(Soundbite of music)

GUY RAZ, host:

Next weekend at a park in New York City, seekers and beaters and snitches will toss around quaffles and bludgers at the Fourth Annual Quidditch World Cup, the game inspired by Harry Potter.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: Now, if you recall, proper quidditch is played on flying broomsticks.

(Soundbite of movie, "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone")

Ms. ZOE WANAMAKER (Actress): (as Madam Hooch) The quaffle is released, and the game begins.

(Soundbite of music)

RAZ: And so to make it work in our world, you have to either A, rewrite the laws of physics, or B, tamp down expectations, play on the ground and call it Muggle quidditch.

Unidentified Woman: Beaters, raise your hand. Keepers, raise your hand. Brooms down, eyes closed. The snitch is loose. Brooms up.

(Soundbite of whistle)

RAZ: This is a recent practice of the University of Maryland's quidditch team. There are seven players to a side. They all straddle brooms. They all wear capes. The field is elliptical. At each end of the ellipse are three hula hoops mounted on poles. And the rest of the rules are a bit too complicated to explain here. But basically, there a lot of people running around, throwing balls in different directions.

Unidentified Woman #2: It feels like flying, except you're on the ground.

RAZ: Intercollegiate quidditch has been around for about three years. It started at Middlebury College in Vermont.

Mr. ALEX BENEPE (Commissioner, International Quidditch Association): Harry was essentially the same age in the first book as I was when the books came out.

RAZ: That's Alex Benepe. He's the commissioner of the International Quidditch Association and one of the founders of Muggle quidditch.

Mr. BENEPE: I would say the majority of people in a typical liberal arts college like Harry Potter. It's like my generation's "Star Wars." Everybody has seen it and loves it.

RAZ: Now, as the story goes, Muggle quidditch began one autumn afternoon in Middlebury, Vermont, when bocce got boring.

Mr. BENEPE: Every Sunday, we would play bocce, and we would dress up in sort of faux European clothing and heckle each other in British accents. And then one weekend, Xander was like: You know what? I'm bored of bocce. Let's play a real-life version of quidditch.

RAZ: The next weekend, Alex and his friends got together to try it.

Mr. BENEPE: We were wearing towels as capes. We had household corncob brooms. Our goal hoops were hula hoops duct-taped to chairs and then a few garbage cans. And it was amazing.

RAZ: Another Middlebury student named Xander Manshel decided to write down formal rules using J.K. Rowling's imaginary game as a guide, and except for the flying, the game is pretty much the same.

(Soundbite of quidditch game)

Unidentified Woman #3: Go.

Unidentified Man #1: (Unintelligible).

Unidentified Woman #3: I can't - let go.

Unidentified Man #2: Got to go.

RAZ: Fast forward to 2010, there are now more than 400 intercollegiate quidditch teams around the world. Almost every Northeastern liberal arts college fields a squad. And so the inevitable is happening: Quidditch is going mainstream.

The captain of Maryland's team, Valerie Fischman, is trying to get the sport recognized by the NCAA.

Ms. VALERIE FISCHMAN (Student, University of Maryland): I think that having NCAA status will make it a little bit - give it a little bit more credibility, and it might help keep it around a little bit longer because I'm kind of hoping that it stays around after the Harry Potter generation leaves college.

RAZ: But until then, the winner of this year's International Quidditch World Cup will still be able to proudly display the international trophy, which is...

Mr. BENEPE: Made of plastic spray-painted gold. The main body is a vodka bottle with a plastic (unintelligible) saver on top filled with chocolate coins and a plastic wizard. And we write the winner's name on the trophy in Sharpie.

(Soundbite of music)

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