Archive for Stories

Scoring Goals as a Form of Social Proof

moustache

I received another mysterious missive from writer HandlebarMustache420, this time discussing his/her view of what it’s like to be new in the sport and what he/she believes is the way to get into the culture. While I don’t exactly agree with the conclusions drawn, I do appreciate different voices and views, so why not share it with the whole polo world (all 12 of you that read the site): 

newDo you remember your first tournament? I do. It was a nightmare. I didn’t know anyone, obviously, and I walked around the pre-tourney party like a lost kid in a supermarket, eagerly looking for someone to hold my hand and glom onto in conversation. I didn’t know what to talk about. “Where are you from?” sounded trite and unnecessary in my head. I had only been playing polo for six months and I was intimidated. I felt uncomfortable and out of place. More than that, I was playing with some random kids out of necessity, and that, combined with my lack of skill and experience, guaranteed us to fall into a dead fucking last position in the bracket. It was enough to make me want to quit polo entirely.

utra playerNow let’s fast forward two years to my most recent polo tournament experience. I remember walking into the party and feeling like the long skinny Tetris piece— because it seemed like everybody was waiting for me to show up and wow this is such a terrible analogy, it makes me feel physically ill. What changed? Sure, I’m marginally better at bike polo, but I have still never won a tournament. I don’t drink excessively or do a lot of drugs or party too hard like some cool polo kids I know. What is it then that makes people desirable as acquaintances? Read more

To Answer Your LoBP Question: You Are A Brat

brat

On February 26th, a post went live on LoBP (All Hail) which discussed a recent tourney in Arizona (DPI 6). The gist of the post (I invite you to read it here and scurry back) was that the writer expected lots of prizes to be handed out in a particular way, and that didn’t happen.

In particular, many of the items that were given by sponsors to the organizers were raffled away, with the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place teams getting only a few of the prizes overall.

The rest was raffled to whoever wanted to enter for tickets, which resulted in items going to some players, some fans, and a few local folks, too. This frustrated the writer of the post (I don’t know the person other than their handle, Ghabe), as he states:

I recognized a problem and would just like to get to the bottom of it.

I know it seems a bit like I’m being greedy and ungrateful, but come on. It was the first time I podium’d in a tournament. I was looking forward to some sick prizes.

I enjoyed the tournament. I enjoyed playing in Arizona. I enjoyed socializing with fellow southwestern players. This is just something I thought should be brought up.

Was this an actual problem that needed addressing? Or am I just a brat?

 

I’ll go ahead and help you out here: you’re being a brat, and an ungrateful one at that. 

I realize that’s a hard line to take, but I can’t sell papers without being provocative, so just deal with it.

Now, if you want me to build the case, I’ll be happy to do that, too.

You’re going to win, not to win prizes.

champsphTo start with, you are going to a tourney to play in a tourney. Prizes should be the last thing on your mind. Point in fact, if you’re looking forward to prizes more than reaching the podium, I think you would be better served by:

1. saving the money to enter tourneys, buying yourself cool bike stuff

2. giving that bike stuff to your friends

3. having them, randomly, throughout the year, knock on your door and say “congratulations! You reached the podium for pooping in the morning! Here’s a Paul brake lever!”

4. high-fiving yourself repeatedly

Bike polo tournaments have a weird expectation of giving away stuff, and I am likewise happy when I get free goodies, too–but I’m not indignant if a tourney doesn’t have anything other than a well run tourney where I get to hang out with my friends. That’s what I’m paying for: for the experience, to play, and to challenge myself against others.  Read more

A Guest Letter From A Mysterious Moustache

moustache

I just got this in the ol’ email today from a mysterious writer who identifies him/herself only as “Handlebar Mustache.” As it turns out, it seems the general malaise I’ve been feeling about bike polo isn’t a singular thing:

I want to play bike polo so bad it hurts. I’m currently under a foot of snow, slowly withering away into nothingness. I have to take public transportation to work with the yuppies. I have to wear fifteen layers and stare directly into the sun just to remember that I am in fact alive. Every day that there is ice on the polo court, my sadness and frustration multiply exponentially. The ennui grows within me like a tumor in my heart.

Watching the videos on Mr. Do momentarily abates my listlessness, but I am jarringly rocked from my fantasy world when the video ends and the Fixcraft logo appears and I’m staring at a blank computer screen. It’s like watching porn, except I don’t feel as ashamed when I watch people having sex.

Sometimes I rub chain lube on my fingers just to pretend like I’ve done work on my bike. My mallets are all capped, taped, and tightened. My wheels are trued and covered. My brake pads are dialed in and toed in.

I just want to feel alive again, I want to feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins when I am hurtling down the court on a breakaway. I want to feel the pressure of a goon’s shoulder on mine as we smash into the boards together. I want to feel the thrill of scoring a goal on an overhand shot with zero angle. Ok, maybe that last one has never happened, but I want to believe that it COULD happen if I were back on the court.

bald flag

My body aches for contact. My heart aches for drinking beers court-side. My joints… don’t ache. They feel pretty good, actually. My knees haven’t had this much scab-free skin in quite a while. My elbows don’t have bruises and my quads aren’t sore. I don’t have any black eyes or helmet hair. It feels unnatural. My day job productivity is way up, and my free time, on a scale of “one to America,” is as free as a bald eagle flying over Mount Rushmore. Maybe I could get used to this! More likely, however, I won’t, and I’ll just keep waking up every morning with my arm outstretched, as if waking from a dream where I scored a game winner and went into the boards at full tilt. C’est la vie de polo-vélo.

 

Alright, Listen Here, Snow.

mean looking woman

The last time I had this much time away from polo, my heart was trying to kill me.

The time before that, my knee tore apart (but  I got a puppy out of it so I’m not even really counting that one).

But now, now that I can ignore my knee and medicate my heart, you come along, Mother Nature, and snow up the whole mid-state.

Knock. It. Off.

out of caveI don’t know if you know this, but I’m really not that good at bike polo–I kinda need to “use it or lose it,” as the hip kids say. I know they don’t say that, weather, shut up.But you’re coming around so often that I’m forgetting what it’s like to even hit the ball. WHICH END DO YOU HIT THE BALL WITH?! IS IT THE POINTY END?

By the time Spring rolls around in June, I’ll probably not know how to ride a bike anymore. I’ll be pale and jelly-like and confused as to why people are calling me Crusher.

So you just knock it the hell off, winter. I didn’t care before but now I’ve got to play bike polo and you’re messing it all up.

Alternately, anyone know of an indoor rink?

Organization: How Much Is Too Much?

govtmeeting

One of the draws that bike polo has for plenty of us is just how little organization it has. Or at least, how disorganized it seems. To someone who is outside of the gritty of the sport, it just looks like a weird, spontaneous collection of people who happen to all be rolling past a court and decide “oh, why not, let’s invent a game right now.”

But to anyone who has spent more than a month playing, it’s very clear that there are many forces at work to assure that things happen which need to happen.

No, I’m not talking about the NAH level, necessarily, but more about the club level of organization.

In The Beginning…

When I first started playing with Lancaster, there was no elected leadership (our godfather, Kyle, was the de facto leader) and certainly nothing more than absolute democracy (one person, one vote. No representation). This worked out because we weren’t really trying to do anything other than play, and we were all pretty happy about it, I think.

But then had a series of events which required more than one guy to decide on, and needed less than the whole club to take action for. This happens to every club, I believe, and it lead to the idea of “polo elders,” or players who had more experience as being members of the club and could be trusted (more or less) to do what was right for everyone.

In this structure we managed to purchase a generator, develop a transportable lighting system, and also managed to make club shirts (though that was much harder than it should have been, truth be told).

Lancaster United Gets Some Government

government-structureBut even that wasn’t enough–or maybe it was–and that takes us to where we are now as a club: we’re preparing for the Eastside Qualifier, we just elected Elders to lead the club for a year, and the Elders have asked one of the players (appropriately, Fat Stacks,) to act as treasurer because we’re now collecting club dues from club members. 

This is all kinda amazing when you think about it, and I’m curious if other clubs collect dues from players. Actually I wondered for a while if we were going too far with it all, if it made any sort of sense to be so rigid in our organization.

But when I got to thinking about it, it made lots of sense: there are times when a situation comes up (buying club shirts, paying local gov’t for space, insurance costs, court/light upkeep) where only a few members actually pitch in; or the people who do pitch in are the same ones who always do. By putting a cost on membership, we assure that the load is balanced fairly between players, and we also have a bit of money for any unseen expenses. Read more

Local Bike Polo Team Goes to Sochi Olympics

Sochi

Sochi, Russia–Local bike polo team “The Farmer’s Daughters” arrived in Sochi yesterday to participate in the 2014 Winter Olympics. The three players; David Magbee, Troy Young, and Emilie Watts, touched down just 12 hours before the games were set to commence due to a scheduling error on the part of their coach, Matthew “Horse” Krofcheck.

“Does anyone really know how to figure out local time?” Krofcheck said when asked about the mix-up.

The Sochi Olympics are shrouded in scandal already, and the late arrival of the three American Bike Polo players adds to the already tenuous relationship the States have with the Russian Federation.

“In Soviet Russia, schedule keeps you,” a stereotypical representative of Russia said, probably after drinking “whodka” and wrestling a bear or something.

Despite the mix-up, “The Farmer’s Daughters” have high hopes for a good showing during the games.

Sochi 2014

The press conference was held here, at the parking lot outside of a Vodka supercenter

“I think we’re the only team here who even plays bike polo,” Watts explained. “No, I don’t mean that as a sarcastic jab at other players. I really think we’re the only people who are here to play bike polo.”

“Is it even an Olympic game?” Young asked reporters at a press conference held in a parking lot.

“We don’t even have matching team shirts.” Magbee  said when asked how prepared he felt for the games.

The three, after a lengthy call to the US Embassy and a much louder call to their coach in the States, have decided to press on and try to combine bike polo with a recognized 2014 Olympic sport. The Sochi games will be the first to feature Bike Polo Bobsled.

“We’re going to die doing this, aren’t we,” Watts said as they rode off towards the Olympic Village.

Growing Pains: Bike Polo and American Football’s 400 Year History

football old

Huge hat tip to Gene Fruit for pointing out this podcast to me recently. 

It seems, at times, that bike polo is doomed to get lost in a mix of arguing over rules, equipment requirements, and a general “we do what we want” attitude holding back any real formation of a standardized way to play (as evidenced in the bench format/3 man/no set positions arguments we see every single year). But we are not alone in the chaotic birth of a new sport.

Point in fact, we need only look to the glory and absolute majesty that is/was the Superbowl to see another sport which, in it’s beginnings, was wrought with confusion, double standards, and a complete mix-up when it came to it’s future.

Native American FootballAmerican football started before America was America. According to a recent podcast by On Point, Native Americans were playing a form of football that English settlers quickly identified to have similarities to their own more bloody, less sportsmanlike “mob ball.” As Susan Reyburn (Author of Football Nation: 400 Years of America’s Gameexplains, the Native American game was quickly absorbed by settlers. (Their lands and own gainful existence was also taken by the settlers, but that’s a different topic altogether).

What is interesting in this podcast and in the history of early football is it’s eerie similarity to the problems we’re currently facing in bike polo today. Consider the following: Read more

A Polo Player Goes Camping

boy scout

In the course of emptying out my polo bag (to stuff it with spare socks, jeans, and manly-man, I’m-totally-prepared-for-this lumberjack shirts), I found not only several items I thought surely lost, but also a bottle of hot sauce, six beer bottle caps, and about a  half cup of glass from the break in on my car a few months ago.

I went ahead and wiped out the bag a bit more than I expected, imagining my underwear filled with trace amounts of glass. Whoa boy.

And so I packed, with the gentle and disappointing reminder that this wasn’t for a tourney–that I didn’t really need to bring my favorite Gunk bicycling cap, my mallet, my spare tube.

Oh, well maybe I’ll just pack the cap and the mallet in case. Nobody will notice them in the trunk.

I pick up my nephew after spending a whole day dreading the high pitched squeal that only emanates from a pack of ten year olds at work and he is decked out in his full camping regalia. He is excited, and it makes me happy to be part of this, even if it does mean that I’ll probably miss bike polo on Sunday. I push my wheel covers out of the way (I might need them too, you don’t know what cub scouts do these days) and put his stuff in the car with mine. We’re off, and he’s already planning how we’ll kill a squirrel and eat it.

Bonding.

We meet with the rest of the pack at a Chik-fil-a. I look at my car compared to the other parents: stickers from my club, a bike rack, inexplicable mallets and those wheel covers poking up from the back seat. They all have SUVs with “proud of my cub scout” on them. Maybe the “read local” sticker I have will qualify me as an alright uncle. who knows.

The parents ask me where I live and what I do. I tell them I’m an editor, and they naturally ask of what. Well, it was good while it lasted.

I explain the blog and my regular job, which leads to a series of questions about bike polo and an equal series of blank nods and half-smiles. I order an extra chicken sandwich to stop myself from crying. It’s always worked before.

The cabin we’re staying at has bunk beds and I sleep on the top. I’m scared of falling through and killing my nephew, but it seems to hold. as soon as I hop down the scout master tells me I should lock my car doors, even though we’re in the woods. I wonder what would prompt this until I see a cub scout named “Francis” using one of my mallets in an attempt to chop down a tree, and two other scouts trying to break acorns with my helmet.

“They’re all so violent,” I say. Read more

A Little Home-Town Drama

drama

A month or so ago, Lancaster was setting up for it’s weekly Wednesday play (I’m going to be dramatizing this a bit, as I was not there at the time). They set up the lights, the moon shining off of Kruse’s skin enough that they questioned whether they were really necessary at all, and play commenced.[I'm not really sure Nick Kruse was there, I just wanted to that same joke as much as possible.]

However, a local law enforcement officer official came by and, unlike interactions with other police officer men before, commented that we really shouldn’t be playing at night unless we have permission, as the park is a dawn-to-dusk sort of place.

And, of course, he was exactly right.

And here are some lessons on what to do when that happens, dear readers: 

1. Instead of putting up a huge fight or simply ignoring the warning, Lancaster United said “ok, officer,” and shut down for the night. We then created an email chain to discuss what happened and next steps.

2. Next, it was decided that the best people/person to approach would be the Township, so after a somewhat extensive series of emails back and forth within the club’s current leadership, I called them up. I was told the guy I needed to speak to was out, and I could leave a message (which I did with my authoritative-but-not-a-jerk voice).

3. The township man called me back and I was nice as a hobbit can be to him. I explained we were at fault–I explained that we’d been using the court for years and that we made the goals that stand there now. I talked about how much we clean the area and keep the rink in good order. He was very impressed with all this, and then told him our problem.

He was already receptive to the idea of helping us, as out of everyone who used the rink, we were apparently the only ones who actually cared about it.

4. After he told me he’d bring it up with the committee to decide on, I left him alone for a week, and then called.

And then called again the week after.

And then called again the week after that.

And then once more during the next week.

Each and every time, I did so with courtesy, graciousness, and understanding. After all, we are such a tiny concern for a guy who needs to explain why snow isn’t being cleared/why the fire department doesn’t have enough money/etc.

Eventually (yesterday) I sent him an email, and he asked for a formal request.

5. The formal request was a great opportunity for me to show that we were not just a bunch of kids wanting to bend the rules for the sake of bending the rules. I presented our case, leaving out sport specific language (if he ever asked, of course I’d tell him, but it’s just as easy to not try to describe bike polo).

He loved the request, advised me to come to the meeting when it was discussed (this upcoming week), and told me he’d be reinforcing that this shouldn’t be a very big deal).

So, in summary, what I think we as a club did intelligently:

  1. Respectful and willing to follow the officer’s warning
  2. Didn’t try to sneak back to play
  3. Went through the correct routes to request permission
  4. Presented what we did for the benefit of the community (fixing up the rink, having goals made, cleaning up trash)
  5. Willingness to be present at committee meeting to speak directly to decision makers

Where it goes from here? Well, I guess we’ll see how the conversation goes with the committee. But I’m damned sure we aren’t the first club to deal with this, and definitely not the last. We stand to lose Winter Wednesday play, but stand to gain a set time and space for polo as well, so I’m very excited to see how it all plays out.

This is Hardcourt: A Bunch of White Guys.

NAHcourt

Let me start by immediately walking back on that title: I really, really appreciate the work Mr. Do does for our sport. Point in fact, I think he’s one of the most entertaining, important producers of bike polo content in the world. We’re lucky to have him and to have his dedication to our sport. 

But there was something a little funny about the recent (beautiful) video he helped make called This Is Hardcourt. While it was wonderfully rendered and made me excited to call myself a bike polo player, it seemed strangely–I don’t know–singular in its content.

By this I mean: if I didn’t know anything about bike polo and watched this video as part of a sponsorship package, I would think that only white males play the game [there are a few frames where women appear, but no narration to back up that this is a normal thing].

And, to be really frank with you, that’s a pretty accurate depiction of the sport (it’s mostly played by white males, I’m not blind for goodness sake). But it’s not the whole story, and certainly not what I’d want to show potential sponsors.

If you read the articles on this site, you know that I am pretty excited by the co-ed nature of the sport. And while I haven’t touched on it very much, I’m also jazzed by how inclusive the sport is to anyone who wants to join in (we don’t have a gay-bashing, alternative lifestyle hating culture in bike polo, is what I mean). We’re a pretty open, awesome group of people.

But, if I watched this video, I wouldn’t know that. I’d think it was a boys club. A white boy’s club–which is kinda behind the curve, don’t you think.

As soon as this video came out a few folks reached out to me to get my opinion and vent, and I’d like to share what they told me. The first was Lisa, who explained:

I was disappointed when I first saw it because clearly its purpose is as a promotional piece and it obviously didn’t illustrate that this is a coed sport, neither did the commentary. I have spoken with Ben Schultz about it and he’s seeking an edit, which is good to hear. Women are working just as hard on and off the court and I think that will really appeal to potential sponsors. Polo is one of the few truly coed sports out there and it should be celebrated.

Next, Anne emailed me with much the same sentiment, though explained a bit more: Read more