This weekend I took the Middlebury fan bus down to NYC to see our team play in a very prestigious sporting event: the Quidditch World Cup. (Yep, you heard right. Quiddtich. Like from Harry Potter.)
Muggle Quiddtich started at Middlebury six years ago, with a bunch of freshmen who wanted to spice up their weekly tradition of playing bocce on Battell Beach. Those students have now graduated and moved on to bigger and better things–and Quidditch has grown up as well. I remember my freshman year’s World Cup, when Middlebury hosted nine teams on dorm room floors and were amazed at how huge a crowd we’s managed to draw. (That was also the first year it was an actual “world” cup, since McGill came down from Canada to play.) Last year, the World Cup moved to NYC because the number of spectators had gotten too big to fit in Middlebury, VT. This year, Quiddtich exceeded even my wildest, most outlandish imaginings. The IQA put together a tournament of over one hundred teams, including an alumni game and a high school bracket. When I first arrived, I spent half an hour walking around the complex of nine pitches in awe, amazed at how little MiddQuid has grown into a worldwide pheonomenon. (And I mean worldwide. This weekend Middlebury had the honor of playing the most far-flung team to date: Vassa, from Finland. I’m pretty sure they flew over in an airplane, not on brooms.)
Middlebury has been the reigning World Cup Champions since the beginning, which always sortof seemed like a given. This year, though, I realized that we would have to play really well to even have a shot at trophy–in Quiddtich tradition, a plastic vodka bottle spray-painted gold. (Nobody but the team knows if it’s full or not.) We played pretty well in pool play, ending up 13th seed in the 34-team single-elimination bracket. In pool play, we did experience our first loss in the history of Quiddtich, to Michigan’s VERY enthusiastic team.
We made it through to the semifinals and finals, held in the soccer stadium on Randall’s Island. The Middlebury student cheering section just managed to make ourselves be heard over the roar of the rest of the stadium–with the notable exception of Canada’s two teams, which graciously both cheered for us. I dont think I’ve ever been that nervous at a sporting event in my life. We cheered, yelled at the dramatically-gesticulating ref, and chanted for the two of our players that were carried off the field on stretchers (they’re both going to be okay, but be warned: Quidditch is a rough sport). We sang various Middlebury fight songs and found even the least Quidditch-enthused of us yelling things like “Nice beat! He was bludged, ref! Drop the Quaffle!!!!”
After a nerve-wracking game and some excellent snitching (The Golden Snitch: a human being dressed in all yellow for whom no rules apply. Snitching is a hilarious sub-sport that’s worth checking out on Youtube.), Middlebury caught the snitch and, just barely, defended our championship for the fifth year running. I dont know if we’ll be able to hold onto it next year–Quidditch teams everywhere are getting better and better–but I was happy to see us win, in person, for my last World Cup as a student.
The fan bus left NYC right after the final game, so we arrived back in Middlebury at 4:00 this morning. It’s a tribute to our fan’s enthusiasm that we didnt sleep the whole way: we spent the first hour or so reliving plays and singing the very intimidating and bloodthirsty Middlebury victory song:
“There’s only one Middlebury / hey hey / one Middlebury / hey hey / walkin’ along / singin’ a song / walkin’ in a winter wonderland.”