Quidditch Takes Off at Syracuse


Three large goal hoops sit behind each team, positioned on opposite sides of the field, and several balls are scattered across the grass. Someone yells "Brooms up!" and the game is on.

Voices shouting words like "quaffle," "bludger," and "keeper" carry on the warm Sunday breeze. Players run up and down the field, trying to score a goal.

"Harry Potter, Harry Potter!" calls a person from a passing car. Several other cars honk and point. Drew Shields just shrugs his shoulders and grins.

"I'm not immune to the fact that I'm running around with a broom between my legs," says Shields, a freshman advertising major. "I know how stupid I look. But the type of people that are drawn to Quidditch are the kind of people who will suspend that sort of embarrassment and embrace it."

Freshman history major Peter Zona adds, "Every once in awhile you get somebody who shouts out '10 points for Gryffindor' or whatever. I guess people are just surprised to see kids playing Quidditch."

No One Actually Flies

That's right, Quidditch. The sport played by wizards on broomsticks in the Harry Potter novels, Quidditch is taking off on college campuses across the country—despite the fact that no one can actually fly.

The game was adapted for non-magical people, or "muggles," by a student at Middlebury College in 2005. Since then, the sport, governed by the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association, has spread to more than 200 campuses worldwide. The IQA has hosted four World Cups.

This year, Syracuse University joined the legions of college Quidditch players when, after playing in the 2008 World Cup, Shields and his roommate Zona decided to bring the game to campus.

A semester later, SU's team has attracted a group of loyal regulars who've formed their own Facebook group.

"It's Pete, myself, and a couple of our close friends," Shields says. "Then we just pray that enough people will show up so we can have a game."

"We keep trying to spread the word, get people interested, tell our friends about it, have them tell their friends about it," Zona says. "Hopefully by the time the Quidditch World Cup rolls around next year we'll have enough for a full team."

Hula Hoops and Goal Posts

A Quidditch team is made up of seven people. Three point-scoring players known as chasers try to throw the quaffle (a soccer-sized ball) into one of three goal posts at the opposite end of the field. The 6-foot high hula hoop and PVC goal posts are defended by a goalie or keeper.

There are two beaters on each team, whose job is to hit other players with small dodge balls. If hit, a player must stop what he's doing and run around his team's goal posts.

To make things even more complicated, each team has a seeker who is responsible for catching the snitch, a neutral person without a broom who has a tennis ball stuck to his back. Once the Snitch is caught, the game is over.

Sound confusing? To get a feel for the game, Shields recommends checking out You Tube.

Potter Fans and Foes

The SU team is a mix of men and women, Harry Potter fans and people who are just up for a fun game. Surprisingly, founders Shields and Zona have never even read the Harry Potter books.

"Neither one of us like Harry Potter," Zona admits. "Which is kind of funny because everyone just assumes that you're a big Harry Potter nerd to do this. We don't like him at all."

But not everyone on the team plays for the love of the sport. Freshman Kaytie Norman started playing Quidditch because she couldn't get enough Harry Potter. She stuck with it for a different reason.

"There's no pressure, we're not all that competitive with one another we're just here for fun," she said. "So, if you're not very good—like half the team—you can still have a blast."

And Quidditch-lovers say having a blast is what it's all about.

"It's just a hell of a lot of fun. Just go out, buy the stuff, show up somewhere, and see if other people will join you," says Shields. You can watch it grow from nothing to something really worthwhile."

Even students who have never witnessed a real-life Quidditch game seem intrigued by the match.

"You've got to hand it to them, not being able to fly is an obstacle but they're not letting that hold them back," says passerby Adam Brooks. "They're looking past it and having a great time."

Capes Optional

So, while playing Quidditch might call for you to step out of your comfort zone, Norman says it's definitely worth it.

"It's ridiculous to not do something just because you're afraid that other people are going to think it's weird," she says, laughing. "Other than the fact that we're playing the game, there's almost nothing Harry Potter about it. We don't think we're the characters or anything."

Shields says all you need to form your own team is some PVC piping, duct tape, hula hoops, brooms and a group of friends. Capes are optional.