Holy snitch: Quidditch possibly coming to Emerson

by Beacon Staff • April 16, 2008

Now he's one of a number of students who are trying to bring the game of muggle quidditch to Emerson.,Sophomore Juan Perez was recently scouring the pages of MuggleNet, a fan Web site devoted to all things Harry Potter, when he stumbled across a video depicting a non-magical version of a popular wizard sport.

Now he's one of a number of students who are trying to bring the game of muggle quidditch to Emerson.

"It looks like fun, having all your friends get together [to play]," the writing, literature and publishing major said. "After all, we do have a large Harry Potter fan base."

Quidditch, in the Potter lexicon, is a sport stylistically not unlike soccer. Each team has seven players that fly on brooms while attempting to throw a ball through one of the opponents' three elevated rings.

However, in order to adapt the sport for the muggle, i.e. non-magical, world, players simply hold the brooms between their legs.

Perez has been a fan of the Harry Potter book series since it first debuted in America in 1998. He said the quidditch scenes in particular were some of his favorite parts of the novels, and muggle quidditch offers a good chance for Potter fans to experience the game themselves.

"We could maybe have a pick-up game some day, advertise it and see how many people we can get to come out," Perez said. "To start a team...we only need seven players."

On March 31, MuggleNet posted a link to a video by mtvU, a division of MTV available to colleges across the country, detailing the recent popularity of intercollegiate quidditch matches across the country. The clip included footage of a match between Princeton University of Princeton, N.J. and Middlebury College of Middlebury, Vt.

Perez said that the mtvU video gave him the idea to contact the Emerson Athletics Department to pursue the idea of quidditch at Emerson.

"People didn't really respond to things like dodgeball here, so what else can we do?" Perez said. "The school needs more crazy sports to get people interested."

Emerson volleyball Head Coach Craig LeTourneau, who organizes intramural activities for the Athletics Department, said he thinks the idea would be well received by the Emerson community.

"I think it could thrive at Emerson," LeTourneau said. "We'll put out a feeler and try to get a grasp on what kind of numbers we'd get. It's a fun idea, and I've had contact from kids already."

In fact, Perez isn't the only student interested in getting muggle quidditch off the ground. Katie Peters, a member of the women's lacrosse team, is one of a group of students that has organized a game that will take place on Boston Common on April 27.

Peters, who also got the idea from the mtvU video, said she and her friends approached her floor's Resident Assistant, Nick Griffin, and asked if it was possible to get funding from the Office of Housing and Residence Life for brooms and capes. The group received the necessary funds and also managed to secure t-shirts with the help of a friend.

Peters, a freshman digital post-production major, said that she was surprised that so many students were receptive to the idea of muggle quidditch at Emerson.

"I had thought that people would just mock us for being huge Harry Potter dorks, but most people I tell about it are really interested," Peters said in an e-mail. "They ask a lot of questions and generally think it's awesome."

Over the past few years, muggle quidditch has grown considerably around the country. The idea was the brainchild of Alex Benepe, a student who organized quidditch matches at Middlebury and now serves as the commissioner of the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association.

Information packets supplied by Benepe show that as of March 31, 105 schools in four countries across the globe have organized quidditch teams. Apart from the United States, the game has also been set up at colleges in the United Kingdom, Canada and Argentina.

The game of quidditch is both complex and physical. In the version of the game played in the Harry Potter books, there is a keeper, who acts as a goaltender; three chasers, who try to throw the ball through the rings; two beaters, who defend the rings by batting two other balls at the opposition; and a seeker, whose sole job it is to catch the golden snitch. The golden snitch is a tiny gold ball that moves extremely quickly; when the snitch is caught, the game ends.

Aside from holding the brooms, some other rule changes were made for muggle quidditch. A volleyball is used as the scoring ball, while the beaters use dodgeballs.

The most important rule change, though, involves the snitch. Instead of a tiny golden ball, a person is dressed up in all yellow and a tennis ball is stuffed into a sock and attached to the snitch's rear, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey style. The seeker's goal in muggle quidditch is to catch the snitch and grab the sock to end the game. The snitch, however, has the freedom to run wherever he or she chooses outdoors and within the college grounds, making the chase tougher for the two seekers.

Perez said that he intends to start the sport at Emerson in the fall, most likely on the intramural level. If response to muggle quidditch is strong, he said he would look towards joining a league and competing against other colleges.

One of the biggest obstacles that stands in the way of getting the sport running at Emerson is finding a place to play. The game is an outdoor sport and requires a field.

"All you need is a big field, but I don't think we can do it on Boston Common," Perez said. "Other schools have courtyards and such. It will definitely be played outdoors-that's probably more fun and safer."

LeTourneau said the school would need to apply for a permit in order to play muggle quidditch permanently at a set location. He listed Boston Common and the Field at Rotch Playground as possibilities.

As far as cost, LeTourneau said that there would need to be a meeting to discuss all aspects of price, and that a small sign-up fee may be necessary in order to supply enough funding for brooms, volleyballs, dodgeballs, tennis balls, scoring rings and field time.

Although Emerson is only in the initial stages of getting muggle quidditch established as an intramural activity, Peters said that one day, she hopes to see it available as a competitive sport for students.

"I hope that we can garner an audience of Emerson students and other Bostonians to come watch," Peters said. "The more publicity we get, the quicker quidditch can become a legitimate college sport."