Editor's note: This story was originally published on August 25, 2016
Real-life Quidditch doesn't need slick computer-generated effects.
Picture a soccer field, but with a set of three vertical rings sticking out of the ground where the goal net would be. Two teams of six players are trying to score by tossing a Quaffle, which is a slightly deflated volleyball, through the other team's rings. The other three balls –those are called Bludgers—look and function like dodge balls, meant to hit members of the opposing team.
Now imagine all this going on while the team members run around on their broomsticks, which are really 3 ft. PVC pipes that they hold between their legs.
"Quidditch is a mix of rugby, basketball, soccer, and dodgeball," says Hank Dugie, founder of the League City Legends Quidditch team. The 26- year-old League City council member played a big role in bringing the North American annual Major League Quidditch Championship to his hometown this year.
The full-contact sport began about eleven years ago at Middlebury College, a private liberal arts school in Vermont. Today, there are hundreds of colleges across the U.S. with Quidditch teams.
"Before I even joined, I just thought, ‘Oh, these are a bunch of Harry Potter nerds playing a game,'" laughs Taylor Crawford, who plays on the New York Titans. He has a bandage on his left cheek covering ten stitches, the result of a rough game last week. "I didn't try out or play it until someone told me, ‘It's full contact, you'll like it.' I played football growing up, so I'm like, ‘Okay, I'll go to a practice.'"
Not only is Quidditch full-contact, it's also co-ed. Beth Cleaver is on the League City team. She's always played sports, but five years ago, she found Quidditch.
"I remember seeing YouTube videos about it when it was first starting and it looked silly," Cleaver says. "But once I got out here, I got so hooked."
Eighteen minutes into every Quidditch game, the excitement steps up a notch. That's when a new player dressed entirely in yellow suddenly appears on the field and starts running around. This is the Snitch. On the back of his shorts, a sock with a tennis ball inside is attached to the waist band by Velcro. At this point, players from both sides try to grab the sock. When that happens, the game ends and whichever team has the highest score at that point wins.
At Hometown Heroes Park in League City, the sun was broiling and the grass was soggy. That didn't keep nearly 400 people from showing up last weekend to watch the Major League Quidditch championship. Some came from other states to support their teams. Ariel Heiblum even flew in from Mexico City.
"I saw on Facebook that it was being held this weekend and I found a super-cheap plane ticket," Heiblum says. "I have friends here from college that I could stay with. So, I'm here specifically for this."
Tyler Trudeau, 22, could be considered one of the Quidditch celebrities and is even on the cover of the league's recent magazine. He came to compete, despite having to play on a sprained ankle.
"I was a huge Harry Potter fan," Trudeau says. "I've read all the books, I've seen all the movies and I love all the Quidditch scenes. Harry Potter has brought me to Quidditch but Quidditch has kept me playing."
After two days of competing, it came down to a face-off between his team – the defending champions Boston Night Riders – and the Austin Outlaws. History repeated itself when Boston took first place again, beating Austin 150 to 120.