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Ben Kochman | The Wackness

Q and A with the Quidditch Commish

Published: Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Updated: Thursday, November 3, 2011 19:11

 

Next weekend, "The Wackness" will take a magical field trip to one of the wackiest competitions in the world: the Fifth Annual Quidditch World Cup.

Yes, Quidditch. Based on the flying-broom sport from the "Harry Potter" series, muggle Quidditch involves two teams competing to throw a deflated volleyball — or "Quaffle" — into one of three goals, while each team's seeker pursues a human "Snitch," usually a cross country runner or wrestler dressed in yellow tights with a sock-and-ball tucked inside. 

Around 100 teams from as near as the Tufts Res Quad — the practice area of the Tufflepuffs, who shocked the Quidditch world with a run to the finals last season — and as far away as Finland will put brooms between their legs and flock to the two-day Cup, held Nov. 12-13 at Randall's Island, N.Y.

In anticipation of the historic event, I spoke with International Quidditch Association Commissioner Alex Benepe last week. Here are some excerpts from our interview:

Ben Kochman: Why do people play Quidditch? 

Alex Benepe: I'd say that it's around 50 percent who play it for the sake of trying something new that looks fun, and then it's 25 percent who are really hardcore "Harry Potter" fans and want to relive the books, and then another 25 percent are super-awesome athletes who burned out on regular sports and want to try something new.

BK: Is Quidditch a legitimate sport? 

AB: To me, the term legitimate sport is hard to define. It's a relative term. I think it will definitely be a sustainable sport. I think that it's actually more exciting to watch than most sports when it's played at a high level, mostly because most sports have only one ball, and when you watch a championship Quidditch match played with two teams of serious athletes, and they're dealing with four balls instead of one, it's a lot more action. 

BK: I've heard you're not a die-hard HP fan. Are these allegations true? 

AB: It's true. I've read the books, watched the movies and definitely like the series a lot, but I'm not like a crazy fan about it. I would probably suck hard at Harry Potter trivia.

BK: Middlebury has won the Cup every year. Is this the year in which they are finally dethroned? 

AB: There are a lot of teams this year that stand a very good chance of winning. I know for a fact that Middlebury's top players all graduated last year and won't be coming back, so we'll see what happens.

BK: You have a signature look, with a suit, scepter and top hat. What are the origins of your persona?

AB: If you have a sport where people are running around on brooms, I feel like naturally people might feel a little silly about that. So I think that it's important for the person who's at the head of it, the leader of it, to be willing to dress up a little bit too.

BK: As the HP books and movies keep getting older, how can Quidditch keep growing?

AB: We went to an elementary school this past fall, and every single one of the kids there had read or seen "Harry Potter." So I think if elementary schools are still into it, I don't think you're going to see knowledge of "Harry Potter" dying down.

BK: You're single, right? [Right.] What kind of response do you get from the ladies when they find out about your job?

AB: It's a wide variety. Some people are really into it. If they haven't read "Harry Potter" than they really don't know what it's about. One thing I've learned is to never assume who is or is not a "Harry Potter" fan. Sometimes the last person based on your initial impression will end up being a "Harry Potter" fan and sometimes people who seem like they obviously would be are not actually fans.

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Ben Kochman is a junior majoring in English. He can be reached at bkoch.tufts@gmail.com or on Twitter @benkochman.

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