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UCLA Quidditch team flies to New York for World Cup

Third-year mechanical engineering student Alex Browne (facing) defends second-year undeclared student Eric Severson at a Quidditch practice in June. UCLA’s club Quidditch team traveled to Randall’s Island last weekend for the Quidditch World Cup and reached the quarterfinal round.

By Emma Coghlan

Nov. 16, 2011 1:40 a.m.

Shalev Netanel

The UCLA club Quidditch team practices by Wilson Plaza. According to team members, the sport has become more than the fictional game from the Harry Potter series. Quidditch has transformed into a serious athletic pursuit, as shown by the team’s trip to the Quidditch World Cup.

Every generation has something it’s known for, whether it be a style of music or a political movement.

Most agree that one title can capture pretty much everyone in the generation currently attending UCLA ““ “The Harry Potter Generation.”

“Everyone knows Harry Potter,” said third-year psychology student Asher King Abramson. “Even if they haven’t read the books, they’ve seen the movies, and they have an idea of what it is. Everyone knows Harry Potter.”

The UCLA club Quidditch team has pulled passion for the sport out of the pages of J.K. Rowling’s masterpieces. This past weekend, the team carried that passion all the way to the Quidditch World Cup at Randall’s Island in New York City.

Athletes from across the world attended, all hoping to hoist the cup in the air when it all ended.

The games lasted two days, with the first day consisting of preliminary pools of teams, the results of which decided what teams would then make it to the final bracket.

The Bruins, ranked 13th in the world before the games, made it into bracket play, and went all the way to the quarterfinals with wins over Southern California and Michigan State, before falling to the eventual champion, Middlebury.

Bruin Quidditch has grown quickly since Tom Marks, now a third-year Design | Media Arts student, started the team in fall 2009. Knowledge of the sport grew exponentially once a group was created for it on Facebook.

Now the sport is extremely popular at UCLA, with students donning its recognizable shirts all over campus. It is not uncommon to see a pack of three or four students carrying brooms around on days that the team practices.

Where this might have been a strange sight before, now it is just a part of everyday Bruin life.

As an athlete, one is told from a young age to behave with sportsmanlike conduct, but in every sport, every tournament, there’s someone who decides to break that, ruining the fun for everyone.

Not so in Quidditch.

According the Abramson and Marks, though the game itself is fiercely competitive, the attitudes off the field were those of the most sporting people they had ever met.

“Every single person was the nicest human being. We’d be playing and be competitive, but we still rooted for every team,” Abramson said. “Nobody took themselves too seriously. It was just kind of a giant festival of love.”

This lined up with the players’ predictions before the Cup ““ they were excited to meet new people and knew that, with the way Quidditch is played, there would be little room for people to go too far with their competition.

“It’ll be competitive … it’s a friendly game, though,” Marks said prior to leaving for New York.

The team had many instances in which they experienced the kindness of the other teams.

The game against Middlebury culminated in a controversial call. Instead of sitting around fuming while the referees deliberated, the teams started spontaneously playing Ninja and Duck, Duck, Goose.

Though everyone was the dictionary definition of sportsmanlike, it did not in any way take away from the heavy competition on the pitch. The team recognized that this would likely be the case before they left.

“People will be out for blood,” said alumnus Michael Mohlman, who graduated last year but still competed in the Cup. “It’s going to be super-competitive.”

Overall, said Marks, he was very happy with how his team performed. As in any sporting event, though, the World Cup came with its own fair share of controversy ““ in each of the team’s three losses over the course of the tournament, including the one in bracket play that knocked them out, an illegal snitch catch ended the game.

Abramson said that the team was able to see that strategies differed depending on whether teams came from the West or the East. He said they saw a lot of good examples of good passing game from the Eastern teams.

Although the Harry Potter books are the initial birthplace of the game of Quidditch, it has become much more than the fantastical game played by young Potter, morphing into a serious athletic pursuit for those who play it.

“Personally, I don’t even associate Quidditch with Harry Potter anymore,” said Marks. “But since we are the Harry Potter generation, it is what helps people want to play and helps bring us together.”

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Emma Coghlan
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