A disclaimer, upfront: it’s great that J.K. Rowling has sparked the imaginations of so many children in the 15 years (!) since the initial publication of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. It’s wonderful that so many of those children have then used the Potter books as a gateway to further reading. It’s beautiful to see a generation grow up clutching seven novels so close to their hearts. And now that’s out of the way, it’s safe to say that real-world Quidditch – which The Guardian reports is being played at Oxford, Yale, Harvard and several other universities around the world – is too deeply, deeply silly an idea to ever qualify as the ‘sport in its own right’ its most ardent proponents would like it to become.
Players can put on all the capes they want, but minus one fairly crucial detail – that would be the existence of magic – it’s ultimately just a load of idiots running about a field throwing balls at each other whilst trying to keep a hold of a symbolically loaded euphemism between their legs (so essentially a metaphor for every male-oriented ball game ever).
It’s no more Quidditch than knocking down a wall is ‘entering Diagon Alley’, jumping out of a wardrobe at someone is ‘being a Boggart’ or making a series of winking references to pieces of arcane Harry Potter trivia is ‘performing the Cruciatus Curse’.
And here’s the thing: this real-world translation isn’t necessarily a bad sport, per se. If its players want to be taken seriously, all they have to do is take a few months off, lose the capes and sticks, engage in a little bit of creative rebranding (might I suggest ‘DESTRUCT-O-BALL’?) and it could work.
The irony is that, much like the makers of several of the films, players of Quidditch are hobbled by their need to fit in every tiny detail of Rowling’s world (why yes, they do have someone dressed up in yellow pretending to be the Snitch! Thanks for asking!). If they might just exercise some of the creative thinking that Rowling has given them license to use through her own imagined world, they could be onto something.
In other book-related news: it has been a really, really slow month for book-related news.