Saturday, October 21

Quidditch without the magic

Bludgers? Check.

Quaffle? Check.

Golden Snitch? Check.

Toss in some broomsticks, and you are now ready to play the sport that was introduced to Harry Potter in his first year at Hogwarts and the sport that is now sweeping college campuses across the nation: Quidditch.

Watching a Quidditch match unfold on a field, you may notice a few differences between the game in the real world and the game that has been so vividly portrayed in the “Harry Potter” novels and movies of the last decade.

For starters, the Quaffle ““ the ball that points are scored with ““ is just a volleyball, and the balls thrown at the opposing team, called Bludgers, are just red kickballs.

The Golden Snitch must be, as per the rules, a person with endurance, agility, attitude and size, preferably a cross-country runner, dressed in yellow, with a tennis ball attached at the waist, that can run around with no regard to the boundaries of the field and do as he pleases to avoid being caught.

Oh, and there’s also the all-too-obvious fact that there is no flying in this game.

But that does not mean there are not any broomsticks. Page 9 of the official Intercollegiate Quidditch Guide and Rulebook, a 50-page opus with rules and regulations too complicated to fully explain, states:

“(The broom) is the most essential equipment item of the game. All players must hold the broom between their legs at all times. No forms of artificial attachment are allowed. You must hold it with one hand or grip it with your thighs. Any play made without the broom in place is an illegal play and will not count. Any broom is allowed for intramural or scrimmage competition, but the standardized broom for Intercollegiate Competition is the Scarlet Falcon or the Sienna Storm.”

This is what has come to be known as Muggle Quidditch. The same game that J.K. Rowling introduced to the world in her first “Harry Potter” book, adapted for Muggles, the wizarding world’s term for those who lack magical abilities.

And with the help of some very devoted fans, it has caught on ““ especially at college campuses in the U.S.

The Intercollegiate Quidditch Association is the governing body for all things involving Muggle Quidditch.

Founded in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont, the IQA maintains the rule book, keeps track of teams across the country, and has started holding an annual Quidditch World Cup. At last count, the IQA listed 226 member schools on its Web site, with 24 of them holding official “World Cup” status.

UCLA is currently not a member school, but it might be very soon. First-year Design | Media Arts student Tom Marks has started the campaign to get Quidditch recognized as a sport on campus.

Marks, who says he heard about the game from a friend of his attending Middlebury College, contacted the IQA shortly after moving to UCLA, received the rule book, and started rounding up people to play.

“I had never played Quidditch before the first time we played here,” Marks said. “I spread the word amongst my friends who are mostly first-years so those are the people that came. We have 10 people who are always there when we play, and another 20 or so who come on and off.”

So far, the team has been able to play at the Sunset Canyon Recreation Center on weekends. The games are near IQA standards and involve nearly all the equipment, including hoops, brooms, and of course: the Snitch.

Marks is hopeful that UCLA will one day start playing other IQA schools in matches, including local schools such as Moorpark College and Occidental College, but said there is still some work to do before that can happen.

“It’s not going to be for a little while,” Marks said. “We are going to need better equipment, which includes lacrosse goggles, mouth guards, and stronger brooms, as we have already broken two.”

The top schools in the IQA compete in the Quidditch World Cup, which is held annually in October at Middlebury College.

Almost all of the schools that compete in the World Cup lie east of the Mississippi River, but one can be found just up the Pacific coast from UCLA: the University of Washington.

Alicia Radford, the president of the Quidditch club at Washington, said that on occasion, nearly 200 people come out to play Quidditch at the school.

The club, in its second year, is trying to start an inter-school league, and the school even assembled a team for the 2008 World Cup within a month and a half of the tournament.

Radford added Quidditch caught on quickly at Washington because it’s different.

“People come and watch because it’s, well, kids running around with broomsticks between their legs,” Radford said. “But I think what helps Quidditch stick is that once people try it, they realize it’s actually a pretty athletic sport, and it’s easy to pick up the rules.”

The popularity of Quidditch at Washington is an indication of why the game is catching on at college campuses.

People that have seen the game played in all its splendor at Hogwarts come out to play it because it is almost like living a dream, yet proves to be tough and requires skill at the same time. The sport has also been thriving off the fact that it is quirky and different, an alternative to traditional sports.

But will it catch on at UCLA?

“I hope it does, for sure,” Marks said. “Anyone I talk to about this immediately gets excited and says they want to play, so I think it has a chance to get really big.”

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