Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.
How to Play Quidditch in Harry Potter
Based on this article's title, you might think I despise the wizarding world's Quidditch sport. Not at all; I'm impressed by J.K. Rowling's imagination and complexity of rules with her crafted broomstick battles. That said, Quidditch contains several glaring faults that would make it insufferable to both players and fans.
But first, a refresher on how the game works. Teams consist of seven players, each mounted on flying broomsticks. Three Chasers are assigned to throw the Quaffle ball through the opposing team's three hoops (think scoring a goal in soccer), earning 10 points when successful. One Keeper defends these hoops. Two Beaters wield bats to knock the violent Bludger balls away from teammates and towards rivals. Finally, a single Seeker pursues the elusive Golden Snitch, and catching it ends the game while earning 150 points for their team. So, where does the system fall apart? Here are ten inescapable hazards with Quidditch!
10. The Rich Have a Huge Advantage
As you can imagine, broomsticks are crucial in this sport. The better your broom, the faster you can fly, letting you score/defend goals, avoid Bludgers, and of course, catch the Snitch. You can possess all the skill in the world, but if you're not among the wizarding elite, you'll be lagging behind on your Cleansweep as some rich chap zooms ahead on his Firebolt or Nimbus.
Presumably, this isn't a problem in the Quidditch World Cup, where professional teams should have enough funds to outfit themselves with top gear, but in the casual matches of Hogwarts, players supply their own brooms, giving the wealthy a large advantage.
9. Cheating Often Goes Unpunished
Some physical contact is allowed in Quidditch, but several moves constitute fouls, and both players and spectators are forbidden from hexing any participants. However, we witness several instances where the match proceeds despite violations. In The Sorcerer's Stone, we see Harry jinxed (by Professor Quirrell), nearly falling off his broom as a result. Hagrid remarks it's clearly dark magic, yet no one thinks to pause the game!
Sure, this wasn't the fault of Harry's Slytherin opponents, but if you were playing an official soccer match and your opponents had arrows shot at them by a passerby, I imagine someone would at least call a time-out. There's also the matter of the tampered Bludger in Chamber of Secrets, Hermione's jinxing of Cormac McLaggen in Half-Blood Prince (admittedly only for tryouts), and Ron's supposed use of banned luck-providing potion Felix Felicis (he didn't purposefully ingest in, and it turns out he didn't ingest it at all but was more than happy to think he had).
8. It's Visible to Muggles
Remember, wizards need to hide their existence from the non-magical world. Yet Quidditch is an extraordinarily visible sport, played in open stadiums and fields with over a dozen enchanted players and balls zipping around. And it's commonly played not just at Hogwarts or the World Cup, but casually across the globe, making it miraculous its sorcerers haven't been discovered yet.
In fact, Quidditch's visibility became such an issue that the Wizards Council outlawed playing within 100 miles of Muggles. That's one way to regulate its display, but leaves very few arenas that can actually be legally used.
7. Players Can't Switch Out
Now, this is contradicted by the info given in Goblet of Fire regarding a World Cup game that lasted three months, forcing players to swap out frequently. However, as the first World Cup was in 1473, and the official Ministry of Magic guideline detailing this rule wasn't issued until 1750, it's possible that (at the time) switching was perfectly legal.
Either way, according to the 1750 statement, "No substitution of players is allowed throughout the game, even if a player is too injured or tired to continue to play." I suppose the intent is to make getting injured by a well-timed Bludger all the more devastating, but it still seems an odd ruling, especially given how long matches can last.
6. It's Dangerous
George Weasley: "Rough game, Quidditch."
Fred Weasley: "Brutal, but no one's died in years."
Many real-world sports contain an element of danger, but not nearly to the extent of Quidditch. If zooming around hundreds of feet off the ground isn't bad enough, having players tackle each other and slam Bludgers every which way really seals the deal. We've seen Harry nearly die in several Quidditch matches, from his cursed near-fall to being pursued by the Bludger to actually falling thanks to a Dementor, saved only by Dumbledore's intervention.
Harry broke his arm due to the Bludger, and his other escapes were close calls that were disturbingly close to fatal. Also note that disturbingly few Quidditch players (other than the occasional Keeper) seem to wear helmets, and one of the games that inspired Quidditch, Creaothceann, has long been banned for its dangerous elements.
5. Seriously, It's Really Dangerous
Still not convinced of how absurdly hazardous the sport is? Consider the description of the first 1473 Quidditch World Cup, detailed by Kennilworthy Whisp in his book Quidditch Through the Ages:
"...all 700 known fouls were committed (and several new ones subsequently created), including the Transfiguration of a Chaser into a polecat, the attempted decapitation of a Keeper with a broadsword, and the release, from underneath the robes of the Transylvanian Captain, of a hundred blood-sucking vampire bats..."
Seven hundred fouls and an attempted decapitation. Yikes. As a final nail in the coffin, in Harry's era, Bludgers are made of iron. Assuming they're purely composed, using the dimensions given, this equates to about 149 pounds per ball! That's a hefty amount of weight to have hurdling at breakneck speeds towards you.
4. It Drove a Species to Near-Extinction
In a 1269 Quidditch match, a wizard named Barberus Bragge offered 150 Galleons to any player who could catch the Golden Snidget, a honey-colored bird he released. This was later altered into giving the team that caught the fledgling 150 points, leading to a position called Hunters that would eventually develop into Seekers.
Unfortunately, catching a Snidget would usually kill it, even if the Hunter didn't intend to, as it was a rather frail bird that could be crushed simply by grasping it. For a century, wizards and witches continued brutally murdering the birds for sport, to the point that the entire species was near extinction. Thankfully, the Snitch was invented, and the Snidget classified as endangered, measures intended to keep the avian alive, but Quidditch very nearly spelled the end for these cute chubby birds.
3. There Aren't Any (Known) Tie-Breakers
So, what happens if a team is 150 points ahead of their rivals, but then the other team catches the Snitch, ending the game with a draw? Well...we don't know. As Pottermore states: "It is never explained what happens in the event of a tie."
Presumably, it wouldn't be terribly difficult to craft some sort of tie-breaking criteria, but as things stand, we're simply not informed of any official way to end draws.
2. It Can Last Way Too Long (Or Short)
Most real-world sporting events end after either a fixed amount of time or once a team reaches a certain score. Even the rare exceptions, like baseball, often implement "mercy" systems that finalize a match if one team gets far enough ahead. However, Quidditch can last for days, weeks, or even months if neither Seeker catches the Snitch! And teammates can't help; the rules mandate only Seekers may capture the elusive sphere.
This can lead to dreadfully long matches; seriously, a three-month game? Neither players nor fans would ever want to participate that long. To be fair, a match can end prematurely if both team captains agree to stop, but this rarely occurs (few losing teams would willing accept a loss when the Snitch could rebound them).
On the other hand, matches can also end far too quickly. Imagine you paid good Galleons to attend a premier championship game, only for the clash to finish within a minute since some halfwit got lucky and nabbed the Snitch. That's game! Now hand over your money.
1. The Snitch Is a Terrible Mechanic
Imagine you're watching a soccer or football game, cheering as your favorite team narrowly edges ahead. But right before the clock runs out, some bloke on the other team (who hasn't contributed to any other portion of the game) grabs a ball so tiny you never even saw it, and their squad wins for it. That's what the Snitch does. Chasers and Keepers don't matter unless your team can get ahead by more than 150 points, meaning you'll win if either Seeker catches the Snitch. This can happen, but it's so rare that it's almost forgettable. How often does a soccer team get 16 goals ahead or a football team 16 touchdowns?
Thus, in the vast majority of matches, the Chasers, Keepers, and to an extent Beaters, are playing their own little effort-medal contest that won't amount to anything, as the victor is determined solely by who catches the Snitch. It was an author cheat designed to make Harry's position all the more crucial, but in truth, it just wouldn't fly. In fact, real-life Quidditch teams scale the Snitch down to just 30 points, a fifth of what it was originally worth!
What Quidditch Did Right
I admire J.K. Rowling's work, and for all the fact that Quidditch contains several game-breaking attributes, it does contain its triumphs. The high-speed elements are thrilling, the varied uniforms look sweet, and it's a sport where girls often outplay guys due to their slim figures allowing faster flying.
J.K. Rowling crafted a magical world filled with several details, and the fact that we got an entire, mostly fleshed-out sport in the package is pretty impressive. So, can we really blame her for not ironing out all the kinks? Maybe not. But does that mean the sport would run smoothly in real life? Well, not as presented in the books. But for now, as we eagerly await more adventures from the wizarding world, vote for your favorite Quidditch position, and I'll see you at our next Harry Potter countdown!
© 2018 Jeremy Gill
Filipe Baião from Lisbon on January 16, 2020:
Can't argue with any of that. Really fun sport though! Good Hub.
Jeremy Gill (author) from Louisiana on December 20, 2018:
Thank you, and fair points; I suppose Quidditch isn't any more dangerous than having students enter the Forbidden Forest as punishment. Goes to show just how perilous Hogwarts can be!
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on December 20, 2018:
Great article! Though I have to say about number 1, in The Goblet of Fire, Ireland won the Quidditch final even though Krum caught the Snitch, which is why it's so important to have a strong team of Chasers and Keeper.
I would also say that danger is part of being a witch or wizard. Think of all the deadly hexes that kids could just use on each other in the corridors, from bat bogeys to blistering boils!
Quidditch is really creative, so there are bound to be problems. It's always fun reading your point of view on your articles!
Liz Westwood from UK on October 02, 2018:
Dangerous was top of my list. It puts rugby in the shade fot danger.