“quidditch, anyone?”

This is one sport for which I might sit in the bleachers. Just to see how the game of “Quidditch” is played in the real world, not J.K. Rowling’s fantasy land, would be worth the price of the ticket, I think. According to Jilian Mincer’s Wall Street Journal article today, Quidditch was first played in 2005, with brooms that didn’t fly. So how did the players mimic the “real” thing? “…race around in capes and goggles with broomsticks between (their) legs, while shooting balls through mounted hula hoops.” I’m not sure I could keep myself from laughing, although I’m sure I’d try if I was surrounded by die-hard fans.

In a couple of weeks, on November 13 and 14, sixty college and high school teams will compete for the “Quidditch World Cup.” Where it once was held on the Middlebury College campus in idyllic Connecticut, the games will now be held at a park in Manhattan, the Big Apple. ” ‘Our hope is that it will be a real coming out party for the league,’ says Alex Benepe–one of the sport’s founders and president of the newly formed nonprofit International Quidditch Association. It’s now played at hundreds of schools, he says.”  Benepe is convinced that ” ‘A lot of sports’… have ‘become more like work. Quidditch is just about playing a game. It’s just about having fun.’ ”  Valerie Fischman, however, has other plans.

Fischman, “who plays Quidditch at the University of Maryland, would like to see it go much further. She’s been finding out what needs to be done to get the sport NCAA status. That, she says could ‘be a stepping stone’ to becoming an Olympic sport.” According to the NCAA, “40 to 50 schools need to sponsor a varsity sport for it to consider sponsoring a national championship. The most recent sport to gain such status: women’s bowling.”

Kristen and Aimee Howarth, twin sisters at Texas A&M founded a Quidditch team. Initially, it was met with cynicism by other campus organizations. While skeptics remain, more are coming around because of the game’s physicality. “The co-ed game isn’t for the timid–pushing, tripping and some tackling is allowed.” Evidently there were some broken bones at last year’s World Cup. “Ziang Chen, a sophmore at Purdue University, started a team there last year after seeing videos of the sport. ‘When I saw how brutal the sport is, I thought I would like to try it,’ says the former high school football player.”

Registered World Cup teams hail from “Ivy League Yale to football powerhouse Ohio State. Some get school funding, while others are unofficial squads, scrambling to find equipment.” NYU sophmore Sarah Landis met with 60 other students to get up a team in time for the World games. ” ‘We all secretly wanted to play this sport since we read about it’ in the books,…’ ” A resourceful person, she purchased $3 brooms at a nearby Halloween store. Others wanting more upscale equipment can go to Alivan’s website where the “Scarlet Falcon” sells for $59 and the “Sienna Storm, “$79. The company is proud to be the retail source for “the official broomsticks of Intercollegiate Quidditch. It also notes its brooms ‘do not fly.’

As in years past, bystanders on the sidelines will be owls and wizards. But this year they will be joined by entertainers, some who regularly play the subways. Part of the game’s whimsy is the “spray-painted plastic trophy cup” on which the “winning team gets its name written…with a Sharpie pen. …” And while Aimee Howarth worries that if Quidditch becomes too intense that it might lose some of its whimsical roots, Mr. Benepe doesn’t think the game’s magic will ever disappear. His long-term goal is to get “students of all ages to play.” Sounds like a noble cause. Hopefully the professionals and money managers won’t infiltrate this fantastical game of child’s play, removing all the fun, making it all about the almighty dollar.

quidditch, hugs for preserving the fantasy…hugmamma.