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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Legitimacy of Quidditch

Published: April 26, 2013
Section: Opinions

When most people hear that Quidditch, the fictional sport in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, has been adapted for real world play, they are skeptical and mocking. Many think that Quidditch players are not true athletes and cannot be taken seriously. As a player of the sport myself, I have to say that the naysayers are incorrect. Not only is Quidditch one of the more dangerous and intense sports out there, but it’s also a lot of fun. Yes, we straddle brooms; that fact only adds to the difficulty and danger of the sport we Potterheads love.

Just like in the books, there are seven players on a team and four different positions: three chasers, two beaters, one keeper and one seeker. The chasers’ job is to put the quaffle (a slightly deflated volleyball) through any of the three hoops on the other side of the pitch to score 10 points. Standing in the chasers’ way is the other teams’ chasers, all of whom are trying to steal the quaffle by any legal means necessary—including tackling. Also in their way are the other team’s beaters. The two beaters from each team fight for possession of two of the three dodgeballs, which are known as bludgers. If a player is hit with any of these, they must dismount their broom (which must be between the legs at all times) and run back to their team’s hoops. If you’re hit while holding the quaffle, you must drop that too. The idea is that if you were actually hit with one of these while flying in mid-air, you’d likely fall off your broom. Running back to the hoops simulates the time it would take for you to remount and get back in the air. The keeper is essentially the team’s goalie but can also act as a chaser if necessary. This point-scoring aspect of the game is intensely physical. Quidditch is the world’s only full contact co-ed sport.

The other components of the game are the seeker and the snitch. The snitch is not a tiny magical flying ball, but a human being. This person dresses in yellow with a tennis ball in a glorified yellow sock attached with velcro to the back of his/her shorts. The snitch is also usually trained in cross-country running, and in some cases, in martial arts. The seeker’s goal is to not only find the snitch, but to catch the ball attached to the back of his or her shorts. Only acquiring the snitch will end the game, earning that team 30 points, often making the difference in close-played games.

How is this a legitimate sport? Well, different aspects are very similar to other sports already in existence. The chaser/quaffle position can be compared to either football or rugby. It is closer to rugby because there are no plays; the game is constantly going. It’s also full-tackle, which is difficult in a co-ed environment. In addition, the goals are much smaller than in either rugby or football, linking the scoring much more to basketball in its precision. The beater position could perhaps be called a more intense version of dodgeball, and a keeper is similar to a soccer goalie. Comparing a seeker to anything is hard—there really isn’t any sport that incorporates long-distance running, evasive tactics, large-scale hide-and-seek, tackling, grabbing and dodging: that’s how complex it is. Quidditch is essentially a compilation of some of the world’s most intense sports, and on top of that, we do it all one-handed—the other hand is almost always holding the broom. The broom makes for more dangerous tackles and plenty of possibilities for broom-breaking.

Not long ago Jimmy Fallon bashed the sport of Quidditch, which recently held its 6th World Cup in Kissimmee, FL. He tweeted: “The Quidditch World Cup is this weekend. Fans say it’s fun, while their parents say, ‘When are you gonna move out of the house?’” Reactions to his words from the Quidditch community were heated, to say the least. One pro-Quidditch commentator invited Fallon to practice with the Quidditch club at Virginia Commonwealth University to see if he has what it takes to play the sport.

Quidditch is not just a group of nerds running around on broomsticks. We’re a team of athletes who share a common love for sports and Harry Potter. We find ourselves having to be athletic in ways most don’t imagine, and we do it with a passion. Next time you see the Quidditch team practicing on Chapel’s Field, don’t just roll your eyes; instead wonder if you have what it takes to join us.