You all know I'm not a sports person. Would you believe me if I said that spending all day (more than 12 hours) at a sporting event last Saturday was an absolute blast?
The sport was Quidditch, and last weekend was Quidditch World Cup VI, held in Kissimmee, Florida. As much fun as I had, I doubt I would have bothered to attend had not our nephew's University of Richmond team qualified for the event. His parents came down for the occasion, and we had a great visit. It was too short, but included a first: conversing over dinner, just my sister, her husband, and the two of us. It's not that we don't get together—but quiet dinnertime conversation is quite different from the usual lots of people of all ages, with lots of things going on.
For those who have not read any of the Harry Potter books, or for those who have, but are puzzled as to how the players learned to fly, here is a brief explanation of how the earthbound version of Quidditch is played.
Several aspects of this game contributed to my enjoyment: First and foremost was knowing someone on one of the teams. But I found other games fun to watch also, and I think that's because Quidditch is such a very amateur sport. It's only eight years old, the real-live version having been invented at Middlebury College in 2005, so it hasn't had a chance to get too messed up yet. On college campuses, where Quidditch is most commonly found, it's a "club" sport rather than an official team, which makes it all the better. In an age when even young children's sports teams view themselves as a training ground for the pros, and parents dream of college scholarships, Quidditch teams play for fun. The youth of the game also means no one has quite figured out the best strategies. We watched half a dozen games or so, and no two were alike.
The Snitch is a wild card that certainly contributes to keeping the game from degenerating into just another move-the-ball-from-one-end-of-the-field-to-the-other game. The Snitch can do just about anything, roaming all over the park, throwing water balloons, catching a ride on a golf cart, whatever. He or she must come back to the field after a certain period of time, even if he hasn't been caught by a Seeker—else the game could go on forever because the Snitch hopped a bus out of town.
Although I was at the games to root for the University of Richmond, I couldn't resist watching another UR game: the University of Rochester. (Fortunately, the two did not play each other.) Speaking with one of the players after the game, I mentioned that we were Class of '74 and Class of '75. The player said he was Class of '14. Still, I didn't feel that old until I realized that the age difference was as if I had been talking with someone from the Class of 1934. Ouch.
Both Carnegie Mellon and Virginia Tech have Quidditch teams, but we did not see them. Either they did not qualify for the World Cup, or they couldn't afford the trip. We're very glad the Richmond team managed to raise the not-inconsiderable funds.
Many of the team uniforms were clever, especially the backs. Here are two of my favorites, from Rice. (Click on the images to enlarge.)
The University of Richmond, however, had the best shirts overall; they received many compliments. I thought the University of Rochester was odd, being the Yellowjackets; not to be outdone by the other UR, Richmond is the Spiders. Our nephew Kevin and his friend Layla ... or rather, Layla and her friend Kevin, are shown here modeling the shirts for me.
The Seekers must wait out the first 10 minutes of the game before running after the Snitch. This gives the rest of the players time to play before the catching of Snitch brings things to a halt. It also gives the Seekers a chance to enjoy the game for a while. And me, as well: because Kevin is a Seeker, once the Snitch hunt was on my attention was mostly directed away from the other play.
Below are a few videos of that famous UR Seeker, Kevin Alloway, catching the Snitch in three of their four games. Many Seekers are of the heavy-built, muscular type, but Kevin is a long-distance runner and fast, fast, fast. Instead of wrestling the Snitch (person) to the ground, he zips in and grabs the Snitch (tennis ball in a sock, attached by Velcro to the person) before anyone knows what has happened.
Incidentally, my admiration has shot way up for those in back of the news cameras who manage to keep their attention on what they are doing. You can see in the videos where in my excitement I totally forgot I was holding the camera.
University of Richmond vs. University of Texas (Austin). Texas went on to claim the overall championship, so the object of catching the Snitch here was to end the game before the point spread could get any bigger. I wasn't happy that Texas was so successful, because they have apparently forgotten that the game is supposed to be fun for everyone. They play hard, rough, and mean; early in the Richmond game, one of their players smashed a bludger (dodge ball) point blank into the face of one of Richmond's best Chasers and sent her to the hospital. His teammates said he's known for doing that. It wasn't even a penalizable offense, so I think a rule modification is in order. Some temporary pain is within bounds; deliberate infliction of injury is, well, unsportsmanlike, in the old sense—all too much like "sports men/women" these days. (After the passing of time, and three medical exams—paramedic, urgent care, hospital—she was pronounced fit to play again. Fortunately the games were far enough apart that the Texas bully didn't ruin her entire day.)
University of Richmond vs. University of Southern Mississippi, Richmond's first win.
University of Richmond vs. Ohio State. This was the most exciting game of all, going into overtime: five minutes or until the Snitch is caught, and Kevin ended the game for a win.
A bald eagle stops to watch the game: Hrmph. Silly people, flying so low to the ground. I'd put those hoops a lot higher. Why didn't they ask me to play? I can outfly the best of them! At least they didn't charge me for this great seat.