We continue to respect our heritage/amorous affair with our mother-magazine, The Blue & White(see About) by posting each issue of the magazine online. The latest issue, available this week around campus, is a cornucopia of delights: an interview with Dean Peter Awn; drugs, sex and ROTC; and a discussion of the institution of the Columbia presidency. This month, staff writer Helen Bao attempts to tackle the quixotic quest for a Quidditch team.
A student darts across Butler Lawn, sporting a cape and cradling a kickball in his arms. Two more swarm around him, brandishing nerf balls. They zoom towards the goal posts located near the Butler staircase. The first student scores, and the crowds lining the fences cheer. Along the sidelines, a man in a gold leotard prances by, flapping his hands and evading other students on the field. Oh, and they all have broomsticks jammed between their legs. This is Muggle Quidditch.
Played at a growing number of colleges nationwide, Muggle Quidditch takes inspiration from the rugby-like game played by characters in the Harry Potter franchise. The latest effort to create a Columbia chapter of the, shall we say, “sport,” began when Chloe Gogo, BC’13, camped in line for the opening of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1. Sporting elf ears and a pillowcase, an extraordinary idea dawned upon her.
Soon afterwards Gogo decided to use Facebook to gauge student interest in a Muggle Quidditch club. She created a group with the description “Interested in Quidditch? Love Harry Potter? Got a thing for bad Harry Potter pickup lines and shiny golden balls?” Through that page, she met fellow Potterphile Kristina Lee, CC’13.
Gogo and Lee met once but, owing to logistical and personal concerns, decided to postpone the creation of Columbia’s Quidditch team. They were not the first students to try, nor will they be the last to fail to bring the nerdy chic sport to the Upper West Side. Gogo hit bureaucratic difficulties in starting a club by herself, and without spells and magic she could not shout “Accio” to call together broomsticks, goalposts and players. “I’d realized I’d bitten off more than I could chew,” she said. Unfortunately, economic reality must be dealt with and Gogo simply had neither the galleons nor the dollars to purchase all of the necessary equipment.
Another obstacle encountered was the dark, sunless depths of Dodge Gym. Quidditch as a league sport does exist–the International Quidditch Association hosts consistent and competitive regional tournaments–but for the most part the sport is about fun and enjoying the outdoors. “We thought it would be fun to play in the middle of the day in front of people,” Gogo explains. “What’s fun about playing shut up in Dodge or LeFrak?” However, given the tarps that cover South Lawn during the winter months, even a team willing to brave the snow might be forced to practice in the gloomy gym.
Gogo might consider the advice of Middlebury graduate and Muggle Quidditch creator Alex Benepe, class of ’09, whose experiment has evolved an obsession for his alma mater. Benepe grew up on the Upper West Side and has been patiently waiting for Columbia to create a Quidditch team. “Even if the school doesn’t have space, you can go to the local city parks,” suggests Benepe, acknowledging, then dismissing, the challenge of founding a Quidditch team in an urban environment. “Columbia is very close to Riverside Park and not all that far away from Central Park. You can apply for permits online and it’s cheap and free.”
Ex-Quidditch enthusiast Josh Lin, CC’13, once one of the most spirited forces on the Columbia Quidditch Facebook page, opines, “To be honest, now I see Quidditch at Columbia as more of a joke—something that should exist because it’d be fun but something that isn’t dire or necessary.” Lin’s opinion speaks to the current apathy towards Quidditch on campus. But hope remains. In every incarnation of the Quidditch team push, logistics aside, there is more than enough support and interest on campus. And Benepe urges anyone interested in starting a team in the future to contact him. He will help. Perhaps soon we will see Keepers, Beaters, and that snugly-outfitted Snitch zooming around Butler Lawn bringing joy (or supreme smugness) to students on their way to Lit Hum.