The only possible hitch in this weekend’s Quidditch World Cup was its up-in-the-air status: silly or serious? Certainly, it had more-than-enthusiastic fans, most of whom donned scarves in Hogwarts House colors and some of whom wore robes, slashed wands at empty air, and used facepaint.
It was easy to recognize the fans who boarded and exited the water taxi to the Cup’s site on Randall’s Island. But the event’s semi-silly atmosphere didn’t stop its many employees from distinguishing work from play. Or, more skillfully, integrating “play” into the enormous task of overseeing entertainment, vending, and the games themselves.
The Luna Lovegood/Lee Jordan-esque commentary issued endorsements unrelated to the game: “Everyone in this game, go to Emerson College [in Boston].” And another: “So, if anyone was thinking of punching another player, remember that this is silly.”
It’s hard not to. But the players vehemently defend their game’s legitimacy. If it is silly, then this silliness exists only to boost the Cup’s popularity and loyal following. As soon as the referee (one of whom was scarily reminiscent of Madam Hooch) blows the whistle, it becomes as intense as any other sport.
Many Quidditch players stumbled into the sport after rejecting others for technical reasons. Sean Crews of Florida Quidditch underwent one surgery after another and became ineligible to play NCAA sports. Quidditch was the next best option, and Crews is an example of a player more invested for the physicality than anything else. Though, due to what seems to be a requirement for every player, he assured us that he had read all seven books “in middle school.”
Love for Quidditch surpasses distance as well as fashion consciousness: Illinois State University’s team, one of the 100 schools represented this weekend, took a “20 hour train ride,” according to player Charlotte Maynen. We didn’t ask about the specifics of her relationship with fellow player Benjamin Dunn, but we hope that it has Harry Potter origins. For both, joining the team has meant finding “the best friends made in college” and “the only sport I’ve joined [and stuck with].”
We got the sense that the Quidditch players, unlike some of their counterparts, are grateful and humble in recognizing their origins. They understand that the sport is less about them than it is about JK Rowling and the fandom following her creation. They play the game according to her strict rules, not their own. A group of high school students who arrived by train expressed surprise at the sport’s integrity. It would be impossible to stay a muggle and be truer to the book: Brooms abound, and snitches attached to runners’ clothes in flag-football style remain competitively elusive throughout the game.
On another note, we’re grateful that this World Cup’s finish didn’t imitate the one in Goblet of Fire. No Dark Mark set off a fiery chaos, and Death Eaters didn’t Imperiuse the employees working furiously from dawn until well after dusk.
Let’s just hope that The Hunger Games doesn’t see a similar re-creation.
(photos by Olivia Loving)