The IndiaPoint Ashwinders celebrate. Photo from the team's facebook page.
By Kim Kalunian, WPRO Arts and Entertainment
Quidditch. It’s a fictional sport invented by J.K. Rowling in her wildly popular Harry Potter series. In the books, Harry is a prolific and naturally gifted player, and Quidditch becomes an oft-referenced game of skill.
In the world of Harry and his school, the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Quidditch consists of two teams of robed players who glide on broomsticks high above fans below in a stadium. The goal is to score point by tossing balls called “quaffles” into three hoops situated at either end of the playing field. Meanwhile, opponents attempt to knock players off their brooms with bludgers (think really nasty dodge balls) while one player attempts to find the Golden Snitch, a flying, winged, gold ball.
Rowling’s fantastical game requires a hefty dose of magic, not least of which is the ability to fly.
But some local students have said “pish posh” to the whole flying thing and have set out to play Quidditch without any extraordinary skills whatsoever.
Jeffrey Blum, a recent Brown University graduate, has started Rhode Island’s first community Quidditch team. The University of Rhode Island has had their own team – the Rhody Ridgebacks – for some time, but Blum’s team, the India Point Ashwinders, is open to any and all players from Rhode Island.
Blum started the team in September, and they won the Southern New England Quidditch Conference just last month. They have a regular co-ed roster of 11 people, and more than half of them are former or current Brown students.
Blum says Quidditch is a year-round sport that appeals to Harry Potter fans and non-fans alike. But how does one play without the whole defying gravity piece?
The three hoops on either end of the field still exist, and players still try to score points by tossing a slightly deflated volleyball (the “quaffle”) through them. For “bludgers” they use slightly deflated dodge balls and try to disrupt opponents by hitting them.
As for the magical, flying Golden Snitch, well…
“The Snitch is a tennis ball in a sock, which is tucked into the back of a neutral player called the Snitch Runner,” said Blum. The Snitch Runner, dressed entirely in yellow, has to attempt to evade the Seeker; the Seeker’s sole job is to catch the Snitch, thereby bringing the game to an end. Once the Snitch is captured, the team with the most points wins.
“It gets interesting because the rule book intentionally places very few limits on what the Snitch Runner can do to avoid being captured,” said Blum, who said some Snitch Runners have employed tools like water balloons and bicycles. “Snitch Runners, in many ways, they’re like the rodeo clowns of Quidditch.”
What makes the sport particularly unique, however, is what all the players must ride throughout the duration of the game: a broom. The challenge of running, jumping and throwing with a broom nestled between the knees adds an extra level of difficulty to the sport, said Blum.
Blum said he’s a Harry Potter fan, but not a “massive crazy fan.” He said some people who have never picked up a Harry Potter book get into the sport because it’s so competitive. For others, it’s a small way to attempt to recreate the magic inside J.K. Rowling’s imaginary world.
Blum said they’re always looking for new players and team volunteers. For more info on the India Point Ashwinders (an Ashwinder is a fictional creature from the series) visit https://www.facebook.com/IndiaPointAshwinders.
An award-winning journalist and theater critic - and a performer at heart. Kim covers everything from politics and breaking news to food and theater.