It’s hard to think of any other sport like hardcourt bike polo. We have a governing body, tournaments, companies producing specific equipment and a worldwide culture (note I didn’t say subculture – we’re past that point, kids) but we still argue over rules, and we still are apt to go the DIY route for poles and bikes.
We’re at an interesting point – we’re in the Wild West of the sport.
Imagine, if you will, early American Football: the lack of standard equipment, the leather helmets. Think of the scattered padding between players (some choosing to put some extra shirts between the shoulders – some choosing nothing at all). Baseball was the same way – people made their own baseball bats in the beginning of the sport.
I think that happened sometime around 1934 – right after the war between Germany and Columbia ended. I don’t know, I didn’t pay attention in that class.
But now in either of those sports – in virtually all levels of play – people use approved equipment and go by the agreed upon rules. There is arguing, of course, but generally it’s between a lollygagging ref and a coach who has marital problems and can’t seem to win an argument unless it’s with a man at a little league game.
Our sport – bike polo – won’t last long the way it is. In short order we’ll start seeing more and more companies springing up that offer “the” mallet or “the” pole. There won’t be a monopoly of course, but the names will become as familiar as Easton or Louisville Slugger. The constant popping up of mallet makers will dwindle as soon as one corporation starts pumping out mallet heads by the thousands – that’s just the way of it.
Furthermore, the governing body will certainly get stronger – we’ve already seen some of this through the way tourneys are required to achieve certain criteria in order to be qualifiers and what not. This isn’t bad – I’m not suggesting that at all. In order to expand a sport, you need a strong and regulated base.
It sounds kind of scary, I guess, to those of us that started out the sport even a year ago. The idea that our custom made mallet head might not be “regulation” in a few years – that we’ll have to start wearing certain padding in order to play at a tourney.
The truth is, I don’t know what Bike Polo will look like in the future.
Frankly, I don’t care, either.
The other side of the argument (and one that is quickly forgotten by those that either fear or embrace the coming tide of standardization) is how very little this really means for the majority of play we engage in.
Every week, clubs all over the States (and, dare I say, the world) play pick-up games. The rules are whatever the club decides, the equipment is whatever they deem safe, and that’s that. One can decry that this won’t prepare anyone for a tourney, sure, but how many times do people yell at a group of guys playing a game of pickup football?
Truth is, Hardcourt Bike Polo is going to go the way of any good sport. It’s a great thing, because as much as we want to hipster out, the more people who play, the more chances there will be for courts, tourneys, equipment, and players.
It’s remarkable how quickly this sport has grown from messengers in Seattle to (in our case) Mennonites in Lancaster County. I see only great things in the sport moving forward, and we can either choose to embrace that future or get angry about it – either way it’s going to happen.