Archive for Tournaments

Thoughts on Turducken and 2v2: Great, but No Thanks

trdcknvii

Turducken was a blast. Truly. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates than Carter and Ransom, and we went further along (I think tied for 7th/8th? I don’t know) than I imagined possible. All in all, I’m deeming it as a success. The hosts were very hosty, I ate more tacos in 2 days than I normally eat in 2 weeks–yes, I eat tacos every week–and the hotel only had one toilet that didn’t work (thanks, Alias, for letting me use yours).

The tourney was also my first ever 2v2 tourney. The rule for this was very simple: you play 2v2, and you have to switch out one of your players with your third each game. While I had played 2v2 at pickup when we can’t get numbers, I never did it at a tourney and, to be honest, I was disappointed when I learned that this tourney wouldn’t be 3v3.

The first day was difficult: I kept expecting to have a third person on my team, and I quickly learned that a tourney of 2v2 counts on a few things:

1. The other team messing up

2. Passing

3. Getting the other team out of position

If you manage two of those 3, you’ll win your games (or at least not look horrible in losing).

I’m going to be honestfrank with you and say that my playing on the first day was horrible. For one thing, my heart was going nuts and that made me not necessarily care how I was playing (as dying is something I’d like to avoid), but I also just wasn’t carrying my weight on the team. Carter and Eric were clearly the strong 2 of we 3, though they were both very kind to me in my uselessness.

The other teams seemed to have the same difficulties we had (save for a few slayers, of course, who could probably play with 1 and 1/4th of a player and still do well). The games weren’t slow, as I was expecting, though the pacing was certainly different. There wasn’t necessarily constant movement, but rather a ebb and flow of movement that dictated how a play either was (or was not) going to work. I found that I had more open breakaways, obviously, but I also felt like every action I took had a much more profound impact on the game than I would if it were 3v3.

I think that’s what the most valuable lesson was that weekend, outside of learning about the Turducken Taco from Cultured Swine, was that new sort of court awareness. I was keenly aware of helping the ball carrier rather than just trying to become the ball carrier. I either worked towards getting the 2nd player out of the play, or in getting my own guy to a good position.

That being said, I found that my leftyness came into play in an enormous way, as did my slow-game-ball-control nonsense that I do so enjoy. Furthermore, tricks became somehow more important (tricks, in my book, include dribbling the ball around other players in the air, weird shots, etc.).

The second day was a much better showing in my case, and I believe I managed to help Carter win every game we played together. I had a stronger understanding of what my role should be and managed to remind myself of that understanding whenever I got in the heat of a match.

Even so: as I left the tourney without saying goodbye to most, and drove my little truck the 7 hours it took to get home (thanks, traffic), I knew that I wouldn’t want to play a 2v2 tourney again. It was great fun, but it didn’t really scratch that itch I look to get scratched at a tourney. Or, maybe I should refine that: I don’t see myself playing in another 2v2 tourney unless it’s happening within 1 hour of driving distance. With Turducken Tacos, maybe 2 hours.

There were about 30 less tourneys in 2014 than 2013

2014-07-12 09.50.00

…and I’m not really worried about it

Counting a discussion last week with Horse, there have been about four people who approached me (either via email, message, or in person) this year who were concerned about the amount of tourneys being hosted this year compared to years past. They all thought, more or less, that it was a sign of either the dwindling of the sport or the dwindling importance of tourneys.

Well, I just don’t buy it, honestly.

To Horse’s credit, he cited that part of the reason for the reduction in tourneys was the proliferation of regions and the need to have qualifiers in those regions (a problem that I think will probably be worked out sooner than later). Because of this, local tournaments were put off because everyone was too busy trying to prep and/or run their own NAH sanctioned event.

I think consideration that must be paid is that the tourneys are getting bigger, the quality of the tourneys is getting better, and the expectation of going to certain tourneys over other tourneys is becoming more and more of a reality. If anything, I think it shows a growth in bike polo (or at least in the quality of bike polo): not every city can have its own top-notch tourney–which is fine, but it also means that more and more folks are waiting for those really solid tourneys to latch on to, and the smaller ones never really come around to being actualized.

Plus, if you really want to get down to the scientific method: just because a tourney isn’t on the LoBP (ALL HAIL!) it doesn’t mean that tourney didn’t happen. It might just be that there are smaller tourneys that aren’t using the site. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but it very well may be.

Try to think back, if you can, to just a few years ago: what tourneys were like. No boards, sometimes just open sides with bags to stop the ball from going out of play. Cones for goals and tourneys that would occasionally not even really be completed. Those tourneys are what made up a fair amount of those many-more tourneys we see if we look at tourneys per year. Now, however, we’re seeing more organized and more tourney-like tournaments, and just because there are fewer doesn’t mean we’re losing anything.

So there, naysayers. So there.

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

Let’s Stop Doing Worlds Every Year

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The thing with the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship is, for better or worse, that it’s kind of an exaggeration. An expensive one at that. And the truth is we put a lot of stock into Worlds being perfect and the pinnacle of bike polo development when in fact we don’t even have a really clear vision of what bike polo will be in six months, let alone a year, let alone any point in the distant future. We are, once again, creating a high level event for a sport that simply doesn’t demand that sort of thing.

When the NFL was first formed–hell, even before that: when people first started playing football in the U.S., they didn’t start having a championship right away–at least not the sort of championship we think of now with the SuperBowl. Sure, there were championships–but they were local, small, and pretty much just like any other tournament.

whbpc2014The point I’m making is that there wasn’t much of a point to having a huge event for the sport because the sport simply wasn’t there. There were developing rules, developing equipment, and developing culture around the event of American football itself. People realized that having a huge championship was more pain than what it was worth, so why put the pressure on?

the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship is something that brings a lot of great players together. That’s about it. Sure there is the glory of being the best in the world, but that’s about all you get. There aren’t legions of fans paying ticket prices that benefit the NAH or the hosting club or the teams that win. There aren’t huge sponsors throwing money to Mr. Do to get on the stream. There aren’t TV stations that are reserving time and fighting for filming rights.

“But Crusher, there never will be unless we keep having big tournaments.”

Bullshit.

WHBPC2013 (116)Think of it this way: if hosting clubs are still struggling to find good refs, good locations, sponsors, spectators, and everything else that goes with running a sports tournament, all that people will see when they look at bike polo will be a group of people playing a sport they only kinda heard of. They won’t see a really clean, well organized, or well attended event.

There are probably a hundred things that could change with the idea of a world bike polo tourney, but I’ll suggest just a few that have been springing up in my brain the past few weeks:

1. Make the tourney every other year, or ever three years: this allows organizers to work a bit longer in getting people in the seats, sponsors on the walls, and interest from local news. It also gives potential refs 2-3 years to practice just for Worlds. That’s a real, honest-to-Dog length of time to really develop the skills to be a world-class ref.

2. Don’t put so much pressure on it: Go ahead, have your whole-world bike polo tourney–but don’t make it such a big deal. We aren’t there yet, there isn’t a demand (even really a huge demand from players). Why not stop clawing at the hope that if we build it up as a worldwide event it will be.

3. Wait for critical mass before the next WHPBC. Wait for there to be a need before we create a solution. I think this can be said for a lot of parts of bike polo, but it applies here, too: we’re running so hard to make something exist where there is simply no need for it to.

And I get it: polo for lots of folks isn’t about making it any bigger and it isn’t about getting Nike to give a damn or see your face on the nightly news. But if that’s the case, why are players doing everything that professional sports players do in regards to travelling thousands of miles to play, essentially, just another bike polo tournament? What’s the overall value other than the pride of playing at Worlds–and is that worth thousands of dollars to do?

We’re trying to create a professional sport that isn’t even a sustainable one yet. Let’s just put the brakes on for a minute and think about what’d be nice to do, what we need to do in the future, and what we must do right now.

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!

whbpc2014

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