Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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Quidditch balls, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

There is a new sport to be found on college campuses this year; Quidditch. Yes, you read that correctly! This is an earth-bound replica of the airbourne game invented by JK Rowling in her Harry Potter books. As in the books, the teams are coed, and have the same number of players as Rowling’s teams (seven), playing the same positions (three Chasers, two Beaters, one Keeper and one Seeker). The one unique touch is that the Golden Snitch is a ball that hangs in a sock from the shorts an individual who is usually from the cross country team. This individual is selected based on his or her fleetness of foot and agility, and s/he runs around campus and only has to return to the Quidditch pitch once every ten minutes. After a fifteen-second head start, the Seeker can follow the Snitch anywhere s/he goes.

There’s more below the fold, including a video;

To play earth-bound Quidditch, brooms are required, leaving only one hand available, making the game harder as you chase the game ball, a slightly deflated volleyball.

Each team has seven cape-clad players, consisting of three chasers who throw the ball among them as they work down the field. If they get it through one of three circular goals (hula hoops on poles), the team scores 10 points.

At the same time, two other team members fling around dark balls called bludgers in an attempt to distract and knock over opposing players. When a player is hit with a bludger, s/he must drop any ball s/he is holding and run around to her/his goal zone before s/he can make any more plays.

Seekers try to catch the most elusive ball, the Golden Snitch (pictured, right). In the Rowling books, the Golden Snitch is a small ball that flies about independently. In real life, it hangs in a sock from the shorts of a player selected for fleetness and agility. As in the books, the Snitch disappears for periods of time, reappearing on the field to shrieks of the crowd. The Snitch player has a much larger boundary than the others, often covering a large part of campus. Seekers are the only players who can follow the Snitch. Catching the Snitch is worth 50 points and, as in the Harry Potter books, once the Snitch is caught, the game ends.

There are already seven colleges that have official Quidditch teams; Middlebury College, Vassar, Bucknell University, Tulane, Oberlin, Washington state’s Whitman College and Vermont’s Marlboro College.

Interestingly, some prospective students have chosen which college to attend based on the presence of their Quidditch team, according to Middlebury’s dean of admissions Robert Clagett, who gets positive reactions when he mentions the teams in information sessions on campus and on the road.

Not surprisingly, the game is catching on among parents, as well.

“I sent him off to Vassar, and never once did I realize he would ascend to such greatness,” says Saxon Elliott of Northampton, Massachusetts, mother of freshman Conrad Schott, 18, who headed up the Vassar Quidditch team. In fact, she made the pink capes worn by the New York team.

Predictably, because they’ve grown up with the entire Harry Potter saga, the students love the game.

“Of all the things I’ve done in my four years at Middlebury, this is by far the best,” says Ellie Molyneux, 21, a psychology major from Worthington, Massachusetts, who played for the Bad Ass Muggle Flyers. “I won a Jell-O wrestling contest one year, but this is far better.”


USAToday (quotes)

Wall Street Journal


  1. #1 Polonius
    November 28, 2007

    Quidditch on foot is no challenge! You want unicycle quidditch.

  2. #2 SabrinaW
    November 28, 2007

    That is incredibly cool! I give kudos to the people who adapted it for Muggles.

  3. #3 SmellyTerror
    November 30, 2007

    Good to see they’ve changed the scoring.

    The problem with Quidditch in the books is that it’s a dopey sport. Catching the snitch is supposed to be worth 15 goals (these guys have made it 5). It’d require an utterly overwhelming effort from one team to get 15 goals ahead. In any game between even remotely equivalent teams, whoever catches the snitch, wins. That makes the rest of the team and most of the game almost completely pointless.

    Which is fine when your entire world is built to make one particular character look good, but not so great for a sport that people might like to try (as here, or in computer games).

  4. #4 Alison
    November 30, 2007

    Do you mind if I put a link to this on my Live Journal page I think my friends would get a kick out of it.


  5. #5 Leukocyte
    November 30, 2007

    This is also played informally at the University of Georgia, using frisbees, I think, as the game ball and kickball-type balls as the bludgers. If you get hit by a bludger you have to spin in place. The Golden Snitch is a person wearing a golden shirt and carrying a cellphone so that he/she can call the referee when he/she is “caught” in order to end the game. No brooms involved, as far as I know, but pretty creative all the same.

  6. #6 Frank
    November 30, 2007

    Unicycle quidditch? Bah. Australian rules indoor quiddich is the real challenge.

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