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Quidditch for Muggles

May 16, 2008 at 4:02 pm
By Margaret Taylor '10

We’ve finally found an off-season use for broomball brooms (and it’s not for keeping the Lyman Lake geese at bay). Over the midterm break, Carleton held its first-ever Quidditch tournament on the field behind the Rec Center. The broomball paddles were part of an adapted set of rules for us Muggles who, sadly, don’t have flying brooms.

Earth-bound Quidditch saw its debut at Middlebury College in 2005. The Intercollegiate Quidditch Association, founded in Middlebury, has 105 member schools and is continuing to expand. The airborne parts of the game have been replaced by real-world analogs. Instead of flying around on their broomsticks, Quidditch players must run around with the broomball broom between their legs like a hobby horse. As a consequence, they can only use one hand to deal with the ball, just like in wizard Quidditch. The goals are hula hoops. The bludgers don’t have a mind of their own, of course, so they have to be thrown by members of the opposing team.

And the snitch? He’s a guy from the track team named Pete Rose ‘11. He dressed all in yellow for the game, and had a sockball tucked into his waistband. To capture the snitch, the Seeker must chase him down and grab the sockball.

When opening hour arrived on Saturday morning, a crowd of enthusiastic Quidditch player hopefuls gathered behind the Rec Center. Some had already formed groups (with team names like Drunken Dementors and the Musser Snitch Snatchers), while some students hoped to join in on any game. The tournament coordinators arranged a match between the Musser Snitch Snatchers and a pick-up team to start off the morning.

The Carls donned color-coded jerseys to designate their team position. Then they trooped towards opposite sides of the pitch. The referee went over a last-minute rundown of the rules. The players were all required to drop their brooms on the ground beside them and close their eyes. Once nobody was looking, Pete, the snitch, took off. The closed eyes prevented anyone from figuring out which way the snitch went and ending the game too quickly. Once Pete had disappeared over the horizon, play began.

In actual practice, earth-bound Quidditch is a bit like soccer, a bit like Rotblatt, and a bit like Calvinball. The players looked incredibly awkward as they lugged brooms across the field, but they managed to pick up speed anyway. The Chasers passed the quaffle from person to person. Meanwhile, the Beaters did their best to take the Chasers out by throwing bludgers at them, and the keepers defended the hula hoops. Gameplay flowed from one end of the field to another, but there was still no sign of the snitch.

Then he appeared in the distance, on the edge of the Arb. At first the Seekers didn’t notice. Then the mad dash began. The hunt for the snitch has no regard for out-of-bounds, so the Seekers chased after Pete across the field and down into the Rec Center parking lot. There was a brief scuffle behind some bushes, then the Musser Snitch-Snatchers’ Seeker came running back, sockball held up in victory!

“It was a bit anticlimactic,” said Pete afterwards. His sockball wasn’t attached properly, so it fell out when he made a sharp turn and the Seeker picked it up.

The ending did little to dampen the Musser Snitch Snatchers’ spirits though, who took home the day with 160-10 points and celebrated with a rambunctious team huddle.