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Tuesday, January 26, 2021 — Houston, TX 46°

Rice Quidditch: Not just a dream anymore

By Sophie Bonifaz     2/14/12 6:00pm

The player rushes forward, the ball tucked securely under his arm as he bolts towards the hoop, seeing an opening. The opposing team is catching up with him, and he barely manages to avoid a tackle when out of nowhere, another ball comes flying toward him. It hits him squarely in the arm and he skids to a stop, groaning as he is forced to drop the ball and go back to his own goal to tag back in; luckily, his teammate is ready, and she scoops the ball up before the goalkeeper can get his hands on it. All that's left now is a clever spin out and a good arm to get the ball in the hoop, scoring her team 10 points before a yellow-clad player comes cartwheeling onto the pitch.

"What game is this?" you may ask. It sounds familiar, and yet it's hard to put your finger on it. Well, if you've ever read or seen a Harry Potter installment, you've already got some experience with it: It's Quidditch. Muggle Quidditch, that is.

Quidditch as a collegiate sport began in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont. The first World Cup was held there in 2007, and since then the pastime has exploded, leading to the creation of the International Quidditch Association and the formation of over 500 teams in 26 countries. The IQA's next big projects include moving the World Cup out of New York City, where it has been held for the past two years, and planning an exhibition match during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.

Despite all the fanfare, however, Quidditch still gets a bad name. Why? Ask the naysayers, and they will all tell you similar things: Quidditch is silly. It's embarrassing, it's not a real sport. Do you seriously run around on brooms? Aren't Harry Potter fans going just a little bit too far this time? Why can't you just play something like basketball, lacrosse or soccer? It's enough to shame interested talent away from trying, and has new players worried about what might happen to their reputations.

As the founder of the Rice Quidditch Team, I obviously find these allegations to be even sillier than the game itself. Even the most seasoned player will admit that the broomsticks add a level of quirkiness unmatched by other sports, but that is what gives an otherwise intense game its charm. Quidditch is a co-ed full contact sport that mixes elements of lacrosse, basketball, dodgeball, capture the flag, rugby, tag, baseball, football, soccer and wrestling, and has no qualms about showing it. Players come from all walks of life: Half of them have never played a sport in their lives, while the other half is made up of natural athletes eager to put their skills to the test. A love of Harry Potter isn't necessary to enjoy the game, either; some of Quidditch's most fervent supporters have never even finished the series. Nevertheless, Quidditch has not forgotten where it comes from, and Harry Potter terms and references are constantly thrown around on and off of the pitch.

The game, like in the series, is made up of four positions: chasers, keepers, beaters and seekers. We also have a snitch, which is actually a person. I have seen snitches climb trees, get into cars, ride on bikes, pull down the seekers' shorts, trap them in goal hoops, steal broomsticks, and even run into water. They are generally an audience favorite and love coming up with ways to be as difficult as possible. All of the players, save the snitch, are required to do everything with a broom between their legs, and suffer a mild penalty should they ever "fall off."

Almost every undergraduate at Rice has described the school as Hogwarts due to the college system's legacy of creating tight-knit communities united under a crest. It wasn't until this year, however, that we can truly claim that title; after all, what is Hogwarts without Quidditch? Rice has been a bit slow on the uptake — Texas A&M University has had a team since 2008, Harvard University since 2009, and The University of Texas since 2010 — but we're going to the Mardi Gras Cup in Baton Rouge this week, facing off 17 teams from around the region. Rice has finally caught up and made a good team of our own, and we're proud to mount our brooms to represent not just the university but the city of Houston. Sophie Bonifaz is a Brown College senior.

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