MIDDLEBURY - Cor blimey! It's Midd Quidd!
A historic event is set for Sunday on the Middlebury College campus when a team from Vassar challenges the host in the first-ever intercollegiate World Cup Quidditch Tournament. No fewer than 12 Middlebury squads will battle one another earlier in the afternoon for the right to vie with Vassar. Hundreds of Harry Potter fans are expected to attend the matches, inspired by the fictional game described in J.K. Rowling's seven-volume epic about the boy wizard.
Almost anything goes under the Quidditch "rules" developed by "Middkid" Xander Manshel. "There's nothing governing physical conduct," notes Chris Free, a Middlebury sophomore and Quidditch enthusiast. "Foul play is definitely encouraged."
Free says he joined the weekly intramural Quidditch matches played at Battell Beach, a grassy campus expanse, because "something about it is just so ridiculous and impossible that I had to do it."
The version of the game that evolved at Middlebury over the past two years is now played at a growing number of colleges around the country, but the rules are different at each. A Quidditch team consists of seven players, usually outfitted in wizard wear at Middlebury, who try to throw a Quaffle (volleyball) through gold-painted hula hoops mounted on tires. At the same time, Beaters on each team are hurling Bludgers (red playground balls) at their opponents in hopes of hurting, or at least distracting, them. Under Midd rules, the players must keep a wooden broomstick wedged between their legs as they race around the pitch, roughly the size of a football field.
Alex Benepe, a sophomore from Manhattan, acknowledges that running is a poor substitute for flying. He notes that broomsticks do not allow for the airborne action Rowling recounts.
At $59 for the Scarlet Falcon model, enchanted broomsticks don't come cheap. In fact, it's costing the Middlebury Quidditch Association about $5000 to stage the World Cup competition. The college has kicked in a $2000 share for equipment and festoonery, with many of Middlebury's roughly 300 Quidditch regulars fundraising the rest.
The actual Quidditch World Cup isn't among the more expensive items. It's made from a gilded vodka bottle. Matches start at noon Sunday and run till 5 p.m. The event is free.