NEW YORK — The seeker from the Bronx High School of Science had to jump a fence and follow the snitch down Fifth Avenue. He caught the snitch but it didn't count because his broom wasn't between his legs.
Bronx Science lost 50-30 to Lenox High School in Lenox, Mass., as Central Park played host to an exhibition of Quidditch, the soccer-like game invented by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling.
In the books, Quidditch is played by wizards and witches on flying broomsticks. The real-life version with Muggles – non-magical folk – started in 2005 at Middlebury College in Vermont and is now played at over 150 colleges and 100 high schools.
In Muggle Quidditch, chasers try to throw the quaffle – a volleyball – through a hoop. For defense, beaters hit opposing players with a bludger – a dodgeball. The team's seeker runs after the snitch, a fast runner with a tennis ball in a sock that the seeker has to grab like the flag in flag football. In the fictional game, the snitch is a winged ball.
The players race around after quaffles and snitches while holding their brooms between their legs.
"This version of the game is the best it could possibly work in real life, short of flying brooms," said Alex Benepe, commissioner of the International Quidditch Association.
Benepe, a 23-year-old Middlebury College graduate and the son of New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, said Sunday's exhibition was intended to announce the incorporation of the Quidditch association as a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting Quidditch and literacy education.
High school and college players from around the Northeast competed against each other and then coached youngsters who were invited to pick up brooms and learn the sport.
Several dozen spectators watched as the teams lined up on a dirt field with Benepe doing the play-by-play.
"It's cool seeing the public get involved like this," said Aaron Kalischer-Coggins, 17, Lenox High's team captain.
Kalischer-Coggins said Lenox High Quidditch players practice twice a week and compete in intramural teams.
"It's a childhood dream come true," he said.
Nine-year-old Jivan Galper, from Concord, Mass., said he was in Central Park to watch the game with his family, and he was thrilled to learn that he and his younger brother, Khitan, would get to play themselves. His family was spending the holiday weekend in the city.
"I really like the Harry Potter books," said Jivan, a beater. "It's pretty cool. You never know what you're going to find in New York."