A loud crack emanates from the scrum and play stops.
The players peels off each other and step back, looking for the injured party. A solitary athlete reveals the carnage to a silent crowd; a broomstick fractured, shards of wood splintering from its gruesome handle.
The play remains dead until the player could replace his broomstick with another from the sidelines.
Spectators lining the Sunken Garden greet his return to the pitch with applause.
Welcome to the world of quidditch.
“You guys might want to back up,” Tribe quidditch captain Drew Follett ’13, said. “[The brick walkway] is the sideline but the balls will still come out here. Don’t touch the balls.”
The fans, packed two rows deep along the Sunken Garden, snickered. They had shown up for the first officially sanctioned quidditch game in College of William and Mary history versus Christopher Newport University to watch a made up sport from the Harry Potter series. Of course they laughed.
But they also backed up.
Play began with the releasing of the quaffle at 1:21 p.m. Sunday in the Sunken Garden. The College scored the first points by throwing the quaffle — a rubber dodgeball — through the CNU Captains’ middle hoop.
Before scoring, intense play around the Tribe’s hoops knocked some rings, and some players, to the ground.
“I was really shocked how physical it was,” spectator Aron Baum ’11 said. “They are like tackling. I thought it would be like tag.”
The first match ended with the Tribe capturing the snitch worth 150 points — a freshman in a yellow shirt — to give the Tribe a 1-0 series lead over the Captains. But the game was disputed by Christopher Newport on the grounds that the Tribe failed to follow some of the basic rules of the International Quidditch Association handbook.
In the Harry Potter novels, the official rules of quidditch are enforced by referees flying in the air on magical broomsticks. In Williamsburg, where people can’t actually fly and gold golf balls don’t flit through the air like sparrows, the match was governed by the IQA handbook, a 23-page rulebook governing what’s allowed in the grounded sport.
A couple of Tribe players, for example, violated the rule on returning to the sideline after being hit by a bludger thrown by a CNU beater.
“There were so many violations of the IQA rulebook,” team president Irene Morrison-Moncure ’11 said. “Of course this is the first time we have been playing, so the learning curve is huge. But we are learning.”
Christopher Newport took the second match 170-0, as the Captains twice scored with the quaffle before capturing the snitch on the right side of the pitch.
Follett left the pitch with a head injury after colliding with an opponent near the hoops, as the contest became increasingly contentious and physical.
“It was a good win,” Tribe assistant captain Matt Skeete ’14 said. “CNU played really dirty though. They were not playing by international quidditch rules.”
As Skeete and the Tribe took the pitch for the third match, the crowd started chant of “Tribe, Tribe, Tribe.” Christopher Newport took the early 10-0 lead after scoring with the quaffle, but the College quickly found the snitch to take a 2-1 lead in the series.
With Follett on the bench icing an injury, the Tribe fell behind 30-0 in the fourth and final game of the day. But once again the College managed to capture the snitch, allowing the College to win both the match and the tournament.
For Christopher Newport, it was an afternoon of frustrating quidditch against a group of amateur competitors. For the Tribe, it was a good first start for a young and inexperienced squad.
“I was extremely proud of them all,” said Morrison-Moncure. “We even had people volunteer to do stuff they were not used to. We had two snitches going back and forth. I think we have a very nice team this year.”
But what about the fans, many of whom sought out Morrison-Moncure to ask whether they could try out for the squad? Was the idea of quidditch for muggles still a joke? Did it matter that they, along with some of the Tribe players, didn’t quite understand the rules?
“We are not here to be like ‘Hey, these are the rules,’” Christopher Newport’s Chris Reilly ’13 said. “We are here to play quidditch. It’s not about being really strict. It’s about having fun.”
__Sam Sutton contributed to this report__