ESQ 2014: A Lancastrian Report

My last day is Wednesday before the long break I’m taking to help out Horse with the tourney. I’m already fielding requests and last minute concerns he has, though I keep trying to remind him that I took off three days (Thursday, Friday, and Monday) to help him. I can understand why keeping something like my life compartmentalized isn’t necessarily at the top of his concern list. We agreed to host this thing in the middle of last year and it’s finally coming to a head.

Thursday = Build/Panic Day

2014-05-29 06.03.43There are things I didn’t know about hosting a tournament which are coming to pass as self-evident as we move to T-Day. One: you’ll never have as much help as you need, and Two: you won’t want to do anything you said you would. Case in point–waking up on Thursday at 5AM felt horrible. EVEN THOUGH that’s when I wake up during the week anyway. Something about manual labor will bring that out, I guess.

I’m joined at the barn we’ve been keeping all the boards by Horse, Ted, Alex, Rodney, and Hylon. Rodney’s brought one of his company’s trucks to load everything up, and when I see it I realize for the 400th time that we wouldn’t have been able to host this tourney without him. Fact.

You see, Rod made it possible to get the plywood on loan and to cart everything around. I think on it now and I can’t really see how we would have done this without him (or at least how we would have been so successful without his insight and help). Regardless, trucks aren’t made for looking at, they’re made for loading up, and we begin doing just that as the sky turns cloudy.

2014-05-29 06.32.15Loading the boards is quick work and requires only two trips. I am thankful for this.

On the truck ride to the courts (YES I RODE I A BIG BOY TRUCK) I talk to Rod about the process of the tourney and where he thinks we stand on everything. It becomes very obvious that while I might know more about bike polo than he does, he simply eclipses me with planning and event coordination. It’s all I can do to nod and agree with how much foresight this guy has.

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We stack up the boards and work begins on planning how to put them all together. Fortunately Horse is a designer/engineer, so he’s already mapped everything out in his head. He gives us (At this point it’s Hylon, Me, and Kyle, I think) simple instructions and we get to work. It doesn’t take long for two things to happen: progress and rain.

To be perfectly honest, the rain at first is lovely. we’re moving lumber all over the court and having a mist to accompany us is quite welcome. But the mist becomes a drizzle, and then a light rain, and then at times a full rain. Yeager arrives somewhere in the AM and helps make big progress as well–he and I work at laying out the boards and screwing them together in the middle of the courts. We make the most reasonable decision about halfway through building to take a break for lunch at Robburritos. It is a deliciously good decision, though by the end of it I want to go into a food nap so hard.

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When we return the rain is in full force, but so is our general anxiety about getting the work done on time. We build up the walls and strap them to the fence–we brace the free-floating areas and build the middle section as well. By this point I’m freezing and not terribly excited by the feeling sneaking into my bones, but the company is good and I’m hard-pressed to forget that I promised to help. So I help. It only occurs to me near the end of our day that I’ll be sore in the morning. Such is life.

Friday = Guests, Drinking, Hugs for Days.

2014-05-30 11.40.20When we finish (or, more appropriately, the next day when we stop by to finish up) it’s not raining and the courts look amazing. If we were going to stay here (and if the lumber was actually ours), we’d have two of the best courts around for pickup. As it stands, however, the work we put in is only meant to last until Sunday night. Still, damn fine work.

I stay courtside for an ungodly amount of time because I’m the only one there and we have lots of equipment laying around. Eventually Horse comes to relieve me of my watchdog duties and I go home to do one final vacuuming of the house and a spell that makes it impossible for guests to notice that I really haven’t cleaned much.

But then I decide that’s boring, so I go back to the court to play some pickup and eventually kick everyone off the courts because it’s getting dark and I’m scared the park rangers will come by on horseback and throw squirrels at us.

The first guest to arrive is Sean O’Donnell, my team mate. He immediately proves to be laid back but ultra-willing to help as a guest and friend, which takes a lot of the pressure off from me. Soon after the first of the all-ladies team I’m hosting arrives–Jackie–and she likewise takes away some of the fear I had about hosting five folks in my house.

I’m a writer, you see, and part of being a writer–at least part of the reason people go for it–is because you don’t actually need to see anyone to do it. Zero human interaction necessary. So having people actually…you know…around…is horrifying to me. But Sean and Jackie are quick to take that pressure away and we zip on over to The Fridge to meet up with the majority of DC and a few Pennsylvanian players.

I eat pizza, I talk a little bit of shop, and I drink. Oh man. Oh man.

We then pop off to Hildy’s where the majority of bike polo players are and it’s all hugs and shouting and smoke filled rooms. I am happy to see everyone but I’m also happy about going home. Still, I stick it out for a bit and drink enough that I’m at a point where I know just a bit more will put me in a dizzy place. Naturally I drink another two pints after that and we (now including Kayleigh and Kiki) head back to my house. We talk a bit but soon after I head into my bedroom, shut the door, and fell asleep in quick order.

Saturday = Hospitality, Effing Bike Polo Finally.

2014-05-31 07.02.20If there is one thing I’ve learned in my bike polo travels, it’s that hospitality is the key to a good experience. When I stayed in Indianapolis (specifically at Nick and Kristalynn’s house), they made me feel completely at home. They gave me breakfast, they provided me with a shower to use–they even went as far as to make sure throughout the day that I was doing alright. In much the same way, when I’ve traveled anywhere for bike polo, I remember how hospitable people are more than I do anything else. My aim was to be this person for my guests.

So, earlier than I would have thought possible, I woke up and began making breakfast. Sausage, bacon, Captain Crunch, juices and milk and biscuits. Sean (again, someone who wants to always be helping) made up the eggs in a huge batch we greedily ate. I felt like I was at least getting this part down right.

We then headed to the courts and the tourney began in earnest. I knew most of the faces around me (and was particularly happy to see Eric R., my other team mate), so it felt more like a huge pickup day for me. I’m not saying I didn’t take the games seriously, but I also didn’t see my opponents as faceless goons. They were all friends, and we were all just having a bit of sport with each other.

2014-05-31 09.10.53My team, Several Lobsters Tall, finished out the day 2/2/1. Seeing as though we three had only played 0 times together before, I was satisfied with this result. Sean and I are left handed, you see, and that makes for a particularly odd team. Still, his speed was incredible and Eric’s long shots held us together. For my part, I was just excited that people were happy with the courts and that nothing blew up.

Competition that first day was exciting–it became clear early on that Rat King, White Fang, Arsenal, and NASA were really strong teams. While I may have been stepping off the court with big aspirations to hit up one of the nearby food trucks, those teams were talking after each game about what they did right or wrong.

2014-05-31 14.15.33Whatever. I ate two tacos and I think I made out on the deal pretty well, thank you very much.

The one thing I did notice–and notice at most every tournament–was the inability to keep refs on the courts. Point in fact, there was one point where matches were effectively halted on one of the courts because no refs would step up. Despite the certification and the promises otherwise, Nick, Blackburn and a few others were really the only ones stepping up to the plate.

Now–I’m just a guilty of this as anyone else. I did act as timekeeper with Alias for a good chunk of the first day (and also acted as a ref on the first and second day for only the briefest of times)–but I was thankful to duck out when I could. Truth is, I’m horrible at being a ref. I can’t see when rules are broken unless they are very obvious, and furthermore I’m far too sensitive to deal with people being upset with me. When I was sitting in the ref chair I basically shut down, and that wasn’t fair to the players nor to myself.

Lesson: I don’t want to be a ref. I want to help refs and I want to help the strength of refs in the sport, but it takes a very particular sort of person to do it well, and I am not that person.

I’ll talk about Sunday tomorrow, as this is already at nearly 1700 words. So until then, polokins!

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