Story Idea: Quidditch Fast Becoming One of College’s Hottest Sports

The Daily Kansan described the sports match-up in three words, each getting their own sentence: “Rivalry.  Competition.  Broomsticks.”  The article by Kansas University student Hannah Wise previewed a recent “Border Showdown” between KU and the University of Missouri.  As the last word of Wise’s opening description hints, the sport is not one most people associate with intercollegiate athletics.

Along with football, soccer, field hockey, and cross country, many students are competing this fall within the wide world of Quidditch.  Among the many phenomena the Harry Potter book and film series has spawned– a theme park, post-Potter depression, the Pottermore website, HP fan fiction, and Daniel Radcliffe’s film career– perhaps none is quirkier and currently en vogue than Quidditch.

The sport, based in fiction, is catching on among real-world students at an astonishingly high number of schools globally.  Students play on the ground instead of in the air, but dutifully take on the various roles described in JK Rowling’s books including keepers, seekers, chasers, and beaters.

In a UPIU report last spring, University of Tampa student Cristina Valcarcel-Lopez described Quidditch “as a sport combining elements of rugby and basketball; the exception: players are running with a broomstick in between their legs.“

All rules are adapted from the books simply to ensure “muggles” can participate “without magic’s contribution to the game.”  At times, these adaptations can be tough for non-HP fans to follow.

For example, in a report last spring,The Mirror at the University of Northern Colorado explained how “the golden snitch” is utilized in the human version of the game.  “Because enchanting the ball to fly on its own is not an option, there is one player dressed in all yellow hiding and running from the seekers,” Mirror staff writer Samantha Fox noted.  “The game ends when a player gets the tennis ball in the sock stuck into the back of the snitch’s pants.”  Got that?

According to Valcarcel-Lopez, college Quidditch is roughly six years old.  It sprang to life in Vermont.  Middlebury College students formed the first intramural league and the International Quidditch Association.

Currently, hundreds of teams have formed at schools in almost every state and more than a dozen countries.  A Quidditch World Cup is held.  The NCAA recognizes the sport.  And rivalries have begun to form, including between KU and Mizzou.

And so it was that on a recent Saturday the Kansas Quidditch squad defeated the upstart Missouri team (playing for the first time off campus) in an epic three-game match.  Playing before “Potter fans young and old . . . in witch and wizard robes,” KU employed its superior speed and aggression to win convincingly.  Among the cheers, perhaps the best was the one voiced repeatedly by the referee.  As he screamed simply to both squads to start each game, “The snitch is loose!”

What do you think?  Are students playing Quidditch at your college or university?  Will matches be shown one day on ESPN or held in gigantic stadiums?

For additional reports on campus trends, check out my USA Today College column Campus Beat.

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