Archive for Tournaments
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.
And 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
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).
When 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.
I 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
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.
Horse 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
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).
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.
But 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.
At 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.
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.
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?
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:
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.
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.
D: Cuz we look up to the ones that play better.
R: Well, 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?
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.
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.
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