Carrying suspicious-looking quidditch equipment on the metro


This morning, I brought two brand new Mark 3 quidditch hoop bases to campus via the métro. The McGill Quidditch Team now has a full set of 6 freestanding quidditch hoops! They are reasonably easy to carry and just the right weight to prevent tipping. They are also made of ABS pipes, joints and couplings, and so they look awfully suspicious.

I’m still working on updating the construction manual so that it reflects the most up-to-date version of the base.

I got off the métro at station Peel and crossed the path of two uniformed police officers. They looked at me, they looked at the mess of ABS pipes in my hands, and they looked up at me again. Although they didn’t say anything, I could tell from their expression that they were thinking something like, “If this guy wasn’t blond with blue eyes, we would totally preemptively arrest him under the brave new anti-terrorism legislation that just passed.”

I just tried to look casual.

McGill wins the Canada Cup again—surprise ending this time

McGill wins the Canada Cup ... again!
McGill wins the Canada Cup … again!

For the second year in a row, McGill University left the Canada Cup as the national champions in the sport of quidditch. For the record, there have only ever been 2 Canada Cups. There were some really intense and close games—ones that were too close to call until the final snitch grab—which made them very exciting to watch.

I went to the Cup this year as one of the golden snitches. This tournament was remarkable for a couple reasons. First off, it was very well organised. I can honestly say that I haven’t been to any tournament that was better-run than this one. The weather was ideal: brisk and sunny. The grounds were perfect for off-field snitching: a million places to hide. It was great. Also, there were about a million snitches, too. Almost every quidditch tournament I’ve been to has been lacking in snitches, and this one had an overabundance.

This was why I felt so honoured to be able to snitch for the consolation match (the match to determine 3rd and 4th place). I didn’t want to snitch the finals, since McGill was playing, and I just don’t want questions like, “did you let the McGill seeker catch you?”

The consolation match ended up going later than the final match, and I enlisted some of my McGill snitch friends to engage in some on-field mischief.

When I came back to the field, the score was 30-0, which meant that the snitch-catch tied the game. It’s sometimes said in quidditch that the only player who’s guaranteed to lose every match is the golden snitch. Tonight I made history, because the only possible exception is that of a tied game: When a game is tied, it goes into overtime in which the snitch does not leave the field, and at the end, the team with the most points wins. Overtime ends after a period of 5 minutes or by a snitch-catch. The five-minutes of overtime came and went, and by the end of it, I hadn’t been caught.

Carleton, the team that won, hoisted me up on their shoulders. I won the game! As the golden snitch! This almost never happens. It was the perfect conclusion to a fantastic tournament: my team won (congrats McGill!) and I won too!

Below is a video of me snitching another game earlier in the day. It’s not as consequential as the consolation match later in the day, but it gives you an idea. :)

The Carlisle-Desroches Quidditch Hoop Construction Manual

I discovered last week that the Carlisle-Desroches Quidditch Hoop Construction Manual was incorporated into the latest version of the IQA rulebook! Hooray!

We never received any official notice from the IQA—we found out about this when one of my teammates noticed a reference to the design on the IQA site. Anyway, we’re honoured, and this has inspired us to put some more work into it. Also, one of the members of the McGill Quidditch team has asked us to re-think the bases for the hoops this summer.

Hence, we plan to build, test and release the Mark II Carlisle-Desroches Quidditch Hoop over the course of the summer. The new design which will be the same as the original, but with an alternate base that’s probably made of PVC rather than the current bucket-o-concrete. For the record, I like the bucket-o-concrete, but some have raised concerns about safety. They’re afraid that people will hit their heads.

The Quidditch World Cup 2011

McGill competes at the Quidditch World Cup 2011

McGill Quidditch 2011
McGill Quidditch 2011

There were quite a few highlights for my time as a beater on the McGill team. I feel like our beaters really started to come together as a team this weekend. We had a rough start in our first game, and we were eliminated after we made it into the top 16 (the IQA hasn’t released final rankings yet) but I’m proud of my team and our performance at the World Cup.

I think my favourite game was against “America’s Finest Quidditch Club.” As far as I understand it, by their own admission, “America’s Finest” was formed out of the desire of a number of jocks to beat up Harry Potter nerds.

Brooms up!
Brooms up!

Partly because of their loose grasp of the rules of the game, America’s Finest played a very dirty game. I will not enumerate all the ways I saw them break the rules, but I will tell you that in the end justice was served: we won. We played a clean game and we still beat them.

Je suis le vif d’or

Interviewed as a Snitch
Interviewed as a Snitch

Being a golden snitch at the World Cup was a long-term dream of mine, one that I realised this weekend past at the Quidditch World Cup V in New York City. I had so much fun!

On the first morning, Alex Benepe himself shook my hand and called me “Wings,” on account of the wings on my headband.

Throughout the day, I was interviewed and had my picture taken by different magazines, websites, radio stations, etc. But even more fun than that was when little kids would ask to have their photo taken with me. They were so cute. (“And what house are you in, little boy? … Griffindor? Wow!”)

Golden Snitch at the World Cup
Golden Snitch at the World Cup

It was a very busy weekend. On the Saturday alone, I was officially a part of seven different games—three as a snitch and four as a beater. (As a snitch on my way back to my field, I interfered with quite a few other games unofficially!)

A couple weird things to think about: Because of all those photos I took with those kids, I am in quite a number of people’s Facebook albums as the Golden Snitch now, I’m sure, and I will never be tagged, because those people don’t know me. Also, a surprisingly large number of photos were taken of my rear end.

Good news and bad news

Speaking of my hindquarters, my performance as a snitch at the Canada Cup was recently featured on RelieFtv, a TV station in Ottawa. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the footage they have of me is mainly of me being pantsed by the University of Ottawa seeker.

McGill wins the Canada Cup

McGill wins the Canada Cup
McGill wins the Canada Cup

This Saturday was an exciting one for me and my teammates. I woke up at 5h15 to leave for Ottawa from the McGill campus by 5h45. It was the day of the first-ever Canada Cup, and I was on the starting lineup for McGill’s quidditch team as a beater.

We did very well on Saturday. You can check out the stats for McGill’s showing at the Canada Cup, which are posted on the IQA website, but here’s the highlights:

  • McGill won the Canada Cup
  • McGill was undefeated at the Canada Cup
  • McGill suffered no hospitalisations at the Canada Cup
  • McGill even provided half the snitches for the Canada Cup

That last point is a matter of some importance, actually. I believe there were six snitches at the Canada Cup, and three of those were McGill students. Because there were so few snitches, this meant that (contrary to tradition) a snitch from McGill had to snitch a game in which McGill was playing. Fortunately (?) in both cases where that happened, McGill didn’t catch the snitch, but the game was a blow-out, in that McGill had an advantage of greater than 30 points (the value of a snitch-catch) by the time the snitch was caught. I say fortunately, because it means that there’s no way that there could be accusations of favouritism on the part of the snitch.

I was a snitch at the first Canada Cup

Je suis le vif d'or
Je suis le vif d'or

On Saturday, I realised a long-time dream of mine: I was the golden snitch for an actual competitive game between schools! I got to snitch two games, in fact. For the rest of the time I was busy beating for McGill. I had so much fun.

I did make a mistake in my first game, though: Minutes before the game, I asked someone where the nearest bathroom was (because I had to go to the bathroom). This was a mistake because I did so within earshot of the seeker.

Less than five minutes in, both seekers had me cornered in a bathroom, but fortunately they knocked me down when they forced the bathroom door open, and so I got a few seconds to run off. I lost them, hid, and came back to the field right on time.

I am the golden snitch
I am the golden snitch

The second game that I snitched went much better. I colluded with the snitch from the other game at the time, and we both got in the car that we drove up from Montréal that morning and locked the doors. We took the car right up beside the quidditch pitch, and I leaned out the window and waved while he honked the horn. We waited for a minute while one more snitch jumped into the back of the car, then drove off into the sunset with the seekers sadly running after us.

The crowd loved it.

Eventually, after we lost them, we drove around campus for 7–8 minutes and then came back to the same parking lot where we started and got out and ran back onto the field.

For this game, the seekers were little people! I felt bad for them whenever I would knock them down or steal their brooms or headbands.

At first, the seeker from Ryerson caught me. Ryerson was so happy—their team had never won a quidditch match before! Alas, the snitch-catch tied the game and it went into sudden-death overtime. That means that game time is extended until a second snitch-catch, and the snitch doesn’t leave the field. U of T caught me the second time around, and they won.

Different personalities

I’ve started noticing that I take on different personalities while playing quidditch, depending on what position I’m playing at the time. When I’m a snitch, I’m mischievous and playful. You can tell, because of the headband-with-wings that I wear.

On the other hand, when I’m beating, I am very aggressive. I yell a lot and I pretend to be very upset about everything.

“Drop it!”

“You’re gone!”

“You’re hit!”

“Get off your broom!”

That sort of thing. Also, when people break the rules, I yell at them too. That way, the other player has a harder time doing the “Oh I didn’t know I was hit!” thing.

Also, sometimes the other player is honestly ignorant of a rule—I screamed my head off at a player who tried to continue to play, having fallen off his broom. I also yelled at a guy who tackled me from the back.

Yelling is one of my favourite parts of quidditch. I love pretending to be really upset about stuff. I try to make it really over-the-top so people realise I’m not actually angry, but sometimes other players don’t get it. I made another beater really angry on Saturday. Oops!

I’m normally a pretty even-keeled person in the rest of my life. I guess quidditch is where I get all my aggression out. :P

First draft of my IQA hoop design contest entry

An early prototype
An early prototype

Earlier this summer, the quidditch team noticed that the hoops that we’ve been using were flaky at best. The bases for the hoops worked well, but the hoops themselves were, well … hula-hoops duct taped to the tops of ABS pipes.

They would fall over or break easily. The duct tape would lose its stickiness quickly and it became a chore to keep them in working order.

So, we started working on a replacement for the hoops. We wanted something sturdier. After a few tries, we eventually came up with a design that’s simple, modular, portable, affordable and very, very durable.

While we were working on this, weeks ago, I remember having a conversation where I mentioned that the IQA has “official” brooms, quaffles, etc. and that we should apply for this to be the official hoop of the IQA. Then, as if they read our minds, on July 28th, the IQA launched a hoop design contest. I guess I’ll have to brush up on my occlumency.

Here are the prizes for the contest:

  • The best design will be promoted in the IQA handbook as the “official” hoop design and may be used at the World Cup.
  • The designer and her/his team will be always credited as long as that design is used, wherever it is used, and the design of the hoops will be named after the designer.
  • If the IQA chooses to produce and sell this design at an affordable price to teams, the designer’s team will receive a share of the funds raised as long as the design is used.

So a couple days ago we went back to the hardware store to look up the prices and the real-people names for all the component parts of the hoops that we built, and over the past little while I’ve spent a few hours putting together a construction manual for building one of our hoops. I’m pretty proud of it, really.

The IQA contest deadline is August 11th, so there’s still time for revision. I would appreciate any feedback (from the quidditch team especially, but all comments are welcome) regarding the construction manual and its contents before that date. Tell me if you notice any inconsistencies, grammar/spelling mistakes, or any parts of the instructions that aren’t clear. Also, please note any advantages of the design that are not mentioned on the last page.

[Download the construction manual as a PDF file here.]

Summer quidditch photos

Flying bludger strike
Flying bludger strike

When I tell people that I play quidditch, sometimes I like to say that it only looks like we’re running along the ground with brooms between our legs when muggles watch, but really, we’re flying.

Here are a bunch of photos from this Saturday past.

I’m taking it as my project this week to try to come up with a better way to secure a hula hoop to its base for use in a quidditch game.

Summer quidditch

The weather was beautiful this Saturday past, and so of course, we played quidditch.

For the first time, I got to be play as a chaser. Usually I’m a beater, which means that I throw the bludgers at people, which is very satisfying.

Chasing is also satisfying, but in a different way. The goal of a chaser is to put the quaffle through the other team’s hoops. This means more catching and passing, which I’m not especially strong at, although by the end I was getting better than how I had started. It also meant more running and tackling—something I think I enjoyed just as much as bludgeoning other players with a bludger.

My goal for next year is still to be a snitch, but I’m going to have to work on my endurance a lot to pull that off. I’ll also have to talk to the McGill snitch to see if she can give me some tips. That said, at least for summer practices, I think I’m gonna have some fun and try out all the positions. Except keeper. I’m not tall enough to be a good keeper.

Also this Saturday I learned that there will indeed be enough people from the quidditch team around Montréal this summer to be able to have summer quidditch practices. This makes me happy. :)

The Quidditch World Cup 2010

The team gathering around our coach
The team gathering around our coach

This weekend past, as you may recall from seeing on various news stations, was the 2010 Quidditch World Cup in New York City. I was on the McGill team that competed, and I had a fantastic time. We played well, won more games than we lost, and beat the team from Harvard University. :)

For me, the highlight from the World Cup was watching the brilliant performances of the Golden Snitches. These were some amazing athletes. I can think of no other sport where there is a position that combines long distance running, wrestling and acrobatic showmanship.

I'm number 25
I'm number 25

There are few rules for the conduct of a snitch in a game. This means that the snitch can pull a seeker off his broom, interfere with players from another game, or wrestle a seeker to the ground, in an attempt to prevent the seekers from catching him or her.

People attending the Cup who were unfamiliar with the snitch were especially fun to listen to. I overheard a person behind me, at the beginning of a game ask her friend in a very confused voice, “Wait. He just ran off the field. Is he supposed to do that?”

This is why we won the spirit award
This is why we won the spirit award

Or later in the day, I heard someone else declare, “I don’t know. I just think something’s not right when you see a snitch hailing a cab.”

I have compiled a short list of some of the most entertaining things that I personally watched a snitch do in the course of a game.

  • Climb up a fence
  • Climb on top of a nearby building
  • Run onto the field of another game and interfere with the gameplay by bludgeoning one of the seekers
  • Return to the field riding a unicycle that he got somehow
  • Taunt one team’s seeker by pulling off his cape and holding it in front of him in the manner of a Spanish bull-fighter
  • Pick up the quaffle and offer it to a spectator on one knee, as if it were a token of his affection
  • Pull off two team members headbands and exchange them (coloured headbands are used to designate positions)
  • Pull a hoop off its stand and pass himself through it three times, before declaring to the crowd, “I have thirty points now!”
Playing against Carleton
Playing against Carleton

But my favourite moment was in the final game between Middlebury and the Tufflepuffs (the team from Tufts). For starters, the snitch for that game was brilliant. He could run faster backward than the seekers could run forward. He could flip a seeker on his back without losing his own momentum. It was amazing to watch.

Toward the end, the snitch returned to the field, and with him came all the other snitches who had snitched the other games for the Cup. They arranged themselves around the real snitch, like a Roman Phalanx, so the seekers couldn’t catch him, and after a few seconds, they all ran around the field in a big blur of yellow, so it was impossible to tell from the sides where the real snitch was, and I’m sure it was equally confusing for the seekers, who were just returning to the field from chasing the snitch. Eventually, the false snitches left the field, and the snitch was caught by the Tufts team, but the playfulness and the athleticism of the snitches were really remarkable.

I think that I want to work on my distance running this year and maybe next year I’ll be good enough to be a Golden Snitch at the World Cup. :)

I made the Quidditch World Cup team

I have lost possession of the bludger
I have lost possession of the bludger

This is something that I’m very proud of: McGill Quidditch is sending a team to the Quidditch World Cup in New York on the weekend of November 13-14, and I made the World Cup team.

Not only that, but I’m on the A-team!

In celebration, here is some photo evidence that I actually do play Quidditch, for the sceptics out there.

I am getting hit by a bludger
I am getting hit by a bludger

These photos are from this Saturday’s practice, which was cold and miserable, to start out with. After a while, I warmed up, but it took some time and effort, and I kept my huge McGill rugby shirt on the whole time.

The hardest part about being a beater on a Quidditch team in the cold is that your fingers freeze, and so it’s hard to grip the bludger. And it’s not like I could put on gloves for next time or anything—that would make it even harder to hold onto the bludger.

I am in possession of a bludger
I am in possession of a bludger

Here are a few pro-tips for aspiring young beaters. According to the IQA rulebook, you can kick a bludger into your opponent and it counts as a hit. This may change your beginning-of-game strategy and your tactics for recovering the bludger as well. Also, I discovered recently that the bludgers were deflated partially on purpose, and that they would also be deflated like that at the World Cup. This means that I can actually grab the bludger and throw it overhand, and it gives me a lot more flexibility with what I do with it.

I will end this post with a bit of speculation. There is a rumour that JK Rowling will be in New York during the World Cup. I wonder if she will attend. I will be bringing my camera to the event, and if I see her, I will try to get someone to take a photograph of me with her in the background. :)