As spectators crossed the East River over the weekend they were greeted by vendors selling all things magical, the smell of turkey legs and teams from five countries playing a muggle version of the wizard and witch game of pop culture legend.
The Quidditch World Cup was hosted on Randall’s Island in Manhattan through November 12 and 13. This world cup, the fifth of its kind, hosted over 108 teams from five countries—the U.S., Canada, Finland, Argentina and New Zealand.
The Stony Brook quidditch team was eliminated in the preliminary round, winning one game out of the three played on the 12th and losing their final game the next day.
Stony Brook’s first match at 10 a.m. last Saturday was against Michigan State, ranked 15th overall and 3rd in the Midwest Region. Stony Brook, significantly outranked at 46th overall, held up well during the beginning of the game, but quickly lost their tenacity. Michigan caught the snitch, a 30-point boost to a team’s score, to win the game 140-70.
During their second match at 3 p.m. against Villanova, ranked 10th overall, Stony Brook faired slightly better. While the game reminded the audience that quidditch is classified as a full contact sport, Stony Brook’s planned strategy fell apart.
Gameplay was fairly unorganized with players on both sides remaining unguarded. Several penalties were called against Stony Brook throughout the game, one of which was never explained by the referee. The game stood at 50-30 until Villanova caught the snitch to make the final score 80-30.
“They wouldn’t let us play,” said Co-Captain Daniel Ahmadizadeh after the game in reference to the penalties.
For the final match of day one, Stony Brook faced off against Virginia Tech at 7 p.m. Livid after their first two losses, Stony Brook took Virginia Tech by storm. It began with the snitch, a neutral player who does not belong to either team out of fairness, mooning Stony Brook’s seeker, Jason Caballes.
The match was by far the most physical of all the Stony Brook matches at the cup, with gameplay stopping at least twice for injuries. In one instance, a Virginia Tech chaser wearing shiny gold spandex shorts was brought to the ground in pain after being accidentally hit in the chest by the blunt end of a broom.
Stony Brook remained ahead for the majority of the game. The score stood at 130-30 before Virginia Tech caught the snitch in a self-sacrificial move; they caught the snitch knowing they would lose because that would be a better outcome than potentially getting scored on further and suffering a loss in rankings. Stony Brook won the game 130-60.
With their record at 1-2 by the morning of day two, Stony Brook entered their final match with the University of Minnesota Twin cities, ranked 81st overall. The match determined which team would continue to the next round of competition.
The game was based much more on evasion and sprinting, opposed to the physicality of the first three. The weight of potential elimination gave the game a much more intense atmosphere. It lacked the edge of humor that most quidditch games carry—the caveat to this being the snitch who decided to put a banana peal on the quaffle, the ball used for scoring.
Minnesota caught the snitch to end the game with a final score of 50-40, eliminating Stony Brook from the Cup.
According to Ahmadizadeh, Stony Brook expected to beat Minnesota, but still believed them to be a very good team. He mentioned his offense not pulling through as one of the largest contributing factors to their loss.
Middlebury College—the originators of muggle quidditch—won the World Cup overall, beating University of Florida. They continue to be ranked number one in the world and have only lost one game ever in their history.
Stony Brook quidditch will continue to train through the winter for other upcoming tournaments. They will also be hosting the Northeast Tournament on Saturday, March 31 on the Stony Brook campus.
“There’s no off-season in quidditch,” Ahmadizadeh said, smiling after the last game.
The Concept of a Snitch
By far the most unique position in quidditch is the snitch. Unlike the mischievous flying golden ball in the books, the muggle snitch is a player dressed in all yellow. To catch the snitch, a seeker must grab a ball in a sock-like bag that is attached with velcro to the back of the snitch’s shorts.
Snitches and their seekers have especially unique positions because, unlike the other players, they are allowed to leave the quidditch field.
Before the start of each game the snitch confers with the head referee. During this discussion the referee is notified if the snitch plans to use any special tactics, such as water balloons or banana peels, and the snitch is given a time frame within which he or she must return to the designated field, normally between eight and twelve minutes.
At the beginning of the game both teams kneel over their brooms with their heads down and eyes closed. The snitch is then released to roam the general area as he pleases. “Brooms up!” is then called and gameplay begins.
After five minutes of gameplay, the seekers are released to find the snitch. After the snitch returns to the field within his or her allotted time frame, he or she must stay there and begin to evade the seekers within the field. It is extremely unusual for the snitch to be caught outside of the field.
Although snitches practice with their own teams, they are never allowed to play with them for matches. To create equality within the match, the snitch must not be a player from either team.
There is also the rare occasion of a “lone wolf” snitch, where a snitch will come to compete in matches but does not belong to any team. An unaffiliated snitch, Nate Huntley, said he came to the World Cup alone because his team at Shenandoah Valley had just started up and was not ready to compete. “It’s on my bucket list,” he said. “It looked like exactly what I wanted to do.”
Snitches are also controlled by very few rules in comparison to other players, especially when it comes to the physicality of the game. Moves, such as throwing seekers into empty audience chairs, a favorite past-time of snitch Kyle Williams from Middlebury, are allowed.
“You do see a lot of different strategies,” said Brian Herzog, a snitch from the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Snitch tactics such as putting banana peels on the quaffel, diving through the pitch hoops, general acrobatics and commandeering the announcers microphone all took place at the World Cup. During one game a snitch carried around a pink fleece blanket, taunting the seekers with it as if they were bulls, and then wrapping them in it every time they attempted to catch him.
“Don’t be afraid to look stupid,” said John Glynn, a snitch from R.I.T. The snitch provides an added element of humor to most games and is often the most talked about player by the commentators.
Glynn pondered after being asked about the rules he has to follow, responding with “no guns and no killing.”
“We just have to keep general safety in mind,” said Ethan Giventer, head snitch for the World Cup. This sentiment was echoed by the head referee for the International Quidditch Association, Chris Beesley.
Thousands of fans dressed in full Harry Potter garb poured into the event, stopping to cast unforgivable curses on their siblings and to participate in the occasional U.S. vs. Canada dodgeball game on the empty quidditch fields. Professor McGonagalls and Harry Potters strolled casually together past confused cable television reporters. “They’ve been more entertaining than I have,” said Kryssy Kocktail, a sword swallower who performed at the World Cup.
Margaret Walchak and Debbie Schneider attended the event to support their community team, the New York Badassilisks. They both belong to “The Group That Shall Not Be Named,” the New York City and Tri-State Area Harry Potter meet-up group. A stuffed Hedwig was perched on Walchak’s arm throughout the event, carrying a sign about their meet-up group.
“It shows that there’s so much to the whole Harry Potter fandom,” said Schneider. Their meet-up group shows that Harry Potter is here to stay, at least for the near future. The group participates in regular meetings and holds a monthly quidditch game in Riverside Park. It has grown to an astounding 999 members and has met almost 350 times since its inception.
Paul Gallo, godfather of David Demarest, a chaser for the University of South Carolina, road-tripped with his family and friends to see the World Cup. Like many other patrons, Gallo had never seen quidditch before.
“It’s pretty interesting…very physical,” said Gallo. “He just likes the broom between his legs,” he said jokingly about Demarest.
An Entertaining Commentary
Although the eccentric fans and quidditch teams animated the event, the commentators peppered the atmosphere with comedic speech that truly brought it to life.
Dan Wilbur, Alex Zalben and Alex Edelman were all commentators for the world cup. Normally each game would have two to three commentators who rarely seemed to say anything related to the games, unless it was an insult.
“We’re all stand-up comedians,” one said. “Yes, they cloned us all.”
“I haven’t made it,” Ron Krasnow, another commentator, said bluntly about his comedic path. He became a comedian three years ago after leaving restaurant management to fulfill his passion. He called quidditch, in general, pretty adorable.
“It’s an amazing group of nerds,” Krasnow said. “It seems like a big group of happy people.”
Many of the commentators said they had never announced a quidditch match before, but would be more than willing to do it again. “I did once narrate a kite festival for ten hours. I’ve also been at a meat festival,” one of the commentators added. “I was also a member once of the Ministry of Magic.”
A Mug-arvelous Main Stage
While quidditch play buzzed in the background, the main stage for the World Cup displayed acts of all kinds and appreciations.
Sasha the Fire Gypsy, who currently resides in the city of Stony Brook, performed several times over those two days, normally for about seven minutes each. She used things such as fire belts and fans, and performed acts such as fire-eating.
Kryssy Kocktail also performed for the event. Although she only did sword-swallowing at the event, she says she does “all things carney,” including aerial and fire tricks.
“I’ve been doing it way too long—non-stop for around seven years,” Kocktail said. “I just had too much time on my hands.” Currently she performs in the Coney Island Side Show.
Along with Sasha and Kocktail, several other performers drew large crowds to the main stage, including a man who hammered a nail into his left nostril with the help of a member of the audience. The teenage girl grimaced with disgust as she removed the snot covered nail.
Magic rock, a musical genre literally created out of Harry Potter, showcases bands that bring the pages of the series to life, the most famous of which performed during the cup. Some groups included Draco and the Malfoys, Diagon Alley and even Harry and the Potters.
Often after their performances, the largest bands would set up tents selling their CDs and t-shirts, competing with the other vendors selling magical merchandise.
Alyssa Thralls, owner of The Deathly Hallows Shop, sold jewelry at the event. Thralls, along with Sean Beard, hand-makes all of the jewelry. While Thralls owns another line of “dark jewelry,” The Deathly Hallows Shop uses only the deathly hallows symbol, a triangle with a circle inside it and a vertical line dividing it in half, from tip to base of the triangle. The symbol represents a child’s story from Harry Potter, which became pivotal to the plot.
Thralls also sells t-shirts with witty phrases involving the series, such as “Team Jacob, Team Edward, Team Weasley.” and “Not my daughter, you bitch!”
Thralls says she enjoys only catering to the Harry Potter crowd, calling the fan cult, “very nice all around, it attracts a very specific type of person.”
After confusing the monopod case on my camera bag for a wand case, she laughingly explained, “You just end up in that mind set.”