Quidditch team comes to Tufts
Published: Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, October 21, 2009 08:10
Tufts' newest sports team is perhaps its most unorthodox.
Started this semester, Tufts' Quidditch team adapts the magical sport depicted in author J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series into one playable by mere "muggles."
The newly founded team held its second-ever practice on the Residential Quad last Saturday. It consisted of a series of intrasquad scrimmages between two sub-teams, the Chudley Cannons and Puddlemere United. While the names of the sub-teams change weekly, they are always taken from the Potter series.
Unlike the wizards in Rowling's novels, Tufts players do not have the luxury of flying broomsticks, nor do they use magic of any kind.
"It's basically an adopted version of the game from the books," said junior Molly Newman, headmaster of the team's parent organization, the Harry Potter Society.
Every position from wizard Quidditch is represented in its land-based, muggle counterpart.
Four Chasers per side must score the Quaffle, a volleyball, into a hoop, while the Keeper defends against them. Two Beaters per team throw Bludgers — dodge balls — at the Chasers. If hit, Chasers must drop the Quaffle and run back around their own goal before rejoining play.
The "Golden Snitch" — in Rowling's books a tiny, winged, golden ball that darts about the field at high speed — actually takes human form in the muggle version. A cross-country runner wearing all yellow plays the part. The Seeker can "catch" the Snitch and end the game for 50 points by grabbing a flag from the runner's hip, as in flag football.
Wearing a whistle, a crimson robe and a tie sporting the colors of Harry Potter's own Gryffindor House, team founder and captain Michael Walker refereed Saturday's match.
Walker, a junior, said he is not taking the Quidditch concept too seriously — for the moment anyway.
"For now," he says, "the idea is just to get our dedicated fan base." About twenty students attended each practice, many of whom belong to the Harry Potter Society.
This attitude is inspired not just by a spirit of inclusion, but also a need for extra players. A Quidditch team contains seven players but substitutes are a necessity, Walker said.
"It's a lot more tiring than you'd expect," he said. "You underestimate how tough it is."
The combination of soccer, dodge ball and hide-and-seek — all while holding a broomstick between the legs — can be overwhelming to the novice. It is not uncommon to see substituted players lying on the ground, gasping for breath.
"Quidditch is a game of stamina," Newman said.
But the team's organizers invite students of all skill levels to rough it out on the ResQuad.
"They really want everyone who wants to be here to be able to come," sophomore Quentin Lott said.
The team abides by the official rules issued by the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association (IQA). The IQA is headquartered at Middlebury College in Vermont, where students first created the terrestrial version of the sport in 2005. The college will also host the Third Annual Quidditch World Cup on Oct. 25, with 26 colleges and universities planning to attend.
Though Tufts' team will not attend the competition, Walker hopes eventually to take the team to the World Cup when it has developed a sufficient following. "If we have a core that's good and wants to go [to a World Cup], I want to go there," Walker said.
Next semester, Walker said he hopes to scrimmage teams from other Boston-area schools. Harvard founded a Quidditch team this semester, and Boston College, Boston University and Emerson College also have teams.
The Tufts team is currently not funded by the university, as it needs to be officially recognized as a club sport in order to receive money. As a result, the team currently uses borrowed chairs in place of hoops, and any proposed travel would also come at a cost to team members. Walker and Newman said the team will seek official recognition when their activities require travel.
At the moment, though, the muggles who make up Tufts' Quidditch team are just focused on having fun. "It's great to be both nerdy and athletic," freshman Jed Silver said.