Fantasy sport demands real-world legitimacy

Column by Amanda Wallace. E-mail [email protected].

A quaffle. Beaters and Seekers. The golden snitch. If you’ve somehow missed the media juggernaut that is Harry Potter, that’s quidditch.

This once fictional sport has now reached extreme popularity and is seeking more legitimacy-NPR reported this week that the University of Maryland (UM) is striving for recognition from the NCAA.

Like any unfamiliar sport, “muggle quidditch” would be too difficult to explain in a couple of sentences. The best way I can think of to describe the sport is a combination of dodgeball, basketball and track. To deny that the sport has some form of legitimacy would also be ridiculous.

While it has only existed in it’s “muggle” variety since 2007, (when it was created at Middlebury college in Vermont) it has already been adopted as a club sport at multiple institutions, including UK. There is a quidditch World Cup, about to be held in NYC, and official rules. There is a governing body for quidditch, with a Quidditch commissioner. Impressive for a sport that up until fairly recently existed only in fiction.

So why not seek NCAA status? Simply put, it’s not really a sport. Since the fictional variety features flying broomsticks, the “muggle” variety also features broomsticks. Except these can’t fly. (I’ve always been of the opinion that the real-world version should be played on unicycles.) Most of the goals still appear to be constructed out of hula hoops, and the participants wear capes. It’s little more than cosplay, and hardly a sport.

Don’t get me wrong. I understand the allure of Harry Potter. I practically grew up with the fictional wizard and was around his age when he received his green inked letter and attended Hogwarts. But that doesn’t mean that I think the game J.K. Rowling so eloquently detailed in her novels deserves NCAA status.

The NPR interview with the UM quidditch captain stated that she wanted to make sure that quidditch survived the Harry Potter craze and that was why they were hoping to be recognized by the NCAA. But membership into that sporting organization does not mean that the sport would stand the test of time. If quidditch is to become a lasting sport, then it will. It was created and spread massively over three years without the help of the NCAA. I don’t see why it needs them now.

Sports exist without NCAA recognition, and for the whimsy that is “muggle quidditch,” such an honor could do more harm than good.

To gain admittance they would most likely have to sacrifice what it is that makes them unique-the capes and probably the brooms. The spirit of the sport would be lost for the sake of what exactly?

Sports like rugby thrive without NCAA recognition, and they do so much the same way quidditch already has. They created their own leagues-the UK men’s team plays with the Ohio Rugby League, a sanctioned body that does all the NCAA would do.

If quidditch plans to survive for more than ten years or so, the NCAA isn’t the only means in which to do that. At three years, quidditch has already lasted through the early growing pains of just being a collegiate phase, and it should neither want or need NCAA status.

Amanda Wallace is an English junior. E-mail [email protected].