August 31, 2010

‘Muggle Quidditch’ Makes Its Way to Cornell Campus

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Sammy Nur, a third-year in the House of Engineering, descends on the quaffle like a mystical griffin, scooping it towards fellow Duffield Dementor, second-year Jordan Vartanian. Vartanian dodges an incoming bludger, pirouettes through the air on his broomstick, and launches the ball at the Goblins from the Gorges’ tri-pronged hula-hoop goals.

All this goes on despite the protestations of exasperated sophomore Sierra Palumbos — who, in a comical attempt to enforce the official Intercollegiate Quidditch Association rules from the sidelines, is unwittingly doing her best Hermoine Granger impression.

“You can’t run without the broom between your legs!” she yells, repeatedly, to no avail.

Perhaps she fails because, as they sail around the Arts Quad pitch, the players can’t hear her pleas from 200 feet below. Running around while squatting on foot long brooms, they have ascended to a higher, magical plane.

Part Harry Potter fan appreciation, part veritable workout (running for 25 minutes on broomsticks certainly leaves the players winded), and part prelim-induced escapism, “Muggle Quidditch” has Cornell bewitched.

Seemingly overnight, the game appears to have apparated — even though apparating is, of course, impossible on school grounds — to colleges everywhere from its inception at Middlebury College a few years ago.

As in the books, each team is made up of chasers, bludgers and keepers that try to throw the quaffle — a kickball — through one of three mounted goals. The golden snitch has been accounted for, too, by a neutral yellow-clad person, who runs away from each of the team’s “seekers.”

Cornell Club Quidditch “official” sophomore Maya Koretzky said that she and a few friends began playing “very informally” on North Campus’ Rawlings Green last year, but that the club — officially registered this year — is only now kicking-off from the ground.

Koretzky said that with 5-10 registered teams — including “Ezra’s Army,” the “Bloody Bogarts” and “The team that shall not be named” — Cornell Quidditch has formed a league that expects to play on the Arts Quad every Sunday.

Eighty Cornell students fell spellbound by the game last Sunday, according to Quidditch Club Treasurer sophomore Carly Britton.

Nur described the game as “exhilarating” and “intense,” with one of his teammates calling it “rugby for nerds.”

Indeed, at Sunday’s game, one young witch, freshman Jackie Maloney, fell perilously off her broom, damaging her knee. Madam Pomfrey is on sabbatical, but within minutes Cornell Police and an ambulance arrived, escorting Maloney to the infirmary.

Luckily, no one attempted to dissolve her bones.

Koretzky joked that, at first, “we didn’t want to tell them” that they were playing Quidditch, initially telling the police, with intentional ambiguity, that they were playing “just a sport.”

It isn’t particularly clear how serious the players are meant to take the game.

“The more you like Harry Potter, the more prone you are to hurt someone,” Britton said.

“You’re running with a broom between your legs … [we’re] obviously not taking ourselves too seriously,” said sophomore Lauren Walden.

Still, the game seemed heated, even cauldron-like, at times.

“It’s a full contact sport,” said Quidditch Club President sophomore Amanda Quain.

Regardless of the seriousness of the approach to the sport, all the participants expressed similar admiration for the Harry Potter story.

“We grew up with Harry Potter … it’s amazing to see people get so excited,” Britton said. “People say they came to Cornell because they saw us playing.”

Identical twin sophomores Sabina and Karina Sobhani were at the game, playing bludgers “like George and Fred.”

According to Sabina (or Karina, they really were identical twins), the twins “tried to try out for the role of the Patil twins” for the Harry Potter movies but were told not to, for want of being British.

Original Author: Jeff Stein