ANDERSON — Anyone walking through Anderson Athletic Park may feel like they’re in another world on Saturday.
They’ll encounter athletes zooming around on broomsticks, yelling code words and chasing after each other and someone else dressed in all yellow.
Ripped from the pages of “Harry Potter,” Quidditch has flown in from the wizarding world and is making its way to Anderson this weekend.
The Ball State Quidditch League is hosting its inaugural Ball Brothers Brawl 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at Athletic Park. The event is free for spectators.
Tournament Director Ali Markus said 14 Quidditch teams from across the Midwest will battle it out in the competition.
Quidditch is mostly known as a fictional game played by witches and wizards on broomsticks in the hugely popular “Harry Potter” books and movies. But muggles – or non-magic folk – created their own version in 2005, and the sport has exploded in popularity, particularly on college campuses, ever since.
The co-ed contact sport takes elements from soccer, dodgeball, tag and rugby while players run around on broomsticks to make the magical game come to life.
A team consists of seven players: three chasers, two beaters, a keeper and a seeker. Chasers throw a volleyball called a quaffle into one of three rings or hoops at the end of the field for goals worth 10 points. The keeper acts as a goalie and defends the hoops.
Beaters use dodgeballs called bludgers to “knock out” other players, who are out of the play until they touch their own goals if they’re hit by a bludger.
The seeker for each team tries to catch the golden snitch, earning 30 points and marking the end of the game. In the “Harry Potter” series, the snitch is a tiny golden ball with wings that flies around. In muggle Quiddich, it’s a person dressed in gold that runs around with a ball attached to his or her waistband, which the seekers try to capture.
Markus said people should attend the tournament because it’s a blast to watch. Although she didn’t want to say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, being a Quidditch spectator isn’t very common.
“When are you ever going to get to see Quidditch again?” she said. “It’s not something you can just flip on a TV and watch a Quidditch game. It’s something new, something you’re not typically going to do on a Saturday.”
Markus said the atmosphere is a mix of intense competitiveness and laid back Harry Potter nerds who love Quidditch.
There are more than 300 official Quidditch teams around the world, according to United States Quidditch (USQ), a nonprofit organization that governs the sport.
According to the USQ, Ball State is currently ranked second, behind Bowling Green State University.
Markus said some of the Midwest’s top teams, including Bowling Green, Ohio State and Miami University are registered for Saturday’s tournament.
Now a senior, Ball State co-captain Danielle Anderson said she never knew people could actually play the sport until her freshman year at the university.
“It’s pretty much defined my college experience,” Anderson said.
Since Ball State is one of the strongest teams in the league – they even competed in USQ’s 2013 and 2014 World Cups – the players wanted to strengthen their reputation by hosting a tournament.
They originally planned on having the event on Ball State’s campus, Markus said, but the university wouldn’t let them schedule a field far enough in advance. After some searching, they realized the Athletic Field was the best location for the best price.
Anderson said sometimes people away from campus don’t know how to respond to the sport.
“We’ve gotten a lot of weird looks at tournaments and stuff, depending where we’re playing at (because) it’s not always on a campus, and so if people are driving by they’ll stop and be like, ‘What is this? What is happening right now?’” Anderson said. “Oh, we’re just playing Quidditch."
She said having a local tournament also helps Ball State’s players, since they normally have to travel out of state for games and only a fraction can normally go.
Alex Didat started playing Quidditch last year, and he said it’s a relief his school is finally going to have its own tournament.
Didat said he wasn’t a huge “Harry Potter” fan, but he got hooked after he had multiple friends joined the team. The game itself got him hooked, and the tournament will offer more exposure to more people.
“It’s a weird sport and it’s too much fun to quit,” he said. “Plus you get to hit people with dodgeballs all day, so that’s always a plus.”
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