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Augureys seek real title in fictional sport

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Portland team will compete in regional quidditch tourney


COURTESY:TASHA KIRI ROBERTSON - During a quidditch tournament involving Portlands Augureys club team, two players show the physical nature of the Harry Potter-inspired sport.The people who play quidditch, the sport of “Harry Potter” and friends (and foes) from the famous J.K. Rowling books and movies, have to be quick with some knowledge, as they get the same question many times:

“Uh, what are you doing?”

They also get some chuckles, as interested spectators see the participants running around with broomsticks between their legs, chasing or “beating” others and trying to score big by tracking down somebody called “a snitch” wearing a Velcro tail, and scoring points with balls known as quaffles. It isn’t your grandfather’s schoolyard game, or even your mother’s and maybe not even yours — if you’re older than 30. But, it’s fun for the beaters, chasers, seekers, keepers and snitches involved, and that’s all that counts.

There are 14 members of the Portland Quidditch League and its team, the Augureys, founded in 2014 by Benji Grundner and Tasha Kiri Robertson. The club, along with scores of others from Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, will compete in the US Quidditch Northwest Regional Championship, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 6 and 7, at Capital Futbol Club Soccer Complex in Salem.

It’ll be a round-robin tournament, with each team playing at least eight games in two days.

Grundner, 21, takes his “Harry Potter” seriously, as do the rest of the people playing quidditch. There are about 300 teams in US Quidditch, with about 60 qualifying for the US Quidditch Cup, including three from our region.

“There’s not as much cosplay anymore, it’s played as an actual sport and less of a ‘Harry Potter’ thing,” he says.

Adds Robertson, 19: “It’s a lot like other sports, but the culture is more welcoming and inclusive, it’s an all-gender inclusive sport. A lot of people playing come from a ‘Harry Potter’ angle, but others you see playing on college campuses. ... Most of the language we use is from the books and movies. When we started out, people would have capes and wands with them, but a lot of that has disappeared.”

The quidditch scenes in the fantastical “Potter” movies are very fun, because the wizards and witches are flying on broomsticks, the “Golden Snitch” is an elusive winged ball, and Potter squares off epically against Voldemort.

In real-life quidditch, “we don’t fly,” Grundner says. There are seven players on foot, per team, and “the broomsticks are usually PVC pipes that we keep between our legs at all times; like dribbling a basketball, it has to remain between your legs at all times.” You score with quaffles (balls) put into the goals and bludgers (balls) used by two beaters, similar to dodge ball. There also are three chasers, a seeker and a goalie — the goalie has special powers near the hoop. The seeker tries to catch the snitch for extra points, the snitch being an impartial person released 18 minutes into the game wearing shorts with a Velcro tail that you have to pull off as the snitch offers physical resistance. If you catch the snitch, it’s 30 points, and you effectively win the game.

It can be a physical game with the dodge-ball aspect and snitch chasing. There is some grappling, shoving and broom stealing, Grundner says.

“It’s pretty physical,” Robertson adds. “You’re allowed to tackle with one arm. It can get pretty brutal, putting people on the ground.”

Grundner says when the Augureys practice, they get some chuckles from interested onlookers.

“We definitely have gained people (to participate) from them walking up and seeing us play,” Robertson says.

It’s a sport still full of ardent “Potter” fans, such as Grundner.

“They were embarrassingly a large part of my life when I was younger,” he says, of the Rowling books and movies. “I got really into it.

“One of my favorite things about quidditch is it’s created not just as a sport but as a whole community, based on the values of the book. There is value in bravery and camaraderie and in just sort of being good people and a community of people that work together. Quidditch doesn’t necessarily remind me of ‘Harry Potter’ anymore, but both are connected.”

If interested in playing in the Portland Quidditch League, look for its page on Facebook and Twitter. For more on US Quidditch, visit www.usquidditch.org.