Stony Brook University students, wearing red, compete in a game...

Stony Brook University students, wearing red, compete in a game of Quidditch against players from the University of Vassa from Finland, at Stony Brook University Tuesday. (Feb. 22, 2011) Credit: James Carbone

OK, so the players can't fly.

And none seems to have magical powers.

But even gravity couldn't stop Stony Brook University Tuesday from winning two games of Quidditch - a sport born after author J.K. Rowling made the high-flying version famous in her first "Harry Potter" tome - against a college team visiting from Finland.

Real-life Quidditch, played around the world with varying degrees of seriousness, amounts to a lighthearted mix of rugby and tag with both male and female players running, throwing, catching and, occasionally, falling to the ground to make snow angels.

Fans play a critical role; at least 50 shivered through Tuesday's match, some standing at the edge of the field with the players during game time.

Stony Brook won the first match 40-10 and the second 50-10.

Participants, each holding a small broomstick between their legs, stayed true to the game's many rules, modified for those stuck to the earth.

Onlookers unfamiliar with the official playbook could only guess whether one player - a "snitch" - was cheating when he jumped off the field to sit with a crowd of students watching from a nearby staircase. He wasn't.

Vinny Naimo, 24, of East Setauket, was recruited by a friend to play offense on Stony Brook's team.

Naimo, wearing a red cape he bought from Party City, said he prepared for the games "by watching Harry Potter movies" and playing contact sports.

Beto Guzman, 28, a student at the University of Vaasa in Finland, said he started playing Quidditch in November.

"It's just so cool," said Guzman, an international studies major. "You don't have many sports where guys and girls play together."

The game involves seven players on each team trying to throw balls through goals and capture a smaller ball tied to a participant who is not on either team and is called the "snitch runner," or more familiarly, the snitch.

Vincenzo Riccardi, 21, has lived in Finland for six years and is new to the sport. He said he first became interested in Quidditch after watching a match online.

"The action is in all of these different parts of the field," said Riccardi, a Finnish major at Vaasa. "It's not just one ball, with all of the players trying to get it."

John Riley, 45, of Stony Brook, accompanied his middle-school daughter to the game as she and her friends swilled hot chocolate to keep warm.

"I want to play," Riley said when the game started. "I would want to be a snitch. How fun would it be to zigzag around the field and have people chase you?"

Laurie Beckoff, 16, of Queens, writes about Quidditch for a monthly newsletter about the sport. She's trying to start a team at Townsend Harris High School in Flushing, where she is a junior, and said she has had tremendous interest so far.

She said participants play to win, but don't take the game too seriously.

"People are passionate about it, but it has this sense of ridiculousness that makes it really fun," Beckoff said. "And you wouldn't want to be without that."

GET RIDES: Ask them to bring magical (or household) broomsticks to an open field.

MAKE GOALS: Create six goalposts out of PVC pipe and old bicycle tires, anything that won't cause too much damage if you run into it at 25 mph. Place three goalposts at each end of the field.

ANOINT REFEREE: Ask friend to call teams to order.

BRING THE PAIN: Bring enough kickballs to slam everybody at least once.

BE A 'SNITCH': Elect yourself "snitch runner" because it's clearly the coolest position. You get to shove and wrestle other players to keep them away from the ball (the snitch) you carry in a pouch.

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