Witches, Wizards, and Brooms

BY: DANIEL GOLDSBARY

Jill Thoman

Jill Thoman

Wizards and witches atop broomsticks descend on the field and begin twisting and weaving through each other, coordinating with their respective team members while dodging bludgers flying through the air at painful speeds. A chaser rushes forward and lunges for a quaffle that he scoops up, and starts sprinting for the end of the field where three goal posts lay in wait. Meanwhile, the keeper attempts to guard.

The chaser instinctively pulls an evasive maneuver, but too late. A beater throws a bludger that catches him in the lower back and the chaser releases the quaffle in compliance with the rules, only to have it picked up by a chaser of the opposing team.

While these people are in fact muggles and their broomsticks don’t operate any higher than ground level, the spirit the players have for quidditch is definitely as real as the magic in Harry Potter.

While all of that happens at a surprisingly fast pace, a seeker from each team hunts for the snitch. In the magical world of Harry Potter, the snitch is a small golden ball that flies around at incredible speeds in order to avoid capture. The snitch, in the muggle world, is a ball attached to the waistband of a neutral player known as the snitch runner. The capture of the snitch ends the game, but doesn’t ensure a victory.

Quidditch is a full contact sport derived from the Harry Potter franchise, with two competing teams each consisting of seven players on the field. Each team has one keeper, three chasers, two beaters, and one seeker.

The aforementioned team practicing at Los Altos Park in Long Beach goes by the name Funky Quaffles. Organized online by co-captain Justin Madriaga back in April, the team members at the field today are an eclectic group of people that play together with a sense of comradery that doesn’t dissipate during practice.

During a regular practice, the team can be seen doing sprints and passing drills to help them get used to running with a broom while throwing and catching balls with one hand. They’ll practice maneuvers like the cherry pick, an offensive strategy where a player lies in wait undetected behind the opposing team’s goal posts, and scores when passed the ball.

Caylen McDonald, the other co-captain, was one of the first people to respond to Madriaga’s online fliers. There is a tattoo of Sirius Black’s Azkaban identification number on her outer left ankle.

“Between drills we’ll be running around throwing dodge balls at each other’s faces and laughing,” McDonald said. “We all goof around to an extent but at the same time, we know when to take it seriously.”

Before a game, one of the co-captains will give a pep talk and a little chant, “F who? F Q! L-B-C till we D-I-E. Funky Quaffles!”

McDonald expressed her opposition to having a star player by explaining that there are teams that win championships while having one star player, but those teams would never be accomplishing the same feats without just that one person.

“We’ve tried to have it balanced out,” she said. “Every person has one counterpart of equal talent in the same position.”

Aside from not really flying, another harsh reality of playing this game outside of the wizarding world is the absence of the spell Brackium Emendo and the atrocious-tasting potion Skele-Gro.

It happened in May, during the very first tournament the Funky Quaffles attended. At first McDonald thought she heard a broom snapping; the brooms used in quidditch games are often made using PVC piping. The sound was of an arm of a player on the field breaking in half.

The guy had gone to tackle another player around the waist and got an arm caught between the player’s body and broom when he tried to spin out of the hold; the snitch runner heard the break from the other side of the park.

“Honestly, it was one of the craziest things I had ever seen,” McDonald said.

As a team, they’re really striving to connect a bunch of people who maybe would not have met otherwise, and create a group to share a part of life with.

Not all quidditch players are originally fans of the series and that’s becoming more and more common in the quidditch world. There are some athletes that are just looking for a way to compete and be athletic.

The Funky Quaffles are registered to attend and compete at the Southern California Quidditch Conference D1 Season Opener in October.

“I really want us to at least make a name for ourselves in the quidditch community, since we’re new,” said McDonald. “We want to show up to the first tournament and have people say, ‘Wow, they got their shit together quickly!’ We got some shit for our name because people were worried that we wouldn’t be taken seriously, but we’ve gotten sponsored by Xylophone Films and we’ve gotten our jerseys paid for. We just want more people to join.”

The team aspires to make it to the seventh annual quidditch World Cup, taking place next year on April 5-6, in North Myrtle Beach, S.C.