Archive for Stories

Should Each Club Have A Medic?

medic

The first time it happened, I think, I was at the Thaw–Peter took a hard crash in front of goal and was groaning a bit and not getting up, so I ran out to make sure he was alright. I had him breath in and out, pushed where he said he had pain, all that jazz. He was fine, but that’s when it started.

From that point on, I’ve been increasingly called on to address (either through my own will or by people shouting for me) cuts, falls, and broken bones.

Now let me be clear on this: I’m not a legitimately trained professional in any way. I was a boy scout who learned a little bit more than the basics of first aid, and my mom is a nurse, so I have some background knowledge on top of that. But when someone is bleeding like a punctured bag of Capri Sun, I’m not the worst guy to have around to address that.

What concerns me is not that I’m asked to help in first aid situations (I’m more than happy to help), but that I specifically am needed to be called at all. There were only two instances where someone else was more qualified than me: Worlds of 2013 (Medic Mike was there, as was an ex-marine with trauma training), and North Americans, where Jacques (an EMT, if memory serves) was more than capable, though he did let me hand him things, which was fun. Every other tourney, however, I had the distinct feeling that nobody was really ready or willing to jump in if needed.

This is also where I note that, while at Worlds 2013, I did the ol’ “follow my finger with your eyes” move that Mr. Do captured and  Horse is so fond of making fun of me for. If I don’t say it here he’ll mention it in the comments, so here it is. HERE IT IS, HORSE.

And that gets me to thinking–should clubs at least try to get one person to be first aid certified? Would it be beneficial if we, as North American Bike Polo, could be sure that at any given tourney we have at least some first aid certified folks bopping around? If you go through the Red Cross it’s about 90 bucks for adult first aid/CPR certification, and that could go a long way in addressing ouchie boo boos in a good way during a tourney (or knowing when a person needs to go to a hospital).

I’m not saying that we all need to be trained EMTs or nurses, but it’s concerning when a group of people surround someone on the ground and nobody knows quite what to do. We’ve been terrifically lucky as far as injuries go in the sport, and I say that in full knowledge of some of the big injuries players have had. I’m curious about how other clubs deal with this, if at all, and if getting some club members to enroll in a simple first aid class would be helpful to the sport as a whole.

Why Boston, NYC are the WORST CLUBS

I generally don’t have a problem with any club, but these two take the cake: Read more

Bully Polo: We Don’t Have Time, Move Over

bully

I’m a sensitive guy. I’ll admit it. I get choked up at some commercials, will blubber at films, and have spent the better part of an afternoon sobbing on my bed after reading the last line of Love in the Time of Cholera. It’s part of my character (the blubbering sensitive part, I guess).

Being as sensitive as all that, I’ll also say that I’m very well aware of when other people are, you know, trying to get under my skin or, probably more likely, just being jerks.

There are many groups within bike polo, so making the ol’ “there are two kinds of people” won’t work here, but I will say this: there is a subculture in our sport that fosters the devil-may-care, I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-you sort. Folks who try to hurt you when playing just to hurt you, who try to make you feel small afterwards, and who, generally, don’t give a damn about your feelings.

But I’m going to lay it on the line, here: you can only be so badass when you’re playing a sport like ours. Let’s get real about this. None of us are that far outside of being a bunch of bike nerds playing a fringe sport. That’s just how it is. To lord yourself over another player because you think they aren’t part of your core group is just silly. It’s middle school antics, and we don’t have time for it.

Out of all the tourneys I’ve been to, it’s probably only happened three times or so: where a small group of people are viciously (not for funsies) yelling at refs or yelling at the other team or being mean spirited. It’s lame, and everyone who isn’t in that small bullying group doesn’t find it all that helpful. It’s also kinda weird for our sport, as we are generally such trusting, lovey-dovey sorts.

Bike polo is evolving, as much as it ever does, and for my part I believe the folks who try to stand in the way of other folks–the folks who try to pull others down–aren’t going to have a place at the table soon enough. Our sport is really big on inclusion and good feelings (we’re all nerds, after all), and those who are against that are going to come up against a pretty significant brick wall in the coming years. Sportsmanship is a huge thing in our sport, lest we forget the first rule of bike polo.

I’m not free in this jaw-waggling attack, either. I have been, at times, the aggressor in situations where someone was new to a group or an easy target, and I attacked. It’s easy to be a jerk, it really is. It’s by far much harder to be friendly.

So if you find you often judge your performance at tourneys by how much you can tear someone else down, go ahead and start a new sport or just make a “We’re cooler than you” version of bike polo to play with the other 20 people who think that way in North America. We’ll wish you well on your way out.

On Court A–a poem

quill

Lancasterpolo reader and poet Louise Hosburgh sent me this poem after I asked after it (seeing she mentioned it on Facebook). While this is certainly not what I typically post on the site, those who know me know my heart leans towards the art of writing–and poetry certainly fits into that definition.

 I present to you, “On Court A”

 

It’s good to be here,

away from home

in this city with friends

who are weird like me.

We ride our bikes,

three to a team,

and whack a ball

with a stick (mallet)

and try to score

goals on each other

without dabbing.

 

I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be…

 

“Prima Nocta and Those Shifty Eyes, you’re on Court A right now!”

 

My team gets called to play…here we go.

 

I roll into the court with my teammates,

we line up on one end together

facing the opposing team,

ball waiting in the center.

Joe looks at me

through his face mask,

“We got this.” Read more

5 Player Bench is What I’m Excited About

frost

I’ve talked a lot about how the 3 person team isn’t the healthiest for bike polo (just let me know when you stop foaming at the mouth about that one). Done? No? Oh. Okay. Well I’ll wait then. Good? Alright. So 3 polo players make up a team now, but there really isn’t much of the dynamic that make people get all excited about SPORTS. Now I’m not saying this argument I’m going to make frames out from what other sports succeed at (after all, bike polo is a unique wonderful punk-snowflake that doesn’t need to conform to the rules of human activity), but from what I personally like and what I personally see as a great new opportunity for tourneys.

The 5 person bench is an idea that was thrown around a little bit on League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL) and is the focus of the 2015 Eastside Frost tourney (Dec. 6th and 7th). The idea is pretty straight forward: it’s a bench tournament where your bench is made up of just 5 players, meaning you have two people sitting at all times from your team. Games are longer, naturally, than the standard 12 minutes of 3 person team games, and you can score as many points as possible.

So what makes me so excited about this style? To start with, I’ve noticed that there is a really different spirit that takes over when you’re on a bench team. I as a player am actively involved in the game when sitting down (which, naturally, I’m not when I’m not a member of the 3 people playing standard polo), and there is more of a spirit of camaraderie on the team. Furthermore, there is a more dynamic situation happening on the court: who is being played at what time, and how you can pit your players contrary to the players the other team is playing against you. Read more

Migration Patterns of North American Polo Players: A Study

migration

I recently received a message from a fellow polo player who expressed concern and interest in the migration patterns of the species known as the North American Bike Polo Player. Having studied this particular species in detail over the course of 4 years, I was more than happy to share his concern and particular interest in the subject.

Okay, So really he’s concerned about how many people are moving to the West Coast (the best coast) from the East Coast (beast coast), and beyond (… I don’t have one for that). But why be concerned about it? If you’re getting great polo out on the WC why not join in on the fun.

What it comes down to, dear reader, are the ideas of balance and development. Lemme explain. Sit down for a second.

So a big part of bike polo is the nomadic nature of the sport. We players travel all over, typically, to play tourneys, to live in new places, and to just generally live our young adult lives. One thing we have, however, is a variety of players. You’ll have a few stars in each club who are, just by being around and playing, helping entire clubs grow stronger and more competitive in play (this doesn’t imply just for tourneys–the competitiveness of play within a club is also an important factor in keeping a club healthy and growing. Clubs that are just kick-around, beer drinking ways to spend time generally disintegrate fairly rapidly).

But–and this is a biiiiiig but–the really great players need to stick around. When they go, the hierarchy of the club gets wonky, and then you find that there isn’t a catalyst for the other players to get better and grow. Regions lose their “heroes” and great teams, and they don’t necessarily have any way to practice playing against really top-notch players. This, naturally, puts them at a huge disadvantage when they go to play in larger tourneys against the region which (now) has a firm hold on the very best. Read more

Bike Polo Players: Horror Movie Survivalists

pump

Starting around September 30th and continuing until November 5th or so (up to December 25th if we’re talking Nightmare Before Christmas) I begin my yearly feast of monster movies. Old black and white Dracula, horror films from last year–comedy, slashers, down-right horrifying…it doesn’t matter. I’ll watch it all and give myself the hibbidy jibbidys to a point where walking down my hall to pee in the middle of the night becomes an obstacle course between my imagination and my rational mind.

So now that I’m in the thick of it, I naturally began blending this rather large part of my life into the rest of my life (the rest of my life being polo, I guess).

If you think about it–and I’m so very sure you think about it all the time–you’ll see how bike polo is preparing us for a horror film. Well, okay not for a horror film, but for a horror-film like situation. If we just take a few hand chosen examples (which naturally lend themselves to what I’m saying here), you’ll come to find that it makes.perfect.sense.

dontZombies (The Walking Dead): With the new episodes on Netflix I started back up in watching this series, and it’s frankly startling how little folks use bicycles! Sure, there is the good sheriff in the beginning who steals the bike from that poor legless zombie woman, but outside of that I’ve yet to see anyone else pedaling around. I think the survivors of the zombie apocalypse will be small packs of panicked survivors and a huge gang of bike polo players who are LOVING the amount of places they have to play.

For one, our cardio is higher than most people (which, as evidenced by Zombieland, is a very important factor). Furthermore, we’re used to hitting things while on the bike, and I do believe an XT Mallet with a capped mallet head could really do enough damage to a rotting skull to see us steer clear of real trouble.

If nothing else, our general smell and look would confuse the zombies, buying us extra time and comfort in knowing that we could pass as one of them.

Vampires : just slap a wooden stake on the end of your mallet and you’ve got a new game that bike polo players would excel at. Well, most of us. I wouldn’t. But then I’d be a vampire anyway so I don’t see how I’d really be losing. I’d be an adorable vampire.

Jason: Dude is so slow. Really you could just assign a few bike polo players to circle around him all day with GPS on so everyone else could know where he is. PLUS he might stop being so murderous if he was surrounded by people who also wore facemasks in non-facemask situations.

trolls2Trolls (2): Let’s just think about how perfectly ready bike polo players would be if the events which occurred in Trolls 2 ever came to pass:

1. A good percentage of bike polo players are vegan, so the whole green-milk-that-turns-you-to-plants wouldn’t work, because milk.

2. Trolls are vegetarians, lots of bike polo players are vegetarians. Instant brother and sisterhood.

3. We could easily bike out of the ONE SINGLE TOWN INHABITED BY TROLLS

The one problem is that the only way to save yourself is a double decker bologna sandwich, which would kinda backfire for some of us.

Snot piccary Clowns: nope nope nope nope nope nope nope.

 

Really, thinking about how bike polo is saving us from being the character that immediately gets eaten/sliced in half adds yet another layer to love. I encourage you–no, implore you–to watch your next monster movie with this in mind: how would your vast bike polo arsenal see you through.

4 year polo anniversary

4

Well, I’ve done it.

I’ve kept my interest/body/willpower up high enough to continue playing this sport for another year.

On this day (the 25th of September), four years ago, I played my first game of bike polo–and have been playing fairly regularly ever since. I think playing for 4 years is really quite an achievement, and it better be as I don’t have much else to show for the effort other than a bunch of grumpy joints and a new appreciation of jorts.

Looking back now, I want to condense my 4 years of polo life into a few takeaways, which I’ll try to do right meow:

The spooky crew.

The spooky crew.

To start with, your club is going to change a lot. Like, every year. We have some of the old guard still playing, but I’m comfortable in saying that at least half of our club are people who started after me–and if I remember to recruit actively this upcoming spring, the people after me might find themselves in the same situation. It’s great and not great, depending on whether you’re the sort who likes meeting new people and developing players or not. For my part, I am always excited to see new faces and learn from them as much as they mistakenly try to learn from me.

Next, I’d say it’s safe to realize this is an expensive sport. Sure, you can get into it with a cheap bike and a borrowed mallet, but like all things that grow on you, eventually you’ll start slapping down your shekels for a polo specific bike, new mallets, and everything else we come to associate with bike polo. I don’t want to think about how much money I’ve put down on this sport now, honestly, and I reckon you shouldn’t, either.

DSC_0512Likewise, I’ve come to realize that I’ll probably never be able to travel to a lot of tourneys and I still don’t understand how lots of you do. It’s so expensive! How do you do it?! If I went to even half of the tourneys I wanted to, I’d be flat broke.

Over the years I’ve also become aware that almost everyone reaches a certain level of ability and just hangs out there. I think I’m about as good at the sport as I’ll ever get, and I’m supremely comfortable in that. It doesn’t mean I don’t strive to become a stronger player or anything, but I don’t try to take it so hard when someone is able to do something I simply don’t have the aptitude for. And I can hear you now: “you should always try/you have no limitations/listen to your spirit and truth and light” but I don’t need the comfy blanket of “maybe” to enjoy myself and the game. Thanks. Thanks but no thanks. I’ll just keep making cat noises and be happy with that.

Also, one of the first weeks I started playing back in 2010, I sang:

Down in the west Texas town of El Paso/I fell in love with a Mexican Girl.

And I’ve been singing it with some regularity while at polo ever since. I have no idea why. Four years I’ve been doing that and I can’t stop.

Anyway. A long rant for a rainy day. I’m thankful for my club, which has had no small part in keeping me coming back, and thanks to the sport as a whole for being such a hoot. Let’s see if I make it to year 5 (which is I think is the year I need to create Dumbledore’s army, right?).

I Hurt Myself and Now I Can Shoot Better?

MattRookie

There is no way I can explain how I injured my left index finger without making it sound like I assaulted my wife, so let’s just try for it and see how it goes:

I was play-fighting my wife and I forgot, somehow, that her father was a boxer in the Navy. Long story short, I went to do a haymaker over her head and she, with reflexes like a gorram tiger lifted her elbow at the right wrong moment, causing my half-closed hand to strike her steel elbow. We heard a series of pops and crunches, and then my wife laughed and asked if I was okay.

I was not, dear readers. I was not okay.

Long story short, that was about two and a half weeks ago and I still can’t make a fist with my left hand. My left hand on my shooting arm. I think you are picking up what I’m laying down.

So I skip out on bike polo for one night but then go the next time we’re playing, and it hurts like hell after the day is up but I manage to squeak through alright. Then we go to Philly the next weekend and sister, I played really, really well.

Somehow, because of the way I was forced to hold my mallet, I managed to get shots that were a touch more peppy and a touch more accurate. At first I chalked this up to Philly being nice to me and to some strange dumb luck that comes from stepping in courtside dog poop. However, this past Sunday back home I played and again: accurate, powerful shots.

rookie-of-the-year-photoBeing the kind of guy who dwells on things, I tried to figure out what’s really going on, here. Sitting up in my polo aviary, I help my mallet in my hand and watched it as I swung it around. What I noticed was how I needed to lift my index finger off of the mallet when it began it’s forward swing (because of the pain that came with the fulcrum of the mallet going forward). In lifting off that index finger, the mallet had less guidance from me as it approached the ground–meaning that it had a bit more snap to coming down, and a bit more of the initial accuracy I planned on having when swinging at the ball to start with.

It makes me wonder, actually, what kind of hand position that various players have in the sport. I wonder if, all this time, I was being too rigid with my grip and losing something in the manner of strength or accuracy.

Anyway, as the movie goes, chances are that I’ll re-injure my finger somehow and then I’ll lose my new shooting abilities (and I don’t want to overstate it: I’m not like a super powerful shooter now–just a bit stronger than what I was before the…incident…).

But for now, it’s pretty fun to see how this injury is impacting my play. And even more fun to lose the ability to use my index finger for about a day after playing bike polo.

Is This Even Possible?

impossible

The Problem

I was recently speaking to a bike polo company’s head honcho and they mentioned how hard it is to sponsor teams. The reason it’s hard, so says the head honcho, is because teams don’t stick together for very long in the sport (with the exception of a few, generally top, teams).

That got these old brain bits spinning on how we can address that: One way would be to encourage you silly players to stick with your teams for longer than a season or two. But, if I’m honest with the chances of me saying something and anyone listening, that’s not likely to have much of an impact.

Maybe we could go to bench format and thereby have actual teams who can switch out players as much as they like between seasons, much as most every other team sport?

Oh, oh you think 3v3 is sustainable. Oh okay nevermind, nevermind.

BUT THEN this humdinger crossed through the old goal line in my noggin, just bear with me and try to read it to the end.

This idea stems directly, I imagine, from my maligned idea of having different countries also competing at worlds (so every American team would earn points towards an “America” score, French teams a “French” score, etc,; until at the end of the tourney we can also crown the country that won the World tournament).

The Idea

So what if we created…how do I explain this…What if we created “teams” from teams. By way of example: Read more