Updated after the jump: USC's quidditch captain tells us his team has fewer players than UCLA (shocker), so their chances are slim. He also shares with us the plight of the HUMAN SNITCH. This just keeps getting better.
We've somehow just now become aware of an entire subculture of "Harry Potter" aficionados -- including students at many of the nation's top universities -- who engage in a real-life version of quidditch, the same flying broomstick game enjoyed by Potter and his many fictional frenemies.
Only problem is, real muggles can't fly. Which is why the USC and UCLA quidditch teams, set to participate in the much-anticipated Western Cup in Los Angeles this weekend, run around with broomsticks wagging from between their thighs.
This is not a joke:
"Since it is quidditch, you don't fly, but you have to have a broomstick in between your legs at all times," says a member of the UCLA team in the video, wearing a neon sweatband on his forehead and what appear to be lab goggles around his neck. "That's the silliest part of the game -- it's the most ridiculous -- but it's also the hardest."
"The brooms don't fly, so you kind of have to power them with your own legs," adds a female teammate. "Sometimes you get a lot of stares from other people who are kind of like, 'What is that that they doing? It looks like they're ... in Harry Potter land, or something."
OK, we'll just pretend that's what we were thinking.
A final quidditch player in the UCLA vid goes so far as to claim he's pimpin' off his literary game: "You go to a party and you tell people you play quidditch, and you get all the girls, like right off the bat," he says.
Again -- no comment. (Unless you're Oliver Wood disguised as a computer-science geek, in which case, feel free to have your way with us.)
According to the Western Cup's Facebook page:
The tournament will take place over two days in Los Angeles, and will likely be the largest quidditch event ever to occur west of the Mississippi. ...
Whimsic Alley, a shopping haven for wizards of distinction, will be transporting the magic of their store in Los Angeles to our tournament! Bring your galleons!
The Harry Potter Alliance, a charity group dedicated to bettering the world through the lessons of Harry Potter, will join us at the event.
UCLA and USC will compete against such bigshots as Arizona State University,
San Jose State and UC Berkeley at Cheviot Hills Park in West L.A. on Saturday and Sunday.
Things might even get frisky at a 7:30 p.m. mixer/concert Saturday night, where Potter heads can grind awkwardly, free of broomsticks (or not), to the magical "wizard rock" of the Remus Lupins.
It's heartwarming, really. We're glad to see the role-playing children of Civil War reenactors finally find their own 21st century niche. May the nerdiest nerd herd win!
Update: When asked who's going to win this weekend, USC quidditch captain Spencer Gold (we're sure he has many other strong points, too) admits to us that his team's at a bit of a disadvantage.
"USC and UCLA have, despite being in a similar area, different types of students they attract," Gold says. Then, the translation: "USC students aren't as open to the idea of a nerdy sport like Harry Potter."
He's right. They're more into nerdy sports like Screwing UCLA Chicks on Tops of Buildings. (Sorry, too easy.)
Like Mr. Kappa Sigma and his lovely lady, Gold says that the USC and UCLA teams actually get along quite nicely off the field.
"As much as we have a rivalry with them, they've been very receptive for giving us ideas," he says.
Second best part of our interview: Gold tells us about the human snitch.
Here goes. When playing quidditch on campus, the snitch, who hangs a tennis ball in a sock from the back of his shorts -- sort of like flag football -- is "allowed to run away from the general field area" and go hide anywhere he likes. Garbage can, classroom, foliage, the top of Waite Phillips Hall... you name it. (OK, really, we'll stop now.)
However, since games only last 20 to 25 minutes and both the USC and UCLA campuses are ginormous, "it's not very often that the seekers will find the snitch." So the snitch must return after about 15 minutes, and evade seekers trying to get their paws on his tennis ball at the field.
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"Once, when we were at UCLA, the snitch took a spectator's bike and started riding away with it," says Gold.
That's, like -- almost as cool as Screwing UCLA Chicks on Tops of Buildings. And we mean that.
Originally posted March 29 at 5:30 p.m.