In the middle of last summer, I went with a bunch of Klane’s coworkers for drinks after one of their softball games. His friend Colin showed up a bit late, and said he had been at a Quidditch match. I was floored that there are actual Quidditch leagues, and eagerly asked Colin about it. He then revealed that there were not only local Quidditch teams, but a whole official International Quidditch Association, with hundreds of teams across the world. I was shocked and delighted to learn this. And then, he told me that there was going to be a World Cup (!!!!) in November and that it was going to take place in NYC (!!!!!!!!). I was unbelievably excited and immediately put it in my calendar, knowing that this event was something I absolutely HAD to witness.
(For those who are confused, Quidditch is the magical sport played by witches and wizards in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. It’s a fast-paced sport played 50 feet above ground on flying broomsticks, involving four balls, seven players on each team, and three hoops at each end of the pitch. Harry Potter fans have adapted the sport to be played by muggles, or non-magical folk.)
Finally the day arrived, and on Saturday we walked across the bridge to Randall’s Island to take part in the 2011 Quidditch World Cup! As we climbed the small slope approaching the fields, we could hear music and cheering. Then we started to see tents. A whole camp was set up with tons of tents where all the players were camping out – it was just like the books! Then, as we passed the campsite, our view opened up and we could see the large, sweeping fields below, thousands of people and nine Quidditch pitches, with the East River and Manhattan skyline in the distance. It was a sight to behold! I was unbelievably excited!
The atmosphere inside the grounds was amazing. There was something fantastic to see everywhere we looked. Hundreds of people wore Gryffindor scarves and hats of striped red and gold, and many had Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, or Slytherin paraphernalia as well. Some had robes, wands and brooms. Music blared from a stage across the grounds, where a wizard rock band sang a song about “potions, dancing, hexing and romancing.” Quidditch teams marched through the crowd, singing, chanting and waving flags with their mascots on them. On every pitch, fast-paced games were taking place, the players holding regulation-sized broomsticks and wearing jerseys with crossed broomsticks or snitch logos and things like “Villanova Quidditch League”, “Kansas Quidditch” or “Carnegie Mellon Quidditch” written on the front. It was so awesome!
It just made me incredibly happy to see so many Harry Potter fans out having a fun time. There were definitely the people who seemed to be taking things a little too seriously, if you know what I mean, but overall, most people seemed to be just having fun with it.
We checked the schedule and found out that a game between Kansas and the University of Utah was about to start, so we went down to pitch 4 to cheer on our home state. Utah’s team was extra energized, cheering and hyping up the crowd.
I was surprised how fun it was to watch the sport. It’s a legitimate sport, with real rules and referees and everything. They got improv comedians to commentate the matches, which made for some great entertainment as well. It was so fun to watch! This particular match was really intense, and ended unexpectedly when Utah caught the snitch a split second after Kansas scored a goal which tipped the score, causing Utah to lose the game. It was crazy!
Oh! And the Snitch! That was one of the highlights of the game. In the books, the Snitch is a magical little golden ball that flies around, and the Seeker catches it to end the game and win their team 150 points.
In muggle Quidditch, the Snitch is a person dressed in yellow, with a small ball attached to the waistband of their shorts (similar to flag football). At the beginning of the game, all the players close their eyes and the Snitch runs off the pitch and hides somewhere. The Seekers have to go out and find it, and once they do, they all run back to the pitch and try to steal the ball from the Snitch.
The Snitch is allowed to do pretty much anything they want in order to avoid capture, including grabbing the Seeker’s broomstick and spinning them around in circles, wrestling take-downs, dressing in disguise, or shooting silly string in the Seeker’s face as a distraction (all of which were tactics we saw used in play). It was absolutely hilarious to watch. The Snitches were so great and would really taunt the players and work the crowd. One of them was running circles around the pitch getting the spectators to do the wave, while also dodging the Seekers’ attempts to catch him. They were very entertaining.
The commentators were also hilarious. They obviously knew their stuff about Harry Potter, and they kept coming up with the funniest advertisements.
“And now a word from our sponsors. Do you suffer from adult onset acne? Try dipping your face into a cool bowl of Dumbledore’s memories, in the Penseive! It’ll cure all ills!”
“Have you ever wanted to split your soul into seven pieces? Don’t waste your soul on an unreliable Horcrux like a living person. Try putting your soul into a newer model – a shiny new ipod shuffle!”
“Are you a young boy whose mother used the power of love to save you from the world’s most powerful dark wizard when you were a baby? Do you like jelly beans that make you fart? Don’t bother with those whoopie cushions, come on in to the Weasley’s sweet shop for all your farting jelly bean needs!”
They had us positively rolling with laughter. Half the time they weren’t even commentating the matches, and then they’d be like, “Oh, and there’s a bludger to the face for Kansas. What’s the score, anyway? 30 to 10? Oh, 80 to 20? All right, 80 to 20 folks, and keep your eye out for that golden Snitch.”
After the Utah vs. Kansas match, we met up with some of Klane’s work buddies. Some of them had braved the 90-minute-long concession lines and gotten food, like giant turkey legs. We watched a few matches together and walked around the fields. We even played around on some broomsticks left on a field between matches. It was a good time.
I had pretty high expectations for how awesome the day would be, and my expectations were far exceeded. It was SO. AMAZING. The lines between fiction and reality were blurred, and several times I found myself thinking within the fictional world of Harry Potter, only to remind myself that “Oh yeah, the books aren’t actually real”. For example, at one point I could have sworn I saw the Patil twins, but then I had to remind myself that the Patil twins are not actual people, just characters in the books. It was crazy.
I am so glad we were able to go to this event! Maybe next year we’ll get the weekend pass, for both days and the championships (it’s a two-day tournament). It was such a fun way to spend the afternoon, and just so great to escape from reality for a few hours and enjoy some good clean fun. I loved it!
P.S. and here’s a little video to give you a peek into what it was like: