While real-world Quidditch might lack the magic of its fictional inspiration, it makes up for it with determination, heart and just a smidgeon of violence.

In the Harry Potter universe, nothing summarizes wizard society’s utter disregard for the well-being of their fellow man – both magical and non-magical – than Quidditch, the national sport. It’s kind of like Polo for the suicidal. The game takes place fifty feet in the air, and, just in case gravity doesn’t get you, there’s a pair of enchanted iron balls flying around, intent on shattering any ribs they may come across. The sport is insanely dangerous and, during the course of the books, produces some horrific injuries. So, quite naturally, people are playing it for reals.

Established back in 2007 by a trio Middlebury College students, the International Quidditch Association has organized numerous friendly Quidditch matches and four world cups. The last Quidditch World Cup, held in November of last year, enticed over 10,000 spectators into New City’s Dewitt Clinton Park to watch 750 players from 46 different colleges – including a team from the notoriously fancy-pants Johns Hopkins university – play the once fictional sport. It’s also the subject of a documentary, quite charmingly titled “Brooms Up.”

The event itself seems to inhabit the grey expanse halfway between Live Action Roleplaying and sport. The game rules are mostly faithful to those detailed in the books, albeit with a few concessions to the laws of physics and basic health and safety standards. Instead of flying, players run around with a broom – or in one case, a Swiffer-mop – between their legs and are penalized should they drop it. The bludgers aren’t made of iron, nor do they fly around the field hunting players like terrifying spherical terminators. The game ending golden snitch is no longer a tiny winged ping pong ball, but an actual person dressed in yellow tights, tasked with evading other players at all costs and “by any means necessary.” In a bizarrely quite touching segment Rainey Johnson, the original Snitch, discusses the cost of Snitchdom. “The Snitch is the inherent loser in Quidditch because the match is not over till the Snitch is caught,” he says to a gaggle of potentials. “So we have a common bond in that. Everybody else has a potential to be a winner today and tomorrow, we are just here to please the crowd and to lose.”

The documentary clocks in at about half an hour, and is certain to please Harry Potter fans and people-being-brutally-knocked-to-the-ground aficionados alike.

You may also like