especially athletic on the UNCG club team, but the mix of skills needed to play a game based on a sport in Harry Potter novels does not require normal athleticism.
Harrison Prince explained, “There are two types of teams: serious, athletic teams and fan clubs. We kind of mix the two.”
The rules were simple: Keeping a broom handle between your legs, you run with a ball and try to score on three different standing hoops. Also, defenders can hit you with a “paralyzer” ball and send you back to your own goal. And if you drop the broom, you have to go back to your own goal. Oh, and goals were worth 10 points. And at some point a character called the “snitch” comes out and if you take his/her tail, your team gets 30 points and the game ends. So if you are down by more than 30, you don’t want to catch the snitch.
Wait, maybe the rules are complex.
My knowledge on Harry Potter books could have already filled a thimble with a hole in it, and now I feel even dumber than before. Had I missed a nursery rhyme about snitches’ tails? Why is dodgeball so prominently involved?
I think my biggest questions were actually simple: How did all this start? And how does one get into the sport?
Craig Supples pointed out the nascence of the concept. “We’ve been a team for five years. Jackie Ross, now graduated, founded the team as an intramural sport, but we soon starting getting funding from the school as a club team.”
“We recruit at the beginning of the year,” Prince said. “We go to freshman orientation sessions, and update several social media sites. We set up tables at UNCG events.”
Prince and Supples both talked at length about the sports’ foothold in Southern universities. “Duke used to be good. Chapel Hill and App State are good. NC State had some administrative issues, but they kind of started this whole thing,” Supples said.
NC State’s team had to take volunteers from UNCG to compete, as they did not travel with enough players to field a team. There were more than enough UNCG players to fill the gaps, but the match felt like a game of catch amongst friends more than an event that kept score.
When players made mistakes or took bad shots, rarely a damning voice was raised. Praise scattered from the sidelines as both teams encouraged their players. The first game of the day had two evenly matched squads scoring back and forth. NC State lost their best players, as one volunteered to ref the match and another came in late to be the snitch.
The most interesting part of the Quidditch experience involved the snitch — the game within the game.
In the Potter books, the brooms would sustain the majesty of flight, so snitches would likely be involved in beautiful aerial interplay. In reality, the two teams sent out representatives that were seemingly happy getting toppled to the ground again and again.
The snitch used any means to maintain his tail other than full-on head or neck violence. It’s like tossing competitors around like a wrestler combined with dancing like a boxer to avoid a compact left hook. Meanwhile, teams still played around them — scoring goals and lobbing awkward, one-armed passes to even more awkward one-handed catches.
Even great athletes might struggle in this sport. Likely, the world will never know.
The players had no tricks, other than to run as fast as they could and throw with all the control that the sport would lend them. It wasn’t pretty, but UNCG and NC State both won a match before settling into nice, long conversations about what brought them there and how fun it is to chase tails.
No dragons came, no magic occurred. No one flew.