Muggles, start your brooms! The International Quidditch Assn. is hosting the Western Cup, a real-life Quidditch tournament, in Los Angeles this weekend. Replacing capes and sorcery with cleats and athleticism, 11 college teams from all over the West Coast will compete in this rough-and-tumble contact sport ripped from the pages of the “Harry Potter” saga. The event is Saturday and Sunday at Cheviot Hills Park. The action starts each day at 10 a.m.
Since the game of Ground Quidditch began in 2005, this unlikely intramural sport unites a mish-mash of muggles (non-wizards), ranging from devout Potter nerds to able-bodied jocks who haven’t even seen the movies. Nowhere is Quidditch’s growing popularity more apparent than the annual tournament circuit, including the IQA’s World Cup, slated for November in New York City this year.
“It’s grown exponentially over the years,” said UCLA student Harrison Homel, 21, the Western Cup’s tournament director. “We had 45 teams at least year’s world cup. The first year there were three.”
Altogether, more than 120 players are participating in the Western Cup this weekend. Originating at Middlebury College in Vermont, the rules of the game are adapted from the J.K. Rowling novels, with a few major differences. The most obvious of which is the fact that instead of flying with brooms, players must spend an entire game running with brooms between their legs. The second is that the “snitch,” that flying golden orb that each team is trying to capture to win the game, is replaced with a real life person dressed in gold who spends most of the game running, dodging and wrestling its potential captors, or “seekers” to the ground.
“You’re pretty much guaranteed at the end of a game of Quidditch to be bruised up a little bit,” said Spencer Gold, 19, a video game production major and team captain for USC.
Combining elements of dodge ball, capture the flag and water polo, the promise of dogpiles, eye pokes and face shots are ever present. Surprisingly, there are a lot fewer, er, groin injuries than people would think, Gold said, even though players spend the entire game with a broom handle between their legs.
Players stress that the love of the game is what keeps them coming back.
“If we weren’t on brooms, it would be a sport like any other,” Homel said. “But one of the things that the sport engenders is a sense of the ridiculous. You have to be able to laugh at yourself to get out and do what you’re doing.”
The Western Cup is a family-friendly event, free and open to the public, and features several Potter-esque sideshows throughout the weekend, including a children’s Quidditch game and a performance by Santa Monica wizard rock band (yes, you heard that right) The Remus Lupins.
Among the teams competing this weekend are Arizona State University, Emerson College, Moorpark College, Occidental College, San Jose State University, UC Berkeley, UCLA and USC. Club teams, including the Silicon Valley Skrewts and Utah’s Rocky Mountain Ridgebacks, are also preparing to throw down. As you can imagine, the Trojans-Bruins rivalry is not taking the weekend off. But Gold and Homel said that getting this tournament off the ground did require a spirit of unity engendered by the love of the spellbinding wizard franchise.
“The incredible thing about this sport is that it has kind of tapped into the effect that ‘Harry Potter’ has had on our generation,” Homel said. “Everyone who grew up within five years each way of my age bracket grew up with ‘Harry Potter.’ It’s an equalizer and something everyone can rally around.”
– Nate Jackson
RECENT AND RELATED