CLOSE
Original image

10 Reasons Why the Quidditch World Cup is the Best College Sporting Event

Original image

There are a lot of college sporting events out there—tournaments, championships, bowl games"¦ But the best intercollegiate sporting event is the Quidditch World Cup. That's right: the Quidditch World Cup. The annual event at Middlebury College in Vermont brings the magic of the event featured in The Goblet of Fire to the muggle world. This year's QWC was this past Sunday, October 25.

Why is the Quidditch World Cup the best intercollegiate sporting event?

1. Nerdy jersey numbers

The QWC is probably the only intercollegiate athletic event where you'll find players sporting numbers such as 007, π, â„®, ½, and √81, or Roman numerals. Princeton University boasted a roster full of nerdy numbers last year; this year, Texas A&M had some of the nerdiest numbers on the field.

2. Home tents

03_Tents

Baseball has dugouts, football has benches, and quidditch has"¦ tents. Behind the playing fields at the QWC stands a huddle of maroon and gray tents that act as the schools' homes away from home during the all-day event.

3. Coed violence

01_Violence

Football, hockey, and rugby all have violence, and intramural sports are usually coed, but few intercollegiate events feature both violence and coed teams. At the QWC, teams are required to have at least two females on the field at all times. And since the sport mixes broomsticks, dodgeballs, and the capture of a cross country runner, it gets violent pretty quickly. This year, a Green Mountain College player was taken off the field on a stretcher.

4. Comedian announcers

04_Announcers

The QWC's announcers have been described as "brilliant" by The (Montreal) Gazette. Rumor has it the announcers are members of Middlebury's improv group, and their witty banter keeps fans and players alike chuckling throughout the day. The QWC is surely the only intercollegiate sporting event—heck, probably the only sporting event at all—whose commentary alone could be recorded and sold as a comedy album.

5. Novel-born

05_Novel

Quidditch and its championship event, the World Cup, are the only sport and championship (that I've ever heard of, at least) that were born in a novel. Millions of people had heard of quidditch and the Quidditch World Cup by way of the Harry Potter books and movies years before the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association (IQA) was ever formed. Now, thanks to the enormous popularity of the J.K. Rowling series, quidditch is one of the fastest growing collegiate sports. (The competition doubled in size from last year to this year, with 21 teams and 300 players competing on Sunday.)

6. Campus-wide playing field

06_Field

For the IQA version of Rowling's sport, the snitch (a small, flying golden ball in the books) is a student—usually a cross country runner—dressed from head-to-toe in gold and yellow, with a tail (a soccer sock with a tennis ball in the foot). The snitch is "released" at the beginning of each game and can go, well, pretty much anywhere on campus. The seekers are also given free reign of the campus to capture the snitch, though the other players are confined to the field. Snitches have been known to ride bikes and unicycles, leapfrog each other (there are usually 2 to 4 simultaneous games at the QWC), relax in the stands, and even climb bell towers.

7. Ridiculously high scores

07_Scores

We've all seen college basketball games with scores that edge into the 100s, but quidditch takes the cake in terms of high scores and score disparities. Since goals are worth 10 points and capturing the snitch (which ends the game) is worth 30 points, it's not unusual for teams at the QWC to reach 80, 100, or 150 points in a 20-minute game. On Sunday, Chestnut Hill College trounced Moravian College 190 to 10 and Middlebury College, the hosts and reigning champs, beat Texas A&M 120 to 10.

8. Capes and brooms

08_Costumes

How many sporting events feature players who look like they're dressed for Halloween? Sure, some kids dress up as athletes for Halloween, but those are costumes based on sports uniforms, not sports uniforms based on costumes. In quidditch, though, capes and brooms are mandatory. Capes often bear the players' numbers and are secured onto the players in more creative ways each year to ensure they're not ripped off during the game. Each player must have a broom between his or her legs at all times; goals and snitch captures don't count if the player is off-broom.

9. Student-run

09_Students

The IQA is a student-run organization (with the exception of Alex Benepe, chief commissioner, who graduated this past spring) based at Middlebury College, and Sunday's QWC was student-run as well. The QWC commissioners are all students, as are the announcers, scorekeepers, referees, merch salespeople, and half-time performers. Sometimes they're recruited right from the stands!

10. Entire championship in one day

00_Quidditch

Most intercollegiate sports championships spread their qualifying rounds out over a number of days, with the final championship event on its own day. Intercollegiate quidditch packs it all into one high-intensity day, starting with pool play (4 games at a time) in the morning and bracket play in the afternoon.

This year's pools:
A. North: McGill University, St. Lawrence University, University of Vermont, Green Mountain College
B. Penn: Moravian College, Chestnut Hill College, Lafayette College, Villanova University
C. Frequent Flier Miles: Middlebury College, Virginia Commonwealth University, Louisiana State University, Texas A&M University
D. Ive's Pond Diaspora: Syracuse University, Ive's Pond QC, Vassar College, University of Pittsburgh
E. Boston / Ivies: University of Massachusetts at Amherst, Harvard University, Emerson College, Boston University (Yale University dropped out at the last minute.)

The photos above are from both the 2008 and 2009 Quidditch World Cups. For more photos and information about the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association and the Quidditch World Cup, check out the IQA web site, the IQA Facebook page, and the 2009 QWC Facebook event page.

Original image
retro-wrestling, eBay
arrow
Pop Culture
The Time a Wrestling Fan Tried to Shoot Bobby Heenan in the Ring
Original image
retro-wrestling, eBay

For a man who didn't wrestle much, Bobby “The Brain” Heenan wound up becoming more famous than a lot of the men flexing in the squared circle. The onscreen manager of several notable grapplers, including André the Giant and “Ravishing” Rick Rude, Heenan died on Sunday at the age of 73. His passing has led to several tributes recalling his memorable moments, from dressing up in a weasel suit to hosting a short-lived talk show on TNT.

While Heenan’s “heel” persona was considered great entertainment, there was a night back in 1975 when he did his job a little too well. As a result, an irate fan tried to assassinate him in the ring.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Heenan was appearing at the International Amphitheater in Chicago as part of the now-defunct AWA wrestling promotion when his performance began to grate on the nerves of an unnamed attendee seated on the floor. Eyewitnesses described the man as friendly up until wrestlers Verne Gagne and Nick Bockwinkel started their bout with Heenan at ringside in Bockwinkel’s corner.

“Get Heenan out of there,” the fan screamed, possibly concerned his character would interfere in a fair contest. Heenan, known as “Pretty Boy” at the time, began to distract the referee, awarding an advantage to his wrestler. When the official began waving his arms to signal Heenan to stop interrupting, the fan apparently took it as the match being over and awarded in Bockwinkel’s favor. He drew a gun and began firing.

The man got off two shots, hitting three bystanders with one bullet and two more with the other before running out of the arena. (No fatalities were reported.) Security swarmed the scene, getting medical attention for the injured and escorting both Heenan and the wrestlers to the back.

According to Heenan, the shooter was never identified by anyone, and he was brazen enough to continue attending wrestling cards at the arena. ("Chicago really took that 'no snitching' thing to heart back then," according to Uproxx.)

Heenan went on to spend another 30 years in the business getting yelled at and hit with chairs, but was never again forced to dodge a bullet.

Original image
Courtesy of Dave Drason Byrzynski
arrow
History
Hans Schmidt, the "Nazi" Wrestler Who Incited Riots
Original image
Courtesy of Dave Drason Byrzynski

Waiting inside the locker room of the Pioneer Memorial Stadium, The Des Moines Register reporter Walter Shotwell thought he had found a clever way to discredit a visiting professional wrestler named Hans Schmidt. Just a few days prior, on August 1, 1953, Schmidt had been seen on national television barking into a microphone using a thick German accent. He dismissed the concept of sportsmanship and vowed to “win ze title and take it back to Germany vere it belongs.”

In the years following World War II, a German nationalist was not likely to be cheered on anywhere in the United States, but the vitriol Schmidt encouraged was unlike anything pro wrestling had ever seen. Schmidt had fans practically frothing at the mouth, stabbing him with hairpins, waving cigarette lighters in his face, and vandalizing his car. Fearing for his safety, police would often have to escort him through angry mobs. It didn’t really seem to matter whether Schmidt was truly anti-American or just playing a role. Either one seemed egregious.

Shotwell suspected the latter. During his interview with Schmidt, he handed him a newspaper clipping and asked him to read it out loud in German. Schmidt refused, saying that Shotwell wouldn’t understand him. Looking at it closely, Schmidt could see it quoted residents of Munich, where he claimed to hail from, who said they had never heard of any Hans Schmidt.

Shotwell pushed it a little further, until Schmidt made it clear he wasn’t going to continue to play along. Had he admitted the truth—that he was not an actual Nazi, but a French-Canadian named Guy Larose—then he likely would have missed out on a career that would eventually make him one of the highest-paid and most reviled athletes in the world.

Courtesy of Dave Drason Burzynski

If pretending to be an enemy of the state was his destiny, then Larose was born at the right time. He was 24 in 1949, the year he decided to become a pro wrestler; his dream of joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police had ended while he was still in training after the police and several RCMP students tried to enforce an alcohol ban on a nearby Native community and had their vehicles pummeled with baseball bats.

Eager to exploit his six-foot-four, 240-pound frame, Larose turned to wrestling. In Michigan and across Canada, he was able to book contests but found that neither his persona nor his real name was drawing a crowd.

Arriving in Boston in 1951, Larose met wrestling promoter Paul Bowser, who took one look at the stern-faced wrestler and declared that he should adopt a Nazi persona. Larose wouldn’t be the first—Kurt Von Poppenheim had already devised a similar gimmick—but he’d have an opportunity to do it on television.

At the time, ring sports like boxing and wrestling were ideal for the burgeoning medium. Cheap to produce, they could easily fill programming schedules on networks like the DuMont Television Network, a onetime rival to CBS, NBC, and a burgeoning ABC that aired grappling contests from Chicago. Although Larose—now Schmidt—had been stirring up attention prior, it was his August 1953 appearance and interview with Chicago Cubs announcer Jack Brickhouse that drew more disdain than usual.

After declaring “Germany has been good to me” and claiming that he believed there was no place for sportsmanship in wrestling, Schmidt was cut off by Brickhouse. With the emotional wounds of World War II still fresh, his appearance had struck a nerve. DuMont, Brickhouse would later recall, received more than 5000 angry letters from viewers who were disgusted by Schmidt. At least one viewer recommended he be deported.

Larose, however, exercised some restraint. The word “Nazi” was rarely tossed around, and he never goosestepped or carried a swastika with him. The implication of his allegiance seemed to be more than enough to stir the crowd into a frenzy, especially when he would remain seated during the National Anthem or turn his back at the sight of the American flag. He had been a motorcycle dispatcher during the war, he told journalists, and was once shot down while in a plane.

Although those details weren’t true, on many nights Larose may have felt as though he was in a war zone. Walking to the ring, he’d often be jabbed by women using their hairpins, or by men trying to singe him with their cigarettes. During matches, his “cheating”—using chairs to brain opponents, or kicking them in the groin—would draw crowds toward the ring in an effort to start a riot. At one engagement in Milwaukee, the ensuing chaos led to a brief ban on pro wrestling in the arena.

When the journalist Shotwell asked him what kind of car he drove, he hesitated. “A Lincoln,” he said. “I don’t want to describe it any more than that. I don’t want it wrecked.” He often came out of arenas to find ice picks in his tires.

Whatever argument existed about the good taste of Larose’s performance, there was no question it was lucrative. People who wished to see him get beaten in programs against the likes of Verne Gagne or Lou Thesz filled arenas. Once, special guest referee Joe Louis decked him in a staged climax. There was some kind of catharsis in watching Larose get pummeled.

Photo (C) by Brian Bukantis, www.wrestleprints.com

According to pro wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, who inducted the Schmidt character into the Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame in 2012, Larose made roughly $1 million in his 20-year career, which wound to a close in the mid-1970s. Other “foreign menaces” like Nikolai Volkoff and the Iron Sheik were coming in, diversifying wrestling’s villain culture.

The kind of loathing he had drawn from the crowd remained rare in wrestling, which hates its heels but usually doesn’t attempt to stab them or burn them with fire. It wasn’t until Sergeant Slaughter turned away from his patriotism and became an Iraqi sympathizer in the early '90s that emotions got a bit too heated for entertainment’s sake. The WWE (then WWF) was forced to assign security to Slaughter’s family until the act was dropped.

By that point, Larose had long been out of the spotlight, having returned home to Quebec. He died in 2012 at the age of 87, his status as one of the most infamous performers of the 20th century having been largely forgotten. Never once did he admit during his prime that he was from Canada.

“Of course I’m from Germany,” he told Shotwell. “Do you think I’d go on television and say things that weren’t true?”

Additional Sources: Mad Dogs, Midgets, and Screw Jobs: The Untold Story of How Montreal Shaped Wrestling; The Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame: The Heels.

Unless otherwise credited, all photos (C) Dave Drason Burzynski from the book This Saturday Night: Return to the Cobo, available at Wrestleprints.com. Used with permission.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios