The Pride of Iceland
Scenes from the Quidditch World Cup
Sunset on a Saturday in early November. The playing fields of Randall's Island, New York City. It's near the end of the first day of the surprisingly violent 2011 Quidditch World Cup, and we of the Outside Magazine Partially Icelandic Quidditch World Cup Team—OMPIQWCT for short—are ready to kick some Potter ass.
The 14 of us dominated our first competitors this morning and flew loop-the-loops around our second challengers this afternoon. Now, at one end of the vast spread of beautiful fields—what grass! what trees!—we’re warming up for our third match, which will determine whether we progress to the quarter-finals tomorrow. Behind us looms Icahn Stadium, where the finals will be played and where a Muggle named Usain Bolt once set a world record in the 100 meters.
Some 2,000 chipper, ethnically diverse, and not wholly fit competitors, mostly high school and college students, mill around the bleachers, the Porta-Potties, the team tent area. The line for the waffle cart stretches nearly to the East River. One infield retailer does a brisk business selling championship lapel pins, while another is on its way to liquidating the Quidditch players’ “broom of choice,” according to the brochure, a $55 handmade model dubbed the Shadow Chaser. Everywhere there are fans—dads wearing shirts that read PROUD PARENT OF A MCGILL QUIDDITCH PLAYER, alongside teens in capes and the crimson-and-gold scarves of Hogwarts. Only five years old, this grand tournathaddment of nonfantasy Quidditch will draw some 10,000 paying spectators. A Fox newscaster once called it “a cross between the Super Bowl and a medieval fair.”
“Look here,” hollers one of our offensive players, waving a hand as we trot around the field, catching and throwing inflatable balls.
At the edge of the field stand our opponents: undergrads from Rollins, a liberal-arts college in Winter Park, Florida. They have flown, or more likely ridden a bus, all the way from Florida to compete. And though they’re not even warming up yet, we watched their aggressive play earlier and want to be on point. We no longer feel awkward about how we threw together our team just a few weeks ago. Nor do we grumble that some of us are old enough to be Quid Kid parents, our average age being 30. Instead, we focus on game-winning strategy.
“Let’s monopolize the bludgers,” says our 39-year-old co-captain Josh.
“And then just let the chasers do their thing,” says our 28-year-old top scorer, Dan.
What are they talking about? I’m still not sure. In creating this real-world adaptation of the fantasy sport enjoyed by Harry and Ron and Hermione, numerous concessions to magic-quashing forces like gravity had to be made, and the result is best understood by those who score high on standardized tests. For example, the official rulebook contains illustrations of 22 different hand signals that a referee might make while blowing a whistle in any of four ways.