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„®, Â½, and âˆš81, 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.