Archive for Tournaments

If You Can’t Ref, Don’t.

Ref

There’s plenty to be proud of about Worlds this year. Great courts, lots of people got to play, and the majority of us got to watch it from the comfort of our own bike polo aviary homes.

But there was one instance I saw where there wasn’t anything to enjoy, and that was when Ratking had a match go south on them because a ref wasn’t able to make accurate calls.

At a World Championship.

In 2014.

It’s something that’s bothered me from then until now, so let’s talk it out.

The thing about reffing is, frankly, I’m no good at it. I can see infractions and I kinda sometimes know what the call is, but none of that happens instantaneously. It happens about five or so seconds late, and that makes me, you guessed it, a crummy ref.

The thing that makes me so comfortable with being a bad ref is that I know I’m a bad ref, and so I avoid the position as much as possible. When Joe asked me to ref at North Americans (half-jokingly, I’m sure), I gave him a clear, definitive no. Not because I don’t believe in giving back to the sport and not because I’m lazy (I did goal judge a whole lot, point in fact), but because I knew I wasn’t up to the challenge, and that I wouldn’t be doing the best for the players.

And having that knowledge, friends is [a G.I. Joe joke].

But it’s strange to me that I, lowly as I am in the sport, would recognize that whereas at Worlds, that thought didn’t apparently cross the minds of the organizers. Having someone holding the whistle doesn’t make a ref. Hell, passing the NAH ref test doesn’t make a ref.  It’s something else–it’s knowledge and application. I understand the drive to help, and even the pressure to do so, but the fact is that unless you’re very confident and very able to apply the rules and regulations in a match, you shouldn’t be using a real, qualifying/NAH tourney to learn how to.

And I realize that this goes against some of the other things I’ve said on this blog (one of which I’ll include below just to show you how hypocritical I am).

Now I’m not exactly blaming the organizers of Worlds, and I’m certainly not blaming the poor guy who Ratking made walk off in search of a more qualified ref. I’m blaming the oddity of polo where we demand good refs but refuse to make them or try to create strong avenues to practice. Something I liked about the Eastside Thaw last year (that worked with some success, though players still yelled at refs like it ever makes a difference), was introduce the idea that it was a place for players to learn to ref and for players to learn to play. I think there should be a push for that–a live clinic of reffing. Doing it on the web is a great first step, but like many things, sometimes doing it for realsies is the best way of learning.

I’m going to say: if you don’t know how to ref, don’t ref. Don’t put yourself in a position to make yourself feel bad nor to destroy a team’s chances to advance because of your mistake. Furthermore, you should determine early on if you’re any good at reffing to begin with (which is something different than knowing the rules), and if you’re not good, don’t force yourself into it.

I have no doubt at all that the next round of great refs is out there–but we shouldn’t be so desperate to put a whistle in someone’s hand as to take anyone at all. It reduces the trust in refs overall and makes a mockery of enforcing rules.

 

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

Wanna Win $1,000? (Yes, Really)

CommClass

I was recently approached by Boston Bike Polo with a very interesting email subject, which in fact made me think that it was a scam email–but following the worst impulse possible, I opened the email and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not, indeed, someone who was trying to get my bank account number. Point in fact, it was a notification of the 2014 Commonwealth Classic!

Being interested in the Classic, I interviewed a representative from the club (read: the person who was offered up to me by Boston as the sacrifice) and learned a bit more about what kind of magic possessed them to have a $1,000 prize:

Tell me a little about your tournament–is there anything in particular that separates it from other tourneys (any weird rules, is it a standard 3v3?)

The Commonwealth Classic is the most classic classic out of any other polo classic that ever has been. 20 teams have the chance to compete at Boston’s notorious home court. Only three will ride with away with the Commonwealth Cup. We will be playing with the generally accepted NAH rules with a few caveats to encourage play styles currently trending in Boston. Think relaxed Boston pick-up, but way better.

Commonwealth ClassicWhat were past Commonwealth Classics like? What is the makeup of players? Very competitive or very laid back?

Historically, the Commonwealth Classic has attracted a crowd who absolutely appreciates autumn polo. Nothing really says “321-polo” quite like the colorful leaves, crisp New England air and fully torqued polo players bulging net. We’ve only got one court, so it tend to be quite a fun and cozy tournament,

What are some of the sweet, sweet prizes people can win–if any?

Get this: the team who plays the best polo gets ten hunnit dollars. Simple as that. We’re planning on giving away a bunch of other rad prizes too , but we’re really trying to lure in everyone with those greenbacks.

 What about creature comforts (hotels? travel to courts? Drinking rules? foods to eat?)

Boston club members intend to put up any and all who wish to travel from near or far to join us. We’ll make sure you’re happy warm and ready each morning with hot coffee, breakfast and Bloody’s.  PBR will be joining us to make sure everyone is properly hydrated.

Anything you’d like to add?

We’re really excited for this. Right now the poloverse is preoccupied with Worlds and what not, but we know by the time October rolls around everyone is going to be itching for a fun/awesome/competitive tournament. Hope to see you there!’
Wanna know more? Here’s the LoBP (ALL HAIL!) page: https://leagueofbikepolo.com/the-commonwealth-classic-2014

World’s Week: WHOOPIDIEE DOOO!

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Today begins the week of Worlds: where players from all over the polo kingdoms meet up to see who is the biggest of the big, the bravest of the brave, and who can know the sweet kiss of French Wine without losing all sensation in their limbs and deciding that they are too bohemian for such a mainstream sport as bike polo.

Me? Oh, I’ll be on a 5 year anniversary adventure from Sunday to Monday, so chances are I won’t even really get the chance to watch the action live. You’ll need to fill me in, Polopals.

If I have one hope, however, it’s that the Beavers get clobbered.  No, not because I dislike the Beavers (point in fact, they are some very sweet fellas), but only because they are one of the tippiest toppiest teams in the world, and I’m the kind of guy who likes rooting for underdogs. Honestly, I’m rooting for Rat Kings because they’re one of our Eastside teams in attendance, and because they have the most magnificent facial hair.

I am also excited, believe it or not, to see how the rules are handled in France. I know we’ve been having some fun and excitement over here, but I’m curious about how the Europeans have been handling the new rule set (and how the refs are going to differ between the U.S. and the E.U.

But, if I need to be honest with you cats–which I generally try to be–Worlds has always been a kind of…I don’t know…a sign that my favorite part of bike polo is coming up: fall/winter polo. With Worlds comes an end to the super-hot days of bike polo (at least the continuous super hot days) and the start of the fall days; my favorite days.

Fall means turducken (which I’ve only gone to once but love), it means pumpkin beer and games that are cool on the lungs and the courts. So while we’re all getting excited about Worlds and about watching  the glorious live-streaming of it, I’m getting excited about what comes after it.

No, no, not the bench tourney (thought that should be pretty fun, too), but the joy of not having to switch out the ball your playing with every game/being able to not sweat through your gloves as much.

Report from my Foreign Correspondent: ESBI 2014

Bench 6
Saturday, July 26, 2014 5 AM. I roll to Chinatown after driving all night to find a cozy little parking space across from the park to catch a few hours of sleep.  Left with a bike and a bag, my ride disappears as I begin to wander. Luckily I stumble into a Chinese bakery and grab what I think to be a donut and mosey on down to the pit to watch people practice sword fighting and feeding pigeons. Before I am fully awake the first player rolls in. Now I almost don’t recognize him with a derailleur, two independent breaks, and backpack of brooms. I introduce myself and we talk for a while as there is very little cleanup or preparation to do. Soon after they are arriving in packs and the first game is underway very quickly.
Food1

A small history

There have been 6 previous ESBI (East Side Bench Invitational) with none occurring last year. The teams attending are Boston, DC, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and 2 New York’s (Alpha and Bravo). The Previous champs, Richmond, were unable to attend. Clubs may bring any number of players, but may utilize a bench of 9 maximum each game. Scoops are allowed.
Interviews with the team captains go well and provide me a good insight to the plans of the captains and their clubs. I learn Pittsburgh and Boston have very thin rosters consisting of as little as 5 or 6. For Pittsburgh this is attributed to their club size while Boston was bad timing. Having visited Boston a few weekends ago I found this strange that of the dozen players I met there is only one I can recognize here. The low rosters are seen by their captain’s optimistically as an advantage as there are less changes, lineups, and management to do. There are also several ringers (who all turn out to be wicked awesome) from Canada and Lancaster. I am also invited to play but decline to avoid bias and embarrassing everyone with my world class skill (ok maybe to avoid embarrassing myself). Instead I take administrative roles of sometimes timekeeper, statistics keeper, and referee. Statistics keeping I am very pleased about as it is both new and superb in learning every single person’s name.
bench1Most games Saturday are decided by no more than five points which was quite surprising to me. Most cities are surprisingly well matched. The flow of the teams is smooth for the most part with unfavorable lineups are quickly worked out by the captains. I also notice the connections between certain players (example: Nate and Zac of NY Alpha) are insane. The true strength of the 3v3 game is in these connections. In bench it is having those connections with a manager that knows when and how to implement them. But laughs are had on and off the court and I get a good vibe from all the players. This seems like a more serious series of city vs city pickup games. 
A few small issues occur Saturday as well. Mostly players forgetting helmets, some tardiness, lack of whistles, and magical dicks kept reappearing on the scoreboard. Only one major issue is a disagreement between referee and player. This was caused by the rotation of referees and the differences in enforcement. Having dedicated referees is a must have for every competitive tournament. Also Chombos slide whistle (http://youtu.be/Qa7uLxu0XAc) while hilarious did not make the players stop.
The most interesting match of Saturday is New York Alpha vs Philadelphia. This game remained within one point the entire first half. Second half begins and there are no point for 10 solid minutes. The atmosphere of the game adopts a much more serious tone quickly. NY Alpha Philly pulls off the win but it’s clear if a rematch happens Sunday it will be the hot ticket and there is no clear favorite.

Read more

NAHBPC 2014: A Reporter’s Dairy, Final Day +1

2014-07-14 10.00.11

Several things happen on the morning of Sunday, July 13th. For one thing, the smell of our hotel room becomes so unbearable that I find myself unable to go in and out of it without feeling the deep-down need to vomtron 5000. It’s been so bad that the cleaning folks won’t even change the sheets anymore.

Secondly, I am tired of the waffles at the continental breakfast. They’re free, so I eat them (this is actually what the giant insect space aliens are going to say when they stumble across our country/planet in the future, too), but I do so without any enjoyment. Corvus has the first game on court A, so we leave a touch earlier than the other two days. I wear my bought-in-Roseville salmonish shirt and realize almost instantly that it does not breathe. I begin to sweat like mad at the courts.

The final thing I notice quickly is how beautiful all of the women look today, and I know that I miss having Caitlin around to pal around with.

I watch the Corvus v. Dauphins game and have high hopes in the beginning that Corvus will win. Sure, the Dauphins has that lovely fellow Jacques who treated (and continued to treat) hurt polo players throughout the tournament–but Corvus is full of Pennsylvanians, club mates, and longstanding friends. I have my priorities.

The game itself, despite my hopes plays out differently. After an early Dauphins goal, Horse responds with a slap shot from the side, answering with a point of his own. It strikes me as an even match up until the last 2 minutes, when Dauphins turns up  the heat and dismantles Corvus with a 5-3 win. Everyone seems happy with their performance (recognizing the after-loss mile long stare that happens to everyone). Horse tries to take the rust off his bike.

2014-07-13 13.43.35And that’s kind of the theme of the whole tournament. The people at the tourney are jovial. It’s the last day but it still feels like a very competitive pickup day. I manage to slip into conversations and groups without feeling like I’m interrupting, and feel even more comfortable talking to folks that I otherwise would be too intimidated to (here I think of Kremin, who was more than willing to chat me up about his injury and plans, Joey of the Beavers who stops under our tent to shake my hand and talk about playing with Simpson, and Andrea–the person who broke her ankle (I get nervous talking to beautiful women, I start stuttering a lot, you see), about how she’s feeling and what she plans to do about the injury). I don’t know if it’s because the weather was so miserable the two days before or not, but the whole atmosphere of the final day is one of enjoyment and relief. The weather itself is better than anyone could ask for. The air is filled with cottonwood seeds, white and downy they fall like patchy snow across the courts and players and ground. It’s wonderful to behold but they are so ephemeral that I can’t get a single picture of them. In hindsight this makes me happy, as I want them to be something just for us at the tournament (I’m sure someone did get a picture of them, however, but I don’t want to see it).  Read more

NAHBPC: A Reporter’s Journal, Part 2

2014-07-13 15.24.08

Sleeping in a room with five other men is something that I don’t necessarily recommend for anyone, but somehow (exhaustion, I think) I sleep well Friday night, despite Sprinks straight up stealing my pillow when I turn to shut of the air conditioner and my pillow drops off the bed Horse and I are sharing. I spent, like, 2 minutes looking for the pillow until I realized Sprinks sucked it up underneath his head like an octopus hiding away a clam shell. I try to be angry, but he looks so happy to have it I can’t be.

After a quick breakfast flanked by Koyo and John Hayes (wherein we discuss the Assassins’ victory over the Beavers once more), I hit a Wal-Mart to:

1. Feel bad about humanity

2. Get drinks and ice for Corvus/NASA

3. Buy a perfectly lovely $3.00 shirt that I might actually wear after the tourney–if I’m able to pack it in my tiny bag (I was able to, dear reader).

2014-07-12 09.49.56When I get to the courts there is a light, frustrating sprinkle (not the pillow thief), and it’s clear that the humidity is much higher than the day before. As a man who sweats as soon as it gets above 60 degrees, I pray to the elder polo gods that there is some kind of breeze to push away the polo stank of 2-day ripe players. I plant myself in the pop tent that Rodney provided us to write a bit and get out of the rain/cool myself. I’m joined by Horse and Sprinks of Corvus, who seem relaxed–and well they should be. They performed well enough yesterday that they were guaranteed a spot on Sunday. Others here, however, are fighting for that honor. It’s and interesting mix of relaxation and stone-eyed focus. For my part, I’m getting more and more nervous about the rain.

2014-07-12 09.15.25I pop over to Mr. Do’s command tents to talk to sweet Jenn and the crew. I confirm with them that they were indeed getting shocked during filming the day before (okay, so they were shocking each other, more or less), and that they are very well prepared for the work they need to perform. Indeed, to me they seem the most prepared out of anyone at the tournament–having taken position under several tents on the side of A court & having a very exciting-looking scaffolding structure upon which they are filming games. The whole team is exceedingly pleasant to me but also clearly quite busy in getting set up and filming, which I am able to certainly excuse. We’re players in the same game, after all: Mr. Do’s team covering the visual, factual side of the sport and me covering the almost-impossible-to-verify, bullshit side. I tip my Pith helmet to them before moseying away to watch Nino Dios (they have a little ~ in their name, but I can’t find the key to put it in place. Forgive me) and Los Quatreros Unitos play, wherein Miguel of LQ proves he’s still at the top of his game. Read more

NAHBPC 2014: A Reporter’s Journal

2014-07-15 23.30.36

Thursday: First Contact

It only takes a few minutes for the layers of clothes make me sweat. It’s Thursday morning and I’m trying to decide of choosing to opt out of paying for a checked bag is the greatest or worst decision I’ve ever made. One of the difficulties of flying Spirit Airlines is that the only free bag I have must be the size of a Pomeranian, and that doesn’t leave much room after packing up my reporting equipment and chargers.

The two shirts are an apparent necessity, but for the rest of my panicked packing the hairs on my chest know the delight of open air.

I bring only enough clothing for today (Thursday) and tomorrow, staying true to my plan to live off the land of Minneapolis/Roseville like the settlers may have (who, as I understand it, traded machined goods and trinkets to local thrift shops for second-hand clothes).

At about a half-hour into my morning I decide I can’t wear two pairs of shorts at once–the bands are acting as tourniquets and my legs are going numb. I don’t possibly see how being even more ill prepared could go poorly. I take off the 2nd pair of shorts and cram them into my Pom Pom sized bag. I wonder how the carry on is already wet, but soon recognize that it’s crying.

At around 1o:05 AM my wife drops Horse and I off at BWI. We’re early, which is something she tells me without saying anything at all (this is what I refer to as the “waking-the-dragon” face). The TSA doesn’t seem to care about all the two ounce tins of wax in my carry on, which is a pleasant surprise. I’m already sweating through my two shirts. I’m already smelling a little. This is going to be an amazing flight.

2014-07-10 09.58.25Horse and I make the intelligent call to get Chipotle for breakfast, because there is nobody around to tell us not to. After that we wait by our gate and Horse explains what his concerns and hopes are. Naturally, as a first time North Americans competitor, he’s just hoping to not make a fool of himself. Good life advice, really, and I decide to do much the same. I think it’ll be harder for me than it will be for him.

On the plane (which has an unnerving paint job that make the fuselage appear like so many cars: pieced together from parts of similar makes and models, but with different paint jobs), I am seated next to Horse and an affable gentleman who is more than willing to talk–which is nice, considering that all of our shoulders invade each other’s seats by at least four inches. I have the window, so I try to push myself against it without applying so much force as to push out that part of the plane (I check to make sure the duct tape and double sided velcro is still holding the wing on, and it appears to be so). Read more

Spirit of Polo: The Cheap Trip Challenge!

spirit

The only reason I’m able to go the North American Bike Polo Championship is because the readers of this blog made it possible through donations. I’m constantly aware of this, and as such I want to make sure I’m being as prudent as possible with the money forked over to me.

This is precisely why (okay, that’s an outright lie, but it still works) I went with Spirit Airlines as my plane-of-choice to get to Minneapolis. Spirit—for those of you who don’t know—is the airline of bottom-line service. Basically, your ticket gets you a plane ride. Everything else costs lots of money (a regular sized carry-on costs thirty-something bucks, as does checking your bag one way, meaning $60 some dollars in total).

The thing is, Spirit is rated the worst airline by passengers for this very reason: along with the apparent cattle-like experience that passengers say the flight itself is like. But for a guy who is trying to travel on donated money, cheap is cheap, and I’m willing to give it a go.

Really, I feel worse for my travel partner, Horse, who is built like a regular sized human and will surely have cramps by the end of each flight.

But I thought if nothing else, travelling cheaply as possible would provide entertainment for you polokins, and what else am I but a fool for you. So I’m playing a little game called The Spirit of Polo: The Cheap Trip Challenge!

The rules are super simple:

  • I will find every single way to save money on this trip (within the rules of reason)
  • I will try to “live off the land” in Minneapolis (beg/borrow/steal)

So far, I’ve saved money by not buying any baggage space on the Spirit flight (saving myself $60 bucks right from the get-go). I’m planning to hit up a thrift shop/Walmart when I touch down for the cheapest clothes I can find, and perhaps a quilt for sleeping. I’m positive I can spend maybe $30 bucks on enough to get me through the 4 days I’m in Minneapolis, cutting my overall baggage costs in half. Spirit allows me a purse sized carry on for free, so I’ll be able to bring my voice recorder and notebook to do the reporting dance (maybe—and this is a big maybe—I’ll be able to fit my netbook. We’ll see).

I’m truly worried if I’ll be able to fit my Pith helmet in my pursebag. I’m going to try to wear it during check in and get by the restriction that way—but there is a good chance they’ll tell me I can’t wear a helmet on a plane, and then I’ll just have to play it by ear (if worse comes to worse, I can put it in Horse’s checked bag. But that wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining for my readers, so I’m hoping against hope.

In the spirit of bike polo, I’m also planning to eat as cheaply as possible—meaning I foresee a bunch of horrible eating decisions in my near future. 4 days of ramen, here I come!

Anyway, seeing as though it’s the week of North Americans now, I’m getting jazzed about this trip. I hope to meet a bunch of you there (I’ll be the short guy hopefully wearing a pith helmet and carrying a notebook).

 

The Lesser of Two Evils: Why You Should Ref at the NAHBPC

scale

North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship is running into the same problem as every other NAH event since forever: finding dedicated (or even semi-dedicated) refs to officiate the tournament. While this isn’t particularly surprising, it is disheartening. If there should ever be a time when finding refs isn’t impossible, it should be the damned tournament of tournaments in the land.

refBut I get it…I really do. Being a ref is stressful, generally not fun, and altogether demanding. You need to think on your feet–you need to ignore the amazing amount of name calling and under-the-breath insults from players and fans alike. You must shore yourself up to making that bad call and sticking by your guns (because there is nothing worse than a ref who waffles between calls). When I reffed I found that I was more concerned about making the wrong call than making any call at all, so I froze up. It was unfair to the players and very stressful for me (my heart raced more when reffing than when playing, if that’s an indicator for you).

And you have to do all of this when you could just be heckling with your friends or taking a nap, or whatever else.

The scale is heavily in favor of not being a ref. It’s true.

But just because something is easy to do doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.

Between the “evil” of inconveniencing yourself, and the “evil” of doing nothing, someone who cares about the enjoyment of the sport for all should choose inconvenience. Furthermore, I suggest (and God, this will be hard for some of us) that players and spectators alike recognize that being a ref is damned hard work, and try not to back-talk the ref or scream out what the call should be. They’re dealing with enough as it is, and they don’t need someone else–someone who isn’t willing to be a ref–telling them how to ref.

I’m pleading with you–you who have taken the ref test and indeed are certified now–to consider reffing this weekend. If enough certified refs sign up, the tourney could have a pretty healthy rotation of refs coming in and out, meaning that any one ref won’t have to do more than a few games at a time.

MeatloafAt the Eastside Regional Qualifier we had to stop running games on one court for a few minutes because nobody would step up (myself included–though I was manning the control tent so whatever, whatever). I know that it’s not the greatest job in the world, but it’s a necessary one and I’m really confused as to how we have this growing body of players who want to do everything they can for each other, but who are unwilling to do this. It’s like a damn Meatloaf song.

Sign up: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1zKgrBhxP8X4P2jqc2ZGSc0I9JkdoKQaosAC4p-8tP6I/viewform