So…real-life Quidditch is a thing

I should say this up front: I’m not a sports guy. I don’t follow sports at all, it’s just nowhere on my radar at any time. I’m the guy who never knows when there’s a Big Game™ on, and I don’t know what team is from where, or what they even play. And if asked, I honestly couldn’t give two shits about this team leading that other team in the 4-3 zone at the bottom of the whatever while the backcourt defense runs offensive interference for the tight-end shortstop with 7 hours left on the clock. I played a few when I was younger, though — leading up to high school, my parents made me play at least one season of baseball, football, and soccer before they finally relented and just let me be the band nerd I was meant to be.

When it comes to sports scenes in movies or T.V., I’m just as indifferent. (I do enjoy those Ninja Warrior shows, especially the UK and Australian ones. Do those count?) Even fictional sports like quidditch or pro-bending on “Korra” are pretty ho-hum to me. It just feels like an interruption in the story, you know?

However! When I spotted some recent headlines about quidditch teams, I had to stop and read more to make sure I wasn’t just having a senility moment.

Quidditch Leagues to Rename Sport to Distance From J.K. Rowling’s ‘Anti-Trans Positions’
Two quidditch leagues announced this week that they are working to rename the sport in an effort to distance themselves from J.K. Rowling, citing her “anti-trans positions in recent years.” U.S. Quidditch and Major League Quidditch made the announcement in a press release on Wednesday and said that the “leagues will conduct a series of surveys over the next few months to guide a decision regarding the new name.”

What the what? My brain screeched to a halt. Quidditch? Like, from the books? With flying broomsticks and stuff? How?? I immediately started a-googlin’. Sure enough, it’s a real thing. From the U.S. Quidditch site:

A 501(c)3 nonprofit founded in 2010, US Quidditch serves an average of 3,500 athletes and 150 teams each season nationwide and provides a range of programs and services. These include hosting regional and national championships; supervising regular season competition; supporting and certifying referees, snitches, and tournament directors; offering grants; and working to expand the sport into younger age groups through outreach programs at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. 

Holy shit, how did I not know about this? I immediately sought out some videos, because I had to see how they were making this work. I mean, we all know what quidditch entails, right? What could they possibly be doing?

And that’s when I saw the broomsticks.

Hrrrrrrmmmmmm. I have to admit: the broomstick thing kind of broke my brain. I asked myself again if this could just be a fun, LARP-y thing that Harry Potter fans were embracing, so I went back to the very official U.S. Quidditch site and poked around some more.

At first glance it looks like a carefree, casual game, but it’s way more than that. These people are deadly serious about it, and they’ve put a ton of work into making it as real and genuine as any other sport. They have extremely detailed rules and regulations, referee policies, player transfer policies, hardcore pro-inclusivity policies (which I’m guessing is a rarity for any sport), mentorship programs…it’s actually pretty impressive. And this is coming from someone who finds most team sports insufferable.

However…those broomsticks. I just can’t get past ’em. Yes, I see they’re supposed to be a sort of handicap that everyone must have, but it’s just really weird to watch. It gives me those LARP-y cosplay vibes, and if it weren’t for that aspect of the game I might be inclined to watch more of it. Even while watching those scenes in the movies, fully aware that it’s FICTIONAL MAGIC STUFF, I find myself rolling my eyes a bit. But I still watch ’em because they’re that good. Well, once you’re past the quidditch stuff, that is. (Please don’t hate me.)

But you know what? Having said all that, I think if people enjoy running around bumping into each other with broomsticks waggling between their legs, more power to ’em. Broom like a boss, beat those bludgers, snatch those snitches! At least it’s not another ultra-macho team sport for jock bros who thrive on physical violence and brain damage. Maybe a little weird is just what the sports world needs.

I also ran across this article from 2014 about a documentary called “Mudbloods” which apparently explains it all a lot better. This quote from the director caught my eye: “I think one of the things that makes Quidditch appealing and unique is that there is a level of theatre, there is a level of absurdness inherently built into it because you can’t get away from that.” I fully support a level of absurdness in just about everything in life, so I just might hunt this film down and give it a go.

But wait, there’s more! Where things get really interesting is that U.S. Quidditch, as a sports entity or whatever, is trying to distance itself from J.K. Rowling. They acknowledge their love for the Harry Potter stories while also having to acknowledge their extreme loathing of her anti-trans opinions and statements, which must be a delicate balancing act. It sucks when something you love so much is now tainted by the person who created it, someone who deeply disappointed you. (I feel the same way about Graham Linehan, who wrote some of my favorite comedy shows of all time…before having quite the downfall a couple of years ago.)

Anyway, I don’t see how it’s possible to separate quidditch from the person who created it. The name of the sport itself will obviously have to change, but what about everything else? All the terminology that’s unique to quidditch (and the Harry Potter world) is used throughout the game: snitch, quaffle, beater, bludger, seeker, chaser, keeper, etc. What’s more, their gender inclusivity policy is actually called Title 9¾. What’s more Harry Potter than that? How in the world are they going to disentangle quidditch from Rowling without re-writing and re-learning all the terminology? Will they have to ditch the broomsticks??

I don’t envy whoever is in charge of all of that, because it sounds like a hell of a thing to tackle. But who knows? Maybe they’ll figure it out and the sport will transform into something new. Whatever happens, I think I’ll check in on it from time to time and see what they’re doing. Maybe I’ll even become a fan…?

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