Quidditch Invasion

By Caitlin Opperman

Just when we all thought the Harry Potter hype had died down, college students worldwide have picked up brooms to join the quidditch craze sweeping the nation. Inspired by the books of J.K. Rowling, students have transformed this magical sport into a muggle phenomenon. The first informal college quidditch league was formed at Middlebury College in 2006 by Xander Manshel, then a freshman. After a year of intramural play, Manshel passed the baton to his friend, Alex Benepe. In 2007, Benepe formed the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association which has since expanded to include 179 college and 30 high school teams across the United States and abroad.

Member colleges range from east coast ‘Ivies” to state schools, and even include nearby Carleton College.

The association hosted its first quidditch match between Middlebury College and Vassar College on November 11, 2007. During the following spring break, Benepe and the Middlebury team went on a northeast tour to promote the sport, and received coverage from CBS, MTV and ESPN.

“The press is essentially for us a mass communication tool,” Benepe said. “And it works. Intercollegiate quidditch began less than a year ago, and right now there are almost 200 teams registered all over the country and for some teams, around the world.”

The rules of quidditch are fairly simple. Each player must keep a broom, held with one hand, between his or her legs at all times. The human snitch, a cross-country runner representing the little golden ball, is set free to run the campus. Fifteen seconds later, each team’s seeker sets off in hot pursuit of the snitch. Meanwhile, on the field, three chasers from each team navigate the field, volleyball-sized quaffle in hand, to score points by shooting through elevated hoops. The hoops are defended by the keeper. Beaters, two per team, circle the field, aiming dodgeballs at the chasers to prevent scoring. The game ends when the snitch, worth an additional fifty points, is captured.

If you think this sounds silly, you’re not alone. Not only has opposition come from the Facebook group “Middlebury Quidditch Must Be Stopped,” but some Macalester students aren’t hot on the idea either.

“The whole point of quidditch is to fly,” Jordan Vesey ’12 said. “If you can’t fly, you’re deluding yourself and essentially living in a fantasy world, which is childish.”

Benepe is very aware of quidditch criticism.

“Every day that it grows I have to focus a lot on balancing the idea of it. Is it tongue and cheek? Is it too silly? Is it becoming too serious? As it grows, it begins to change, and it is a tough balancing act trying to keep it somewhere in between. That’s mostly because I have to work really hard at it, so essentially I am working very seriously at creating something really ridiculous,” Benepe said.

Nevertheless, quidditch supporters abound.

“It rekindles the childlike spirit in all of us,” Mollie Hudson ’12 said.
This spirit is what drives Benepe to keep the league running.

“My favorite thing about organizing the sport? The incredulous, gleeful, wonderfully childlike look on people’s faces the first time they see a human snitch streak across the elliptical field with two broomstick mounted runners in hot pursuit, Benepe said.”

Currently, Macalester does not offer quidditch as an intramural sport, but a league is in the process of forming.

“People on my floor have talked about starting a league,” said Gaby Deal-Marquez ’12, a Turck 1 resident. “I think making a quidditch team would further unify the student body. It’s a very active campus, and I think a lot of people would be interested.”

It is unclear if multiple teams would be formed on campus to compete solely against each other, or if a club team would also be formed to compete with other colleges in the Midwest area-a step that would add Macalester to the national roster of the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association. Whatever the setup, quidditch is on its way.

“Turck 1 is going to have the best quidditch team on campus,” said Valencia Whitehurst ’12, a quidditch enthusiast and Turck 1 resident. “We’ve already ordered a rule book. It’s on like Donkey Kong!”

While you’re waiting to hop on the field with your broom, you might consider attending the Intercollegiate World Cup at Middlebury College on Sunday, Oct. 26th, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“There will be full uniforms, bleachers, hot food, entertainers, musicians, exploding potions, banners, flags and tents galore, and more,” Benepe said. “Anyone is welcome to come!”

Whether or not you attend, it appears quidditch is here to stay, so brooms up!