Today is Harry Potter’s birthday (and author JK Rowling’s) and it felt appropriate to give my own little homage to the character that helped shape a large part of my childhood in the 20th year since the Philosopher’s (Sorcerer’s) Stone was originally published. (Harry “turns” 37 today, in case you were wondering).
I, like many, read the HP series dutifully as a child. I started in the fourth grade, when the first two books had already been published and finished both quickly, just in time for the release of the third installment. After that, Pottermania swept over the United States and each subsequent release, I waited with eager anticipation to get my hands of the latest copy. What started when I was nine concluded almost the same amount of years later, as Deathly Hallows, the seventh and final book in the series, came out the summer going into my senior year of high school.
As you can see, much of my formative years where spent under the “spell” of the HP universe, and that does not even begin to look at the impact of the movies, video games, board games, and theme parks and more wizard-related entertainment (my red hair made me a shoe-in to be Ron for Halloween one year) that consumed me enough to wish I could have also received my letter to Hogwarts.
While many can say the same about how the wizarding world of Harry Potter touched their lives, I’m not sure too many can say that their current jobs were influenced, even slightly, by events in the series. You cannot actually be an auror (dark wizard catcher) or a Seeker for the Chudley Cannons, but certain moments from the third and fourth books caught my attention and are just as enjoyable to read today because of it.
As a child I went through the normal gamut of future careers: policeman, fireman, astronaut, professional athlete. When I was about nine, I thought I wanted to be a dentist. That lasted until I acted in a few school plays and naturally felt that I was destined for Broadway or Hollywood. All throughout grade school though, I kept revisiting two main scenes in the Harry Potter canon, which were not all that crucial to the development of the plot, but were dynamic for a sports fanatic like me.
Quidditch (sort of like soccer played on brooms) had certainly caught my attention through the first two books as the coolest sounding sport ever, but it really took a front and center role in Prisoner of Azkaban and Goblet of Fire. In the former, (spoiler alert) Harry helps lead Gryffindor to a Quidditch Cup for the first time in years and several chapters are devoted to the intense matches, especially the finale vs. Slytherin. To help paint the picture of the electrifying sport, author JK Rowling uses commentary from one of the students, Lee Jordan. While his broadcasting style can be described as at least a little biased towards Gryffindor and is punctuated by interruptions from Professor McGonagall who supervises, it is plain to see how commentary can add so much to the quality of a sport. Rowling could have just described the game through Harry’s eyes exclusively, but weaving in the call of Jordan is genius, and makes the match feel that much more real.
In the fourth book, we are unfortunately deprived of the interhouse Quidditch Cup, but do get a whole chapter devoted to the spectacle that is the Quidditch World Cup. Ludo Bagman, Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports, calls the action from the Top Box where Harry is seated. And true to how you would imagine the fastest game on broomsticks being played at the highest level, the action moves so fast that Bagman can simply name who has possession and occasionally slip in his own commentary (definitely a one-man booth situation). Again, I found myself just as enamored with how Bagman went about his business delivering the call as I did with what was actually happening on the pitch.
Fast forward many years later. With the summer months of college athletics being the quieter ones, I have had more time to read for pleasure and decided to crank out the entirety of the HP series again for the first time in about a decade. Having reread those parts recently, I found myself just as excited to read the comments provided during the matches by Jordan and Bagman as I was years ago when I consumed the books for the first time. As a current sports broadcaster, I cannot definitively say that these moments from a book series about a fictional wizard made me decide to follow this career path and do what I do today, but undoubtedly, the seeds were planted early, and I have recently found myself wondering what my Quidditch broadcasting style might actually be like if in another world I got the chance to try my hand at it.