The Rebuild of Quidditch at UF

As the remnants of an Epilepsy Walk cleared out, Flavet Field became an empty plane of grass and dirt. Dust clouds flurried, rustling the browning vegetation. The field would have remained empty, if it weren’t for the singular white van parked towards its center.

Gainesville resident Hao Wang emerged from the vehicle, carrying a cubical black and silver box. Ushering the speaker to the stage, he set it to blast songs from Disney films at a volume that could be heard across the entire field.

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Coach Tim Derrick helps his team set up for the Swamp Cup. This event consisted of multiple scrimmage games and educational lessons for new players.

Saturday was the 2017 Swamp Cup, an effort to attract players and spectators from across Alachua County, regardless of experience in the sport. This wasn’t a baseball outing, football game, or a soccer tournament. Hosted by the University of Florida’s Quidditch team, residents of the county gathered to bring the fictional sport from the Harry Potter book series to life.

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Team members assist new players with a warm-up exercise. These players are being taught mechanics that apply to playing a legitimate Quidditch match.

“We’re very accepting that you don’t know how to play, this is not a sport people grow up playing,” said Gainesville resident Meg Cannan. She has been a member of the team since August 2016.

Tim Derrick, the six-year coach of the team, said he saw this event as not just a casual set of scrimmages between teammates. There are two nights a week already reserved for that. This was an attempt to attract new players, the start of a plan to resurrect a team that Derrick said had split over the past year.

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Coach Tim Derrick joins his team members in a Quidditch match. He plays himself to help teach new players by example.

Cannan said the UF Quidditch team used to be the second best in the region. One of the factors that makes Quidditch stand out from traditional sports is that college teams and community teams play in the same league.

She said this led Florida’s Finest, a team dedicated to conglomerating the most skilled players from across the state, to recruit the strongest players from Florida universities.

“UF’s team was a victim to this system, and because of that we are struggling with membership,” she said.

According to their official Facebook page, “Florida’s Finest is the premier Quidditch community team in Florida, with members hailing from Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Gainesville, and Jackonsville (Jacksonville).”

Choosing to temporarily drop out from the official United States league, Derrick said he spent the year trying to reinvigorate the team, attracting new members to come play through weekday scrimmages and events such as this.

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Team members and new players engage in a game of Quidditch. Each player carries an orange or blue “broom,” representing the team they are on.

Derrick said a major dilemma of coaching a sport that originated from fiction is the variety in player skill levels. As he allows anyone interested to join his team, he said he receives people who run the gamut of athletic ability.

“You get people who have never played a sport before,” he said. “You have to teach them how to play the game and how to be an athlete.”

It is this struggle that Derrick said motivates him to revitalize his team.

“It’s rewarding when they finally figure something out,” he said.

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Coach Tim Derrick advises new players. Newcomers were placed on teams with experienced members so they would learn through play.

Derrick said the decline of the Harry Potter mania has changed Quidditch in Gainesville for the better.

“Non Harry Potter fans have started seeing it as a sport,” he said.

He said this change in perspective has allowed for people who have never read a J.K. Rowling novel, or seen a single film in the saga, to become immersed in the game.

Wang, a member of the team, said, “People get injured every tournament, this is a full contact sport.”

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Meg Cannan struggles to keep hold of the ball. Quidditch is a co-ed sport, despite being full-contact.

Cannan said it was the friendliness and sense of community that convinced her to join the team, and believes that is what will attract others.

“I love the people.”

The Books That Shaped You

Note: This article was initially published on the Moment Magazine official site on 9/13/16. 



In our Books that Shaped Great Authors symposium, we asked 20 Jewish writers to tell us about the books that influenced them the most. Their answers ran the gamut from Winnie-the-Pooh to War and Peace. Hoping for some equally inspiring responses, we asked our readers to tell us their own stories about books that changed them. Here are some of our favorites.


My life changed course during my high school marine biology class. Two afternoons a week, our teacher would don a field hat and read snippets from the introduction to John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez, written to memorialize Steinbeck’s close friend Ed Ricketts.

One passage sold us on the immense value of good literature, good science and good friendship. Steinbeck describes a moment four days into his own birthday party. Ricketts, having already imbibed about five gallons of beer, awakens from a nap and reaches for his nearby quart-size bottle: “He found it, sat up, and took a deep drink of it. He smiled sweetly and waved two fingers in the air in a kind of benediction.
‘There’s nothing like that first taste of beer,’ he said.”

We were gobsmacked. We cheered, our adolescent belief in the healing power of an all-nighter wrapped in the package of Steinbeck’s own fine prose, philosophical observations, and finished neatly with a newly minted form of religious ritual.

My transformation led me to pursue the paths that Ricketts and Steinbeck modeled. I relentlessly pursued a first career in marine and wildlife biology, all the while writing, with Steinbeck as my muse. My recent career as a spiritual care counselor and chaplain is yet another branch of the Ricketts/Steinbeck legacy. Although I grew up middle-class and Jewish and my pastoral training has been through Jewish seminaries, my life has been lived on the rough edges, as a biologist as well as in the areas where I live and serve, whether fishing in the harbors or ministering to heroin addicts in skid rows.

It is no accident that Steinbeck used the word “benediction” in the passage my classmates and I so loved. To him, the sacred happens in small moments as well as it would in a church or synagogue. Steinbeck’s works always portray his own struggle to show us the spiritual easiness of the land, how humans seem to mangle it all up, and how we can find redemption.

—Susan Katz

Suddenly, All-of-a-Kind Family popped into my head. The tender love and care shared between parents and daughters, the sisters’ relationships and identity as individuals and as Jewish immigrants, helped me relate to my father’s childhood and upward struggle. The tension of tradition, observation, and contemporary life was one he felt constantly. He passed this year, but left a legacy for my siblings and myself that engendered a deep love for Jewish observance with the freedom to participate as is most meaningful. I still think of Ella and Henrietta and the other sisters whose father was that same loving guide, who deepened their appreciation for their roots and quietly modeled how to be a good Jew, a true mensch.

—Jenny Merdinger

Tao Te Ching, written by ancient Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu—I’d recommend the Penguin translation by D.C. Lau—is the book that came into my life like a bolt of lightning. It is not a Jewish text, but it has probably been discussed and interpreted as diversely as the books of the Talmud.

Though astonishingly brief, even in translation, and despite being over 2,500 years old (like the Hebrew bible text, it is still mostly intelligible to modern readers of the language), its contents are absolutely relevant to life in the 21st century. Full of incredible juxtapositions and paradoxes, Lao Tzu’s book is like the ancient embodiment of Yoda’s teachings to Luke Skywalker, and for me as a high school student, the ideas in this text were totally opposite to the deadline-driven, achievement-focused, survival-of-the-fittest society that I was racing through as a young adult. Quotes from the book were and continue to be life-changing revelations that contradicted everything I thought I knew and helped me to find a more relaxed attitude, which also probably contributes to greater success and happiness in career and relationships. For example, “Excessive speech leads inevitably to silence. Better to hold fast to the void.”

I would even argue that this book is the original and best self-help book of the past 2,500 years. (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, might be my personal choice of runner-up).

—Brian Landberg

Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, when I was a sophomore in college. This was the book that really taught me to read carefully, with my whole heart and mind, and with an eye for the detail and nuance in Ellison’s language, in his characters, images, motifs, and themes. It was also the book that began my more mature thinking about race in America—never a more urgent topic than right now.

—Rebecca Schwartz

I was interested in health, medicine and anatomy from a very early age. I used birthday money to buy my first microscope at age 10. I wasn’t sure how I would use that interest because I was a female, and had no related role models. Then I read Woman Surgeon by Else K. Laroe, and that transformed my thinking about the possible. I retired five years ago after 46 years in health care. I received much more than I gave.

—Karolyn Rim Stein

Many books and authors influenced me as a young person growing up in post-war Germany, long after World War II was over. Max Frisch and Wolfgang Borchert were instrumental in defining my attitude towards peaceful coexistence. However, the one book that opened my mind to an even greater extent was Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. It started the adoption of a different perspective of how I viewed the world and, more importantly, human behavior. Manipulation and emotional control are presented very clearly in this book—all the more reason for me to resent them.

—Ingrid Webster


These responses have been edited and condensed.

Endgame: A Deeper Look into the Game of Thrones S6 Finale

Well, this is finally it, we are officially in the endgame of Game of Thrones. All of the narrative chess pieces are in position; everything has come together for the final arc of the series. Due to its importance, I thought i’d take a deeper approach with this episode than my typical vlog style video reviews. Take this as an in-depth examination into Sunday’s masterpiece, and its implications on the narrative as a whole.

One thing I wanted to address before diving right in was my main problem with this episode, the issue of “teleporting characters”. This isn’t the first episode that has had this problem, and probably won’t be the last. However, I still think it’s worth addressing. There is no way Arya could have made it from Braavos, a city on the west coast of Essos, to the Riverlands in western Westeros that quickly. There is also no way thalyanna-mormontt Varys could have left Meereen, made it to Dorne, and returned to Meereen in a matter of days. Now you are probably shouting, time has passed between scenes! I was inclined to agree, until I noticed one detail, Lyanna Mormont. When Jon is named King of the North, Lyanna is still in Winterfell, at this meeting. If time has passed between scenes, there is no logical reason as to why Lyanna would not have returned to Bear Island, but stayed at Winterfell. Evidently, these “teleportation” issues are a mistake on the writers’ end. If I hated the show, I would be more pissed about this than I am; but since it’s my favorite currently running show, I can look over this without much hesitance.

Now to dive into the actual episode. I first want to address a scene that, although overshadowed by the rest of the episodes developments, should not be ignored. Sam and Gilly have arrived at the Citadel in Oldtown. This was the first time have seen Oldtown in the show, and boy was it spectacular. The design of the Citadel was flawless. The reason why Sam’s presence at the Citadel is so important for the narrative, however, is that he now has access to the largest library in the world (other than Asshai perhaps, but that doesn’t seem to be a location that will be visited in the show). With the war for the dawn approaching, it is my belief that Sam has been placed in this location for a reason. He will most likely be libraryresponsible for finding information that will help Azor Ahai, who is most likely Jon Snow, or should we call him Jon Targareyan now (don’t worry, i’ll get into that soon) defeat the Night King. After all, with all non-essential characters killed in this episode, Sam has to still be alive for some reason. He may also potentially find information pertaining to the true parentage of Jon, leading him to become one of the few alive who knows of Jon’s lineage. This leads me into one of the biggest reveals of the entire show.

That’s right boys, R+L=J is cannon! I legitimately believed that, after all that they showed already of the Tower of Joy battle, the identity of Jon’s parentage would be left up to viewer interpretation. However, they actually went through with it, using Bran’s last weirdwood flashbthe-truth-about-r-l-j-is-about-to-be-revealed-here-s-everything-you-need-to-know-befo-959375ack of the season to reveal this to the audience. Jon Snow is canonically the son of Lyanna Stark and Rhaegar Targaryen, it’s not speculation anymore. Now the question of whether she was kidnapped and raped, or they were in love and ran away together is not really addressed, but hey, we should at least be satisfied that we got anything. This also provides further leverage to the theory that Jon is Azor Ahai, for it is heavily hinted that the new Azor Ahai will have “dragon blood.” Jon has also now been somewhat legitimized as a Stark, being officially crowned King of the North by his fellow northern lords. This will most likely put him at direct odds with Cersei (there is no way she will allow him to be Warden of the North while she rules Westeros), who I will get to very soon. He will also likely have to deal with the issue of Littlefinger, who wants nothing more than to rule the north alongside Sansa himself. Let’s say Littlefinger decided he wants the north. He has no legitimate claim, but he also has the Knights of the Vale under his command. If Jon and Sansa refused, he could easily have his troops take the castle, and force Sansa to be his bride. So although the Starks have control over Winterfell, it is a very fragile control. Of course none of this will be possible if the White Walkers invade anytime soon, but i’ll get to that later.

There is also the issue of Melisandre, who was banished from the North after being outed as a murderer by Davos. In one of the best acted scenes of the season, Davos reveals d73ca252a58c9f58bc7c3b932ada4bc6Melisandre’s crimes to Jon, and Jon, rather than executing her, banishes her southward. I believe this banishment will lead her directly to the Brotherhood Without Banners. After all, why else would a random group of red god worshipers be brought back into the show this late in the game. Its very likely that Melisandre will only return north during the war for the dawn, giving both the Brotherhood and the Hound to Azor Ahai as soldiers.

Now back to Cersei. The theories were right, the wildfire imagery shoved in our faces all season wasn’t coincidental. Cersei used the Mad King’s wildfire reserves, still buried under the city from the time of Robert’s rebellion, to destroy the the Great Sept, killing everyone inside. Casualties include Margaery, Loras, Mace, the High Sparrow, what is most likely all of the Faith Militant, and hundreds of innocents. What was not part of Cersei’s revenge plan, however, was for her son, King Tommen, to commit suicide in response to the death cersei iron throne game of thronesof both his wife and greatest advisor. Tommen’s death fulfills Maggy the Frog’s prophecy that Cersei has been trying to avoid all her life. However with Tommen having no heir, and no one left alive to contest her baseless claim, Cersei has herself crowned as the queen of Westeros. Jaimie arrives home just in time to see her crowned, watching as his sister becomes the Mad King he slayed all those years ago. This leads me to believe that Jaime will be the one to kill Cersei, slaying her when she goes too far. As opposed to Robert Baratheon’s forces being on the doorstep of King’s Landing when the “Mad Ruler” will snap, Daenerys’ forces will be. Jaime will once again sacrifice the ruler he is loyal to in order to save thousands, just as he did as the head of the Mad King’s Kingsguard. If history is not learned from, it is bound to repeat itself.

However, the newly titled Mad Queen’s reign probably won’t last long. Daenerys has officially left Essos, beginning the conquest that has been destined since the first episode of the series. The parallels to Aegon’s conquest are uncanny here; history repeating itself is a big part of the Song of Ice and Fire franchise. Before setting sail, in what might be one of the most touching scenes of the season, maybe even the series, Daenerys names Tyrion her Hand of the Queen. This is an extremely important moment for Tyrion’s character development. During his entire time advising royalty in King’s Landing, he was not once 3580195cd23da7fdf29ab1c67d063882treated with respect and given the credit he deserves. Tyrion, for the first time in his life, is being respected and honored for his service, as opposed to abused for it. Tyrion’s character development is evident even before he is named, however; he cites Daenerys as the first thing he has ever truly believed in. While Tyrion is naturally traveling to Westeros with Daenerys, Daario is being left behind to keep the peace in Meereen. This is an extremely logical decision on Tyrion’s part; Daenerys will need to be open to a new lover in order to solidify her power in Westeros. This opens the possibility of a marriage to Jon in the future, returning the Targaryen line to its insestous roots. Leaving Daario behind in Meereen will also help her maintain control of the now named Bay of Dragons. She can’t afford to send troops back to Essos every time a threat faces Meereen, especially while she’s conquering a continent.

So there you have it, the factions are set up for endgame. After all, with two shorter than usual seasons left, they better be.

Factions (Red for Possible Defectors)

. Team Daenerys

  • Daenerys and her dragons
  • Tyrion and Varys
  • The Ironborn
  • The Dothraki
  • The Martells and Tyrells (Recruited by Varys in this episode)

. Team Stark

  • Jon
  • Sansa
  • Littlefinger and the Nights of the Vale
  • The major houses of the north
  • Outliers, but probable allies: Arya, Bran, Sam, the Brotherhood Without Banners (also includes the Hound and Melisandre)

. Team Mad Queen

  • Cersei
  • Qyburn and the Mountain
  • Jaime

With the War for the Dawn rapidly approaching, I was very surprised that this episode did not end with the White Walkers destroying the wall and entering Westeros. However, I understand why they didn’t take this approach. I feel that Team Stark and Team Daenerys
white_walkers_by_cdka-d5jxb99will eventually become one; but probably after her conquest. The White Walker invasion will most likely come either coinciding with or shortly after she takes King’s Landing. A cruel twist of the series will be if Daenerys successfully conquered Westeros, but falls in the War for the Dawn shortly after. However, knowing Martin, this may be a somewhat plausible end for this character.