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.
The 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.”
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.