The food stands are labeled “The Three Broomsticks,” the sign outside the referees’ tent reads “Chamber of Secrets,” and if you are tired of using the Port-A-Potties, you can always visit “Moaning Myrtle’s Bathroom.”
I am in Newport, Rhode Island, at the Northeast Regional Quidditch Championship Tournament. The name itself seems contradictory: An unremarkable title, typical of any standardized college sports tournament, save for the inclusion of one magic word.
This rift between whimsy and desire for the sport’s legitimacy runs like a common thread through every element of the tournament. Some teams come in costume, wearing capes and t-shirts with names like “Potter” and “Tonks” on the backs. “They’re here for a Harry Potter-themed weekend,” someone tells me. “They’ll be easier to beat.” Others arrive in full athletic uniform, official-looking jerseys and new cleats gleaming. “These teams are the serious ones. They’re here to win.”