“Two ferocious teams have gathered here today, on this field, to compete in the greatest sport in history,” announced Alex Benepe, son of Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, at a muddy McCarren Park in Greenpoint last month as an MTV camera circled around him. After a dramatic pause, the young Mr. Benepe—looking like an old-time carnival barker in a black suit and striped tie, with a scepter in his hand and a squat black top hat on his blond mane—bellowed, “This is Quidditch!”
For the past three years, Mr. Benepe has served as commissioner of the Intercollegiate Quidditch Association, a group that has turned the fictional flying wizard sport from the Harry Potter books into an aggressive ground game played at more than 100 colleges.
Mr. Benepe played his first match during his freshman year at Middlebury College, where he majored in art history, then became commissioner his sophomore year and began promoting Quidditch to other schools. He developed an official rule book, derived from the Potter book series, in which seven-player teams try to throw balls through several hoops and capture a “snitch.”
Players must also keep a gnarled broomstick—custom-made for the league—between their legs at all times, but otherwise: “We don’t put too many rules on physical contact,” said Mr. Benepe, who’s currently interning at MoMA. “We had one good game that was really bloody. They had an ambulance on standby in case we needed to use it.”
Most of the afternoon was choreographed by MTV, which recently aired the first of four Quidditch commercials promoting the new Harry Potter movie. “The real Quidditch games are better,” said Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe, who watched the Quidditch World Cup his son organized at Middlebury last year. Commissioner Benepe claimed the conditions in the MTV commercial were not his fault. “We offered for them to play on synthetic turf, but they wanted something muddy and dangerous,” he told the Transom. (Much to his chagrin—after about 10 of the players came to use his shower after the game. “There was so much mud and ball-field clay in our house for weeks,” he said.)
Commissioner Benepe was also there to plug the sport at the groundbreaking of Bushwick Inlet Park in Williamsburg on Monday. Quidditch was listed as one of the possible activities at the new park, and the parks commissioner corrected Mayor Bloomberg when he mispronounced it. “Even the mayor knew about Quidditch,” he told the Transom. “It’s out there.”