The players raced down the pitch, brooms between their legs as they passed a deflated volleyball to one another one-handed, dodging and weaving to avoid the yellow dodge balls thrown by the opposing team. The fans yelled in the stands, urging them forward as one particularly tall player avoided being tackled and threw the volleyball through one of three silver hoops at the end of the field. One of the two commentators overseeing the game under a small white tent quipped into a microphone, “This match is a classic example of Hagrid versus a bunch of first years.” The player had scored ten points for his team, the Badassalisks.
The second annual Quidditch World Cup in New York, taking place on Randall’s Island, was underway. The Badassalisks, along with 97 other teams coming from as far away as Finland, competed against each other in a series of matches in order to determine who would win the world cup.
Quidditch has risen to new heights in the past several years. First started as a type of tribute to the well-known Harry Potter books by J.K. Rowling, the sport now boasts hundreds of teams all over the world. Since they can’t fly like the characters in the books, earthbound Quidditch players instead run around with broomsticks between their legs, one hand on it at all times. The snitch, a golden ball in the books which gives a team 150 points if caught, is only worth 30 points and is played by a track runner dressed in a yellow suit.
“We don’t have the magic, but we’re creating it ourselves,” said Caitlin Dean, one of the Badassalisks players.
The Badassalisks’ community quidditch team, featuring players from all over the city, practices in Central Park twice a week. Pedestrians often stop to stare as they practice avoiding dodge balls, throwing a volleyball one-handed and tackling each other. Although quidditch teams are usually associated with colleges and college-age players, the Badassalisks have players ranging from their teens to their thirties. All of them without exception were excited about attending the Quidditch World Cup.
Chris Cabeza, one of the coaches of the Badassalisks who has been with the team for a little over two years, was certainly ready for the competition. “So far there’s a lot of new teams this year,” Cabeza said. “Our main strategy is a strong beater game; the beater is supposed to create as much chaos as possible.”
However, the team’s main focus was having fun. Decked out in green and yellow uniforms, face paint and dyed hair, the team was happy to show off its team spirit. Any registered quidditch team is allowed to sign up to compete and then the overall winner is determined by a series of rounds against other teams. “Some people take it too seriously,” said Michael E. Mason, another Badassalisks player. “While we compete with each other and want to win, we’re all here for the same thing. How can you take it as seriously when you’re running around with a broom between your legs?”
As the Badassalisks continued to play against their opponents from Hendrix College, the snitch burst onto the field. The two seekers, in charge of catching the ball stuck in a tube sock hanging off the back of the snitch’s yellow shorts, dashed after him. As they closed in, the snitch grabbed them by the shoulders and shoved them to the ground. At another point, the snitch threw one player to the side before dashing along the edge of the field.
Quidditch games are a mixture of comedy and athletics. The snitch takes the form of a quirky, mischievous mascot, often interacting with fans and in general causing havoc across the quidditch pitch. The commentators are quick to joke at the expense of the teams, throwing in Harry Potter trivia in order to entertain the spectators.
Ryan Blaney, one of the members of the snitch team, an independent organization with no loyalties to other quidditch teams, said, “My job is to be the biggest pain in the ass in the world.” He has done everything from knocking over hoops to throwing mud at players.
As the snitch rounded the corner, Edward Inzauto, the seeker for the Badassalisks, dove at the runner. He grabbed at the ball, rolling on the ground as plumes of dirt sprayed into the air from the impact. There was a moment and then Inzauto held up the tube sock triumphantly. The Badassalisks had won their first match with a final score of 140 to 30. This would soon be followed by three other victories in the regular rounds before they were finally knocked out by Purdue in their second semi-final match.