Tomorrow marks the 3rd annual Quidditch World Cup here at Middlebury College. And this year, Quidditch gets even bigger with the arrival of intercollegiate Quidditch; Vassar will be playing Middlebury’s best of the 13 teams. In the past, the World Cup has only been awarded within the college.
But the significance of the competition goes beyond bringing another school to Middlebury, this year involves a cottage-industry of Qudditch materials and traditions: new old-style brooms, a broom rack, custom capes, custom banners, bleachers for audience, a parade of teams, hand-painted cut-outs for photo opportunities, and Harry Potter themed performances. And much of this is funded via the sale of Quidditch shirts with clever slogans which have been purchased en mass by Middlebury students over the past year. In many ways, the huge industry that is Harry Potter has come front and center at the college. The purchasing power of students is at work.
But how did this homegrown sport of “muggle Quidditch” catch on?
- The Hollywood Movies. Without a visualization of what Quidditch should look like, students would have a hard time agreeing on the rules set forth the in J.K. Rowling’s books.
- Location, Location, Location. Unlike many intramural sports on campus, Quidditch takes place at the center of campus. No matter how had you try, students will, at some point, see a Quidditch match and that draws them in. Once people have seen it, they are hooked.
- Celebrity. With a human “snitch,” one reaches a level of on-campus celebrity-dom. Rainey, the yellow-clad snitch gets discussed at dinner table conversations daily. Alex Benepe, the referee and chief organizer, has his own following.
- Organic Teams. Teams at Middlebury are entirely self-creating. There are no restrictions to our Harry Potter-esque Commons system (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, etc.). Groups of friends often get together to form teams but often random students join together. The best teams have various athletes involved: cross-country runners to catch the snitch, football and rugby players, agile basketball for regular scoring, etc.
- Grass-roots-ness. Quidditch is not an official club or student organization on campus and as such, it remain mobile and almost entrepreneurial in spirit. This drives the students to do what they want, when they want, how they want.
Pictures (hopefully) will follow tomorrow!