November 2, 2016 | 4 p.m.
By Monique Kleinhuizen ’08, G’16, new media strategist
Broomball is a core part of winter life at Bethel, and a group of alumni are making sure others around the country are familiar with their beloved sport.
Kasey Kirby '03 studied finance and accounting at Bethel. After graduation, he spent a few years as an auditor in Chicago, but realized it wasn’t for him.
“I always did video stuff as a hobby—even during my time at Bethel,” says Kirby, who produced videos of “The Show” during Welcome Week. He later enrolled in a graduate film program and has since spent a decade producing films full time. His love for video and one of his favorite Bethel pastimes would eventually collide in an unexpected way.
“When I moved to D.C., I realized there’s not much in the way of winter sports. My friend sent me a Facebook link…someone had started up a pick-up broomball league!,” says Kirby. He had developed a love for broomball during his Bethel years, and he decided to join. “There were five of us there the first time. We were awful and pretty much got laughed off the ice for those first two years. It was embarrassing.”
The D.C. Nomadic Horde added new players to their roster—some who had played college-level broomball at Princeton and elsewhere—and got progressively better. Kirby documented their progress, strapping a GoPro camera onto players’ helmets and shooting footage during practices. The original intention was not to create a film but simply to have fun videos for their own use.
“Then we ended up winning nationals and I thought, ‘I have the makings of a sports story here,’” says Kirby. Kirby produced and directed the film but enlisted fellow Bethel alumni (and broomball players) Matthew Pankratz '03 and Luke Prosser '05 to help with media communications and graphics. Nate Larson '03 helped with photography and videography, and Troy Carlson '03 did accounting and additional photography and videography. The 69-minute film, The Nomadic Who?, was narrated by ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser and released in April 2016.
“Broomball [at Bethel] is a cultural phenomenon—it’s well-organized, co-ed, and fun,” says Charlie Burggraf, Bethel’s head men’s hockey coach and director of recreational sports. Burggraf estimates that 700 students—and some staff and faculty—play in intramural leagues each year. Club teams have been a core part of the Bethel student experience—especially during Interim—since at least as early as the 1970s. Some teams have even gone on to compete nationally. The Nomadic Who? documentary became an overview of the sport—yes—but also a self-deprecating look at a quirky Bethel pastime that’s lesser-known in the rest of the country.
“It’s a sport that no one here has ever really heard of. People confuse it with either curling or quidditch,” says Kirby. “We thought, ‘the film’s got to be funny as well as serious.’ We needed to toe the line between documentary and mockumentary. Not a ‘why you should care about broomball’ but the underdog story of a sport no one’s ever heard of.”
The story of The Nomadic Who? documentary has since been covered by the Washington Post and DCist.com. The Nomadic Who? is available for sale on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play, and the DVD is available for check-out from the Bethel University Library. Bethel Student Government (BSG) is planning a screening of the film as part of its intramural broomball season kick-off. Watch the trailer on Vimeo.