Archive for Tournaments

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

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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 

 

A Daydream Suggestion for the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship

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Let’s just get this out of the way: I haven’t watched more than 45 seconds of the World Cup. Actually less than that, as I just watched a single clip of some amazing goal where a guy head butted the ball into the goal. Just that. I watched it twice, so maybe it was 30 seconds worth of watching.

Anyway, thinking about how the World cup is run (again–as I understand the World Cup is run based of my near-nothing knowledge of it), I wonder how we in bike polo might better serve the excitement, camaraderie, and format of our world championship.

Right now teams from all across the globe compete once a year and we name our “best bike polo team in the world.” And that’s great–it’s fun, even! It’s easy to get into those games and get excited at how your team is moving up in the rankings. But let me just posit two ideas for you to mull over:

1. Maybe we shouldn’t do this every year

2. Maybe we should make it more of a global competition

Let me speak to both of those, starting with the one that I think isn’t as exciting.

Doing this worldwide competition each year puts a huge strain on teams financially. It also makes it less of an event and more like other tournaments that anyone is likely to go to. It puts a huge amount of strain on teams to do really well in just one season–and as we know, it’s possible to totally blow your qualifier and then you’re dead in the water.

Now, I think most of these arguments are pretty weak–but let’s consider a few of the benefits of moving to a two-year or even maybe 3 year worldwide championship model. For one thing, the hosting club could really pull out all the stops in regards to building the courts, getting sponsors, and general planning. Instead of only having a year  they could get a lot of time to make a spectacular event happen. Likewise, teams could save up (more likely individuals could save up) and travelling wouldn’t nearly be so much of a please-help-us-get-to-worlds situation.

Or, you know, we could keep it at once a year. I was just spit-ballin.

The next suggestion is more exciting to me, and I think it doesn’t take much to make happen.

This picture straight up lifted from Sports Illustrated

This picture straight up lifted from Sports Illustrated

When I say global competition, I mean more of a nation-against-nation sort of championship (much like the World Cup). The premise of this is simple: each team is indeed playing for themselves (to see who will be the best team in the world), but on top of that is a competition (by point differential or by wins or whatever smarter people than me decide) between ALL TEAMS from the same countries.

So you’d have, let’s say, the Beaver Boys win Worlds, but perhaps France would have the most points as a country, and thereby France would be the top country and get their own sort of recognition/acclaim.

My thought behind this is as such: it makes me, as an American, much more interested in how all Americans are doing at WHBPC, and it creates a bit more camaraderie and national pride than we currently have (where countries are sending multiple teams but really are just competing against those teams as well).

I think it’d be fun to add another level of competition to the tourney, is all. Granted, we’d need to figure out what happens when a country’s team plays against another team from the same place, but I’m sure someone clever knows how to regulate that sort of situation.

Anywhoo–what do you cats think? Worth daydreaming about or am I just getting too stoked off these free Coke Zeros in the office?

We NEED a Polo Tourney Vuvuzela

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Last year’s [Nick N. just informed me that the world cup is held every 4 years, like the Olympics or the NYC Waffle racing tournament. SPORTS! ] World Cup held plenty of sports people doing sports, but nothing was quite so memorable as the Vuvuzela: something that apparently had a different name than what my mother referred to it when my father bought me one at a football game in my youth (she then called it the divorce maker, and it worked wonderfully well).

What occurs to me now–as I struggle to come up with an article topic–is that bike polo really doesn’t have some fun noise maker for our tourneys. Some bike races have cow bells, football has those air-filled sexual aids that people bang together as ineffectively as their own stare-down at those damned kids who won’t leave the pool table alone in the bar, but bike polo has what? Somebody with a broken mallet slamming it against the boards? Shouting? I saw a  guy (Perry, of course) who brought a baseball bat to watch the final games–that was pretty effective at making noise against the boards…

But none of these can really be called a sport’s noisemaker. They are all happenstance items. They are MacGyver’d things.

I propose that we take something that we’re already familiar with–the mallet and board noise making premise–and revolutionize it.

I present to you, the Polozullalalala:

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It’s simple to construct: one small piece of board, a wrapped handle made of pole or wood, and the top end of a mallet (with mallet head attached) on a simple hinge to allow for the paddling movement to create a banging noise, reminiscent of that annoying-as-piss drunk guy who just keeps doing it next to the goal even though nothing is happening at all.

While still in early development (and still awaiting NAH approval), I believe this will easily become the next big-item in bike polo. Yes, I’m waiting for Fixcraft to contact me about buying the idea.

 

 

Interview with 2014 Mexico Regional Qualifier Winners, Niño Dios

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Donas, Raul, and Nacho of Niño Dios were kind enough to let me interview them about the tournament, their team, and bike polo in Mexico. I am so excited to feature that interview here! They are going to North Americans this year, and are hoping to go to Worlds as well.

Congratulations! Tell me who you are and what club(s) you come from.

Donas: I´m Yair, people call me  “Donas”

Raul: Hey! My name is Raúl from Bici Polo Tapatío, born and raised in Guadalajara.

Nacho: First of all, thank you Crusher. We three are a team from Guadalajara, Jalisco, México (even the blonde one), and we’ve played together for three and a half years as part of Bici Polo Tapatío.

What was the tournament like? Anything unexpected happen?

D: The tournament was very exciting and fun. Good games and good attitude– that’s all you need to play polo.

R: The tournament was great. I was a little worried about getting the permit to play in that venue but everything worked out well, the courts were amazing!

Also, It was so much fun to have the best players from all around Mexico and a few internationals. I’m glad to see our polo familia grow every year.

N: The tourney was amazing, we as a team were also the main organizers, and I at least  thought that could affect our games, because it’s pretty hard to run an event and compete at the same time, but team work always works. It was nice to hear compliments all the time from my teammates and give it to them back too, I think that’s the key to victory.

niño dios mxq2014 (1)The Mexico region is one of the most up-and-coming regions in NAH–why do you think that is?

D: Cuz we look up to the ones that play better.

RWell, we have great players and the best weather to play year round. And now, some sweeeeeeet courts. Also my club is the best, awesome people having fun and willing to make anyone part of it.

N: Personally, I think the main reason is we all are pretty friendly, and it’s nice to be part of a community like this one, that’s why people wants to participate all the time, and as this time was the very first time we hosted an official NAH’s calendar tourney, the whole “Poloxico” was even more excited.

How do you think your region has been viewed by other regions?

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ESQ 2014: A Lancastrian Report, Part II

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Read Part 1 here

Sunday: Moar Polo, Moar Pain.

I wake up on Sunday a bit early to run off with Sean and get supplies for pancakes (his idea). He’s camped out in my yard via a hammock and when I wake him he’s instantly up and running, which reminds me just how old I’m becoming.

We get pancake mix, maple syrup (which, inexplicably, costs one dollar more in the organic aisle than it does in the regular store aisle) and I pick up a six pack of Gatorade for the day.

Sean takes over my kitchen though I do manage to make some cinnamon rolls. He makes pancakes and I wake up the other house guests for breakfast. It’s good. There is a special Deco pancake and it makes me happy inside.

Not that I ate it–I’m saying it just made me feel special, is all.

Photo Credit: Steve Bourque

Photo Credit: Steve Bourque

Anyway, we get going kind late and make it to the court with a few minutes to spare before our first game against Sweaty Jerkx (Sean, Sara, and Tucker). We realize that we’re the lower team out of the two of us, and we shore ourselves up for a hard game–which it certainly was.

During the game I have a teeny weeny crash with a team-mate and land on my shoulder, which make a series of noises that I’ll liken to pouring milk over puffed-rice cereal. After the snap, crackle, and pop, I make it back onto my bike and roll into goal long enough for our team to score another goal, making the score an even 3-3.

I don’t know if it was because of the crash or what, but I forget that there aren’t ties on elimination day. I hop off my bike and let the pain-waves run through my arm. Nick and Sara come to me, as does Blackburn (the ref of the game) I have Nick look at my shoulder and he says it looks fine (which later is concerning to me, as previous to the crash I had a bone poking up from a previously broken collar bone, which I don’t seem to have now). Blackburn explains that if I’m alright, we need to get going–so I get going off the court only to have Eric tell me that it’s a tie.

I remember then that we are in overtime, and sheepishly put my helmet back on and line up again. We end up getting a winning goal and I roll off the court and assess the damage: it hurts.

Photo Credit: Steve Bourque

Photo Credit: Steve Bourque

From that point on, it’s a matter of me trying to figure out just how much I can do with my shoulder. fortunately it’s not my mallet arm–but squeezing the brake is very difficult, and pulling the handlebars even moreso. Our next match is against White Fang and we are expecting a fair wash, which is exactly what happens (5-0 White Fang). I sit in goal most of the time and am thankful when the match is over. I take another handful of ibuprofen and sit down. Read more

ESQ 2014: A Lancastrian Report

My last day is Wednesday before the long break I’m taking to help out Horse with the tourney. I’m already fielding requests and last minute concerns he has, though I keep trying to remind him that I took off three days (Thursday, Friday, and Monday) to help him. I can understand why keeping something like my life compartmentalized isn’t necessarily at the top of his concern list. We agreed to host this thing in the middle of last year and it’s finally coming to a head.

Thursday = Build/Panic Day

2014-05-29 06.03.43There are things I didn’t know about hosting a tournament which are coming to pass as self-evident as we move to T-Day. One: you’ll never have as much help as you need, and Two: you won’t want to do anything you said you would. Case in point–waking up on Thursday at 5AM felt horrible. EVEN THOUGH that’s when I wake up during the week anyway. Something about manual labor will bring that out, I guess.

I’m joined at the barn we’ve been keeping all the boards by Horse, Ted, Alex, Rodney, and Hylon. Rodney’s brought one of his company’s trucks to load everything up, and when I see it I realize for the 400th time that we wouldn’t have been able to host this tourney without him. Fact.

You see, Rod made it possible to get the plywood on loan and to cart everything around. I think on it now and I can’t really see how we would have done this without him (or at least how we would have been so successful without his insight and help). Regardless, trucks aren’t made for looking at, they’re made for loading up, and we begin doing just that as the sky turns cloudy.

2014-05-29 06.32.15Loading the boards is quick work and requires only two trips. I am thankful for this.

On the truck ride to the courts (YES I RODE I A BIG BOY TRUCK) I talk to Rod about the process of the tourney and where he thinks we stand on everything. It becomes very obvious that while I might know more about bike polo than he does, he simply eclipses me with planning and event coordination. It’s all I can do to nod and agree with how much foresight this guy has.

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We stack up the boards and work begins on planning how to put them all together. Fortunately Horse is a designer/engineer, so he’s already mapped everything out in his head. He gives us (At this point it’s Hylon, Me, and Kyle, I think) simple instructions and we get to work. It doesn’t take long for two things to happen: progress and rain.

To be perfectly honest, the rain at first is lovely. we’re moving lumber all over the court and having a mist to accompany us is quite welcome. But the mist becomes a drizzle, and then a light rain, and then at times a full rain. Yeager arrives somewhere in the AM and helps make big progress as well–he and I work at laying out the boards and screwing them together in the middle of the courts. We make the most reasonable decision about halfway through building to take a break for lunch at Robburritos. It is a deliciously good decision, though by the end of it I want to go into a food nap so hard.

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When we return the rain is in full force, but so is our general anxiety about getting the work done on time. We build up the walls and strap them to the fence–we brace the free-floating areas and build the middle section as well. By this point I’m freezing and not terribly excited by the feeling sneaking into my bones, but the company is good and I’m hard-pressed to forget that I promised to help. So I help. It only occurs to me near the end of our day that I’ll be sore in the morning. Such is life.

Friday = Guests, Drinking, Hugs for Days.

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And so it begins: ESQ2014 week

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In just a few short days, polo players from all over the Confederated Clubs of Unilateral Animosity will converge on Lancaster City to take part in the Eastside Qualifier. These are players from all across the mid-to-north Atlantic and beyond, hoping to secure a spot for North Americans and, presumably, Worlds.

This is the first year Lancaster has hosted the qualifier, and we’re very excited to have so many people in-town to try out our whoopie pies and meet our kinfolk. We are likewise excited to get the whole damn thing over with so we can go back to not stressing out about it. TBH.

There are just a few things I’d like to bring up as a service to those players who are coming, and to all players who go to tournaments in general.

1. Join the event Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1452643218312628/ 

Join this page if you’re going to the tournament–it’s going to be where we give last-minute announcements and co-ordinate tourney events. If you’re confused about something, post your question there (or, hopefully, you’ll find some explanations on the page to help clear the air.

cheers2. We’re a big-small town: 

While you aren’t polo-ing there will be lots to see and do (we have a thriving downtown and lots of great bars/foodie places to hit up. That being said–we are also the kind of city where everyone knows everyone.

Basically, if you’re rude, it’s probably the case that you’re being rude to someone one of us knows and likes. Try to be on your good-time behavior. Lancaster is full of very nice, bicycle/bikepolo minded people, and we’d like to leave a good flavor in their mouths about the whole experience. PLEASE DO THIS FOR ME.

3. Lancastrians like to start promptly and as such we will be starting at exactly 9AM on both days. If you aren’t here, we’ll start the match with whoever from your team is. If none of your team is present, we’ll start the match without your team present. That’s just the way it goes. I’d suggest planning on being at the tournament field by 8:30 or so just to be sure.

4. NO DRINKING: no drinking no drinking no drinking no drinking no drinking. No drinking, no drinking. “No,” drinking.

If you can’t not drink on the tournament grounds, I suggest you call these folks here  and get yourself into treatment. After the first night of the tourney (and, chances are, after the second night, too) we’re going to have places for you to go and have a great time drinking to your heart’s content. However, we’d really appreciate if you–again–let us keep the great relationship we have with the city.

Park rangers will be patrolling the park and looking for those breaking the rules. They are rangers, so I mean…they probably have crossbows or something. Don’t force them to use them.

ref5. We will side with the refs 99.5% of the time so don’t try to find us if you don’t like a call some ref made. They are all certified through the NAH’s ref certification course, and their court is their castle.

If they really mess up, then yeah, we’ll address it–but generally speaking, their decision is their decision. If you go freaking out on our poor refs we’ll be happy to eject you from the game. It will make us feel powerful and mighty.

6. I will bother the hell out of you. Tourneys are pretty much article gold for me, so you just be on the lookout for some little fellow with a Pith helmet on. I’ll be snapping pictures and pushing my tape recorder in plenty of faces. Just accept fame. Just accept it.

I look forward to meeting you all (again). Best of luck!

Introducing The Insta-Ref!

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Want to run an NAH tournament but don’t have the time or desire to learn the rule-set?

Can’t seem to find anyone willing to blow a whistle for a full day?

Tired of players attacking refs and ruining the joy of the game?

Well the future is NOW!

Introducing The Insta-Ref by Lancaster Polo!

The Insta-Ref™ is the automated, one-touch solution to all of your referee needs. Developed in the secret sanctum of the polo war room deep in the heart of Lancaster County, The Insta-Ref™ is your one-stop solution for any NAH Tournament.

Using the Insta-Ref is Easy!


All you need to do is:

1. Wait for a “potential-call” moment

2. Press the Insta-Ref™ button

3. Perform the action prescribed by the random selection of the Insta-Ref!

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Possible Actions Include:

  • Make Up A Rule
  • Distract With Animal Noises
  • Yell “I AM The Law!”
  • Blankly Stare At Players
  • Blow Whistle Louder
  • W.W.N.K.D (What Would Nick Kruse Do?)

Each of these possible solutions are specially formulated to simulate actual, real life reffing!

Order Now!

The Insta-Ref™ ref management system only exists in limited quantities (read: 1) so act now! The first order will also receive the Insta-Heckle 4000 AT ABSOLUTELY REGULAR PRICE!

INSTA-REF IS INSTA-AWESOME!

2014 Eastside Thaw: A Reporter’s Diary, Day 2

2014-03-09 10.39.06

When I wake up, it’s to the gentle sounds of my phone’s impression of wildlife. From the point I lift my hand up to switch it off, my body is screaming in pain.

My fingers are swollen, my wrists won’t bend, my elbows feel like they’ve been shattered and my shoulders aren’t even pretending to be functional.

My neck is strained, by back aches, and my spine is a’screaming.

My legs are pretty alright, though.

So it’s in this state that I wake up the rest of those staying in the room: Kyle by shaking his shoulder, Horse by Kyle’s exclamations, and Yeager’s already up just by virtue of the noise everyone else makes. Then it’s a round robin of people trying to stretch and realizing their bodies aren’t quite into it, and then staring blankly at the wall or phones or anything and wondering if maybe not playing for 2 months makes the first tourney a bit hard to get through.

The answer, dear reader, is yes.

squidbagBut we trudge to breakfast where I begin to gather the extent of the uselessness of my hands. I can’t quite manipulate the fork or knife, and sitting up straight is difficult. Still, I eat the mysterious yellow sponges and meat circles and head back upstairs to dress for the day.

The 1 minute bike ride from the back of the hotel to my car hurts in ways that I will never be able to express.

The second day is a bench tourney, wherein about 9 players are joined by a captain who chose them. While I had my doubts as to how Alexis perceived my performance the day before, it seems I did well enough to get picked up into his team.

“I think you and I have a good feel for each other now,” he says to me, “so we’ll have a little advantage in there.”

I think about telling him my ailments, but Ben Z. is within earshot and I don’t want him to give me his judgement face.  Read more

2014 Eastside Thaw: A Reporter’s Diary, Day 1

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The trip to the 2014 Eastside Thaw started like any other trip I’ve taken: with me starting late, getting somewhat lost (maybe that’s over-exaggerating, as I was still in my own county and state at the time. It was more like sidetracked), and altogether happy to reach the hotel which apparently every other polo player was staying.

I traveled alone, however, which was new and required me to build up a 3 hour long playlist just to make sure I had something to entertain me. It seems to have worked, as by the time I reached the hotel The Final Countdown was just finishing up and I walked into the hotel feeling like I was going to knock it over.

After dropping off my bags and bike I went through the normal routine of going to pickup on the courts (it was late, and cold, and I didn’t much feel like bringing my bike and changing clothes in the hope that I’d get thrown once in the hour that was left before the lights turned out over the enormous Frederick courts) and meeting those who were already checked in.

JofHAlias was there of course, looking aware and nervous. I drew from the deck which signified what my team would become. I probably enjoyed getting the Jack of Hearts more than perhaps I should have, if only for the little writerly quirkiness of getting one of the mustachioed face cards and also one in which the heart played a role. Still, I had no idea who my team-mates would be as I was the first JoH to draw.

So instead of making clever, self-serving deprecations to my team-mates, I helped out where I could. Troy and I (mostly Troy) helped get a gate shut on the B court, I talked a little to Alias, and I said hello to the players I knew who were taking in the full size of the courts and wishing they had changed their gearing a bit.

SquidBut, like I said, the cold was creeping in on us so Troy and I decided to abandon the courts and get to the hotel. By this point Kyle and Yeager were in the vicinity and we eventually all found ourselves in the hallway with other polo players, drinking Hylon’s home brew, watching Squid do his best Nacho Libre impression, and generally trying to seem interested-but-not-interested in conversations.

I was then informed by Troy that my team-mates would be Ben Quigley from Raleigh (who I met almost immediately after) and Alexis.

Alexis Mills.

Alexis “The Means” Mills.

And I think it’s safe to say that was the first time my heart gave me trouble over the weekend.

I’m not necessarily star-struck by any player in bike polo–it’s a goofy sport, after all. But I am perpetually worried about letting people down. I assumed that Alexis was quite used to winning, and seeing as though I wasn’t necessarily, that caused me some alarm. And then, on cue, Alexis stepped out of the elevator and I extended my hand to let him know I was his B player. He nodded and smiled and if he had any regret in his bones he didn’t show it. Still, I felt flustered, so I escaped the floor.

I went outside to find Russo enjoying a cigarette and decided to join him as he is, more than likely, one of the most interesting people I’ve come across to talk with. Soon we were joined by a few other players and conversations got deep and not altogether correct to report here, so I turned off my reporter memory and switched on my “enjoy the moment” memory, which worked. I found it funny to recognize every single person who came in or out of the hotel.  Read more