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At Harry Potter's quidditch pitch, she roots for the snitch

What happens when you send a muggle to a quidditch match? Something magical, of course.

I received a quick education about Harry Potter's world of wizarding (though perhaps not enough to pass my O.W.L.s) about golden snitches and quaffles and bludgers at the International Quidditch Association World Cup last month in Kissimmee.

The cynic in me couldn't help but smirk at the thought of adults playing a game that hinges on magic and brooms that fly. But these were no pasty-faced, reality-challenged bookworms on the field. With bruises, blood and body slamming, the action was akin to rugby. The competition was fierce, the passion intense. I was charmed.

In J.K. Rowling's books (I am told), the golden snitch is a tiny ball with wings; catching it is worth a zillion points and ends the game. Here, the snitch was a person dressed all in yellow, wearing a tail made of a sock with a ball at the end. The goal is the same. Imagine a court jester surrounded by sprinters and wrestlers grappling at full speed and you've got a picture of this battle. Add in a cheering section yelling "Snitches give stitches" and you know who I was rooting for.

Eighty teams, some from as far away as Mexico and France, competed in front of thousands of fans. After a brutal two-day battle, the University of Texas at Austin and the University of California at Los Angeles were the last teams standing. UT-Austin cried tears of joy as they hoisted the gold trophy. Pass the butterbeer!

Times photojournalist Melissa Lyttle can be reached at Follow @melissalyttle on Twitter.