University of Notre Dame senior and Harry Potter guru Emerson Spartz discovered magic in an unlikely place this summer, and he didnt even have to run and jump through a brick wall to a make-believe train platform to get there.
The mastermind behind MuggleNet, one of the worlds most popular and successful Harry Potter fan sites that attracts millions of hits a day, and best-selling co-author of a book for Harry Potter fans, Spartz recently joined, of all things, the 2008 College Coaches Tour of the Middle East and became the unofficial sidekick of Irish football coach Charlie Weis.
It may seem only wizardry could drum up such an unusual partnership.But there is a logical explanation.
A celebrity to Harry Potter fans worldwide, Spartz, by virtue of his Web savvy, not his knowledge of all things Harry Potter, was invited to join the tour.Initially, he and Notre Dame sophomore Ben Schoen, MuggleNets manager of operations, were asked by Morale Entertainment to develop the tours Web site ( http://www.coachestour2008.com/ ), then, Spartz was invited along to chronicle events for the site and chat with Harry Potter fans.
I wanted to meet with any soldiers more interested in Harry Potter than football,Spartz explained.I talked to about a dozen or so, but, because I didnt have Internet access and couldnt get e-mail, I didnt know until I got back how much interest there actually was.Turns out, I had a bunch of messages waiting from soldiers who had read my posting on MuggleNet and knew I was coming.
From May 20 to 26, Weis, four other football head coaches and Spartz visited five military bases in Qatar, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Germany, in an effort to lift the spirits of the troops.Spartz said, unlike the other coaches, Weis took no assistant, but probably should have.
There were long lines of people wanting him to sign things,he said.Of all the coaches, he had the longest lines by far at every event we went to.Since we share the Notre Dame bond, I naturally fell into the role of helping him out.I carried boxes, passed out shirts and managed the lines.Hes a great guy.Hes funny and had a natural chemistry with the troops.
Another reason Spartz likes Weis:the coach’s familylikes Harry Potter.
Many ofhis family members are huge Harry Potter fans, especially his son,Spartz said.I gave him a copy of my book and answeredsome of his questions.
Incidentally, the book, MuggleNet.com’sWhat Will Happen in Harry Potter 7published in 2006, spent 26 weeks on The New York Times childrens bestseller listthe majority of the time at No. 2, sold 400,000 copies and has been translated into several languages.
Grateful there are three Harry Potter movies still to come, a $300 million theme park under construction in Florida and a Harry Potter encyclopedia forthcoming from author J.K. Rowling, Spartz currently is about halfway through his next book, which he hopes to release this winter.
It makes absurd comparisons of the Harry Potter characters, like who would win in a fightnerdy analytical stuff,Spartz revealed.Its fun lots of sarcasm and humor.
Not one to take his success too seriously, Spartz happily portrayed himself in Richardson Productionsfeature-length Harry Potter spoofHarvey Putter and the Ridiculous Premise( http://www.rpstudios.net/harveyputter/ ), filmed earlier this summer in South Bend.
I play a mega-dork named Everson Sputz,Spartz laughed.It was about a minute-long scene, but took hours to film.
Spartz also has a new Web site up his sleeve.
It will be an entertainment Web portal with all fan-created content, kind of like a merger between Wikipedia and Digg.com,he explained.Were using the principles we learned in creating MuggleNet and will apply those with the two very successful Web models to, hopefully, make a fan-created equivalent of IGN (a leading Internet media and services provider focused on the video game and entertainment enthusiast markets).Well use MuggleNet to drive traffic to the site, then it should self-generate.
Spartz, who created MuggleNet when he was a home-schooled 12-year-old in LaPorte, Ind., has traveled around the world to Harry Potter book release and movie premiere events and even scored an exclusive interview with Rowling due to her appreciation of MuggleNet.He says his trip to the Middle East was a real eye-opener.
I was shocked at the massive amount of construction underway, the fact that street signs are in Arabic and English and, most of all, how hard our service men and women work each day in unimaginable conditions,Spartz said.When I landed in Qatar, I felt like I was stepping in front of a blow dryer.It was so hot, windy and dusty.
Spartz earns a six-figure salary from MuggleNet revenue and invests in global energy projects involving solar power.He finds time to keep up with his studies (yes, hes still working toward his business degree) because he has delegated much of the day-to-day operation of MuggleNet to his staff of 120 people, including six paid employees, who contribute from around the world.
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