Bringing fiction to life

The British sport gaining popularity on U.S. college campuses isn’t cricket or soccer, it’s Quidditch – Muggle (non-magical human) Quidditch, to be precise. The Intercollegiate Quidditch Association (IQA), run by Alex Benepe of Middlebury College, has more than 100 participating schools.

The IQA was started in fall 2005 by Benepe’s friend Xander Manshel, who adapted the rules from the game portrayed in the Harry Potter books and headed the IQA in its first year.

The challenge of adapting Quidditch is one of the reasons they started playing.

“The way the author wrote this game, people are flying on brooms and the balls are all magical balls. The Snitch has wings,” Benepe said. “It was more of a challenge of how can you make this really fantastical game into real life.”

This year the IQA was officially made a club at Middlebury.

“Right now I organize matches at Middlebury and do a lot of networking on a nationwide basis to help other schools get their leagues started,” Benepe said.

Benepe has also typed up a free version of the IQA rulebook as well as advice on the sport. He sends the documents by e-mail to any schools that request information.

Ohio University is one of the latest schools to start a team. Taylor Evans and Brian Goren decided to start a Quidditch team after a stressful night of studying for exams in March.

“We were laughing about it saying, ‘let’s play Quidditch,’ and then we realized there was no way,” said Evans. “Then my roommate found there is Muggle Quidditch and then we were like, ‘let’s do it.'”

They are not part of the IQA, but hope to become an official intramural team at their school. Their Facebook group has nearly 200 members.

Because the sport is derived from a game in which players ride on broomsticks and chase flying balls, adaptations had to be made.

Since Muggles can’t fly, the participants play with brooms in between their legs, but these brooms aren’t ordinary kitchen booms. Benepe said they get the brooms from Alivan’s ( Alivan’s is a Harry Potter merchandise seller that sells everything from handcrafted wands to broomsticks and stationary. The brooms are priced from $32 to $79.

The Quaffle, a large leather ball that is thrown through hoops for points, has been replaced with a volleyball. For every goal, the team is awarded 10 points. The two Bludgers, balls that are supposed to be made of iron and used to knock players off course, are two red playground balls.

The magical Golden Snitch, which has wings, darts around the field and needs to be caught in order to win, has been replaced by a cross-country runner with a ball attached to his or her shorts.

“You (the Snitch) can run around campus and the Golden Snitch gets released a minute earlier,” Goren said. “It is a basically a foot race around campus.”

The game ends when the Seeker, whose sole job is to hunt for the Golden Snitch, obtains the ball and earns his or her team 150 points.

The game has garnered a lot of attention from the press. Muggle Quidditch has appeared in USA Today, and featured on MTVu, CBS, and Sportscenter.

Benepe said that Facebook and word of mouth have helped increased the popularity and knowledge of the game.

“You want a lot of people to take it seriously, not like a big joke, because it can be a really fun game,” Goren said.

Benepe said that the game isn’t as competitive as other sports and is more about having fun.

“I think it is very popular because it’s entirely lighthearted,” Benepe said. “In order to organize it and make it happen you have to take it very seriously, but at the same time you don’t take it very seriously at all. At the end of the day … it’s very much about having fun.”