When you get the intelligentsia of bike polo together, you’ll inevitably come to a point where the growth of the sport is discussed. Such was the case when I and a fellow game theorist came together at the Eastside thaw to ignore the final game of the first day (congrats, Troy. I had no idea it was happening) and talk about the argument for how to make bike polo more “spectator friendly.”
Well, when it comes down to it, I think making the sport more spectator friendly is the dumbest single effort we could undertake. At least as far as making our sport grow and prosper.
It’s easy to see why people think having a huge fan base will help out, though:
More people watching means more interest at large, with means more sponsors, which means more money, which means more better polo.
Or, if you want to South Park it:
Step 1: Make people interested in watching bike polo.
Step 3: Profit.
The question we should be asking (we, in this case, being players, the NAH, and interested parties) is “how can we make the sport more solidified and enjoyable for players?”
And note in that statement: players. Not the best players, not the worst players, but players as a whole – the entire community of players.
Why is this a more important question? Because no matter how many people you have who are interested in watching a sport, they aren’t going to be the ones playing it. They aren’t going to be the ones who contribute directly to the strength and growth of the sport. It’s the players and organizers who are doing the hard work, and by strengthening their ability to play/organize, we build the chances of our sport gaining more players and expanding even faster.
By asking how the sport can be made better for players, we knock out a few of the larger problems we face today: setting fair, enforceable rules, securing places to play, and creating a way for the NAH to generate money (TRANSPARENTLY, YOU HEAR ME?!) and use that money to help put on events.
If you have a tourney in an abandoned, falling apart warehouse, you will not get a single spectator, no matter how friendly you’ve made the sport towards viewing.
However, if you have a great place to play, well enforced rules, and a clear presence of an “event” rather than a get together, you won’t necessarily care whether you have spectators or not, because everything you want is already at hand.
So the change has to come from inside, and I think that change can be driven by intelligent leadership and initiative through player involvement. Players have to give more back to the sport if they want it to give something back to them.
How does this happen? Well, I think there are a few things that need to occur first:
- Higher percentage of player interaction outside of just playing the game (NAH involvement, etc.)
- Transparency and clear steps forward presented by NAH to those they serve (quarterly reports on spending, on action taken, etc.)
- Yearly membership fees from players who wish to play in NAH sanctioned events – yes, I can hear your rage face from here, but there is no organized sport that is worth any salt which doesn’t get dues from members. We need to bankroll efforts to solidify, and if you don’t see why, I think you are ignoring reality.
- A stronger push by clubs (helped by regional reps), to solidify legitimacy in local communities
I think if those 4 things can me moved forward, it will be easier to keep this sport vibrant and interesting to those who can help fund it. However, even if we never see a penny from Nike or Red Bull, we’ll still have the modest amount of money fed in by each and every player who wants to become a card carrying NAH sanctioned player, and that can go a long way to removing the importance of spectators and increasing the importance of the player.
Besides, spectators would have no idea how to trash talk well.