This isn’t goodbye.

321

I want to start by saying that I appreciate all of you, and I hope you won’t stop reading what I write.

But, to be really honest, trying to support a website by myself is tedious at best, and it’s getting in the way of my normal writing. I’ve been struggling the past few months with life balance, and with the donations slowing to non-existent, I’ve been almost positive that my hope to get to worlds was just that: a hope.

However, Aaron Hand of 321 Polo (mortal enemy) approached me late last month with an idea and a proposition: He’d pay for my trip (well, okay–most of my trip) to Worlds if I moved under 321 POLO! as a staff writer, moving my content over to his site and making Lancasterpolo.com redirect to 321 POLO!

Honestly, this has been a consideration of mine since maybe last year, and I’m very happy to have some of the strain taken away from my day-to-day responsibilities.

But worry not! I’m going to become the East Coast (and beyond) correspondent for 321 POLO!, so you can still expect me to be up in your face, taking bad pictures and reporting romantically about the tournaments over on this side of the U.S. I’m not sure who gets the middle of the country yet, though I suspect that won’t be my responsibility.

Anyway, the actual hand-off won’t occur until next Monday, as Aaron and I need to figure out how to efficiently move my articles over to their new home before making this site a simple redirect to 321 POLO!.

Again, I’m super thankful for the readership I’ve gained so far, and I wouldn’t even have made it to the point where another website wanted to hire me on if it weren’t for you. It’s amazing what you guys have allowed me to become, and I’m so very excited to be working for someone instead of for myself.

So I’ll see you cats at my new digs at 321POLO.net soon!

5 Question Quiz: Who Should You Cheer For?

The Cold War: Veteran Players vs. The New Wave

cold war

More Importantly, Who Will Win?

It’s just subtle enough that you might not even notice it, but bike polo is locked in a cold war of sorts.

On one side are the forces that we come to associate with bike polo’s history: clad in mix and match sports equipment, armed with home-made mallets and normally treating bike polo tourneys as social events as much as a sporting event. These are the people who, without question, made bike polo as big and as fun of a sport as it is today. They are the folks who struggled to find a place to play, were often run off by officials and the police, and simply didn’t give up on the game. They are world-forged in the sport, and are oftentimes the people who can identify almost every other veteran player from every other club.

propogandaOn the other side is the second wave of bike polo players: these are folks who look more like they are playing a sport. They have equipment specific to bike polo, they are more likely to wear padding and face cages, and are likewise more likely to avoid drinking heavily until after they’ve played, if at all during the day. They play the sport for the sake of achievement, and are consistently thinking of bike polo as something for everyone (rather than something “for us.”) Because of this, they might also not be as solid on their feet as the veteran players, but what they lack in skill they more than make up for in tenacity and willingness to learn.

But before I dive into this cold war, a caveat: I’m making sweeping generalizations and categorizing all polo players into two groups, which really is impossible to do. Just allow me this editorial hyperbole for the sake of writing coherently, okay?

What Caused the Divide?

When it comes down to it, bike polo has always been a sport for others. It’s creation story is surrounded by people who didn’t quite fit into the sports crowd, nor did they fit into the non-sports crowd. It brings together misfits, really, and that’s part of the draw of it.

quietHowever, all things that are made for a particular group eventually bleed out into the world at large (that is, if they are ever worth a damn), and that’s precisely what happened to bike polo. What we have now is a mix of people who are emotionally invested in keeping bike polo the way it is (that is, not making it too mainstream), and people who are emotionally invested in making bike polo into more than it is (or, more appropriately, into something that gets sponsors and write-ups in sports columns).

The war itself is played out most clearly in any online forum or discussion where veterans call out movements towards regulation (ANY new ruleset), new equipment, or new requirements. It might just be a simple “fuck this” or longer explanation of how we’re making the sport too rigid to play, but it’s all there to be seen. The other side can be identified by how they overstretch to discuss relationships with potential sponsors, how they’re willing to drop thousands of dollars on having the “best” equipment, and how little they regard people who are still using non-polo specific equipment. They build online communities and sustain them, or they actively engage in defending new developments in the sport.

Tear Down That Wall

BERLIN-WALL-pan_641537a-29jw5nyI don’t think there isn’t room for both groups in the future of bike polo (veterans might say “what future” here, but let’s just use our imaginarium caps). Any activity needs people who protect the heritage of the sport as much as people who press forward blindly into what could be.

The truth of it is, I think all polo players have some aspects of both wanting to keep this sport all to themselves and also share it with the whole world in any way possible. Most also lean more one direction than the other. The way to avoid either

  • Losing the foundations of our sport to over regulation and increasing costs
  • Allowing our sport to become stagnant and shrinking

is to recognize the reason and not the manner that people communicate. Sure, Johnny Old-Head just said your new model for a prototype wheel cover is lame and you don’t know what you’re talking about, but it might just be because he’s scared of watching the sport fundamentally change. In the same vein, Susan New-Idea may have just called you out for refusing to recognize the new ruleset, but really it’s because she doesn’t want to see injury befall you or anyone else who’s playing.

Between the veteran players and the new wave, there’s little more to do than try to seek balance. Sure, that might come off as a Russo-inspired phrase, but really it’s the best advice I can give (and anytime I can bring in a Russo-esque thought, I will. Because Russo is a favorite).

Bike Polo in the Media

reporter

Just ran across an article featured on Stack.com about hardcourt bike polo, written by John Bobel. It’s a listicle, to be sure, but it’s not a terribly inaccurate one (save for the section about rules–if the newest ruleset has taught us anything, it’s that there aren’t a simple set of rules to play).

This is, however, yet another display of how bike polo is moving it’s way into the mainstream media inch by inch. I’m thankful for Mr. Bobel’s take on the sport and for getting it out in front of more folks.

Read the article here: http://www.stack.com/2014/03/26/hartcourt-bike-polo/ 

AAAAnd then there’s an article on BBC America that discusses “10 British Things About Jackson, MS,” which also features (small as the write up is) bike polo: http://www.bbcamerica.com/anglophenia/2014/03/10-british-things-jackson-ms/.

So what does this mean for you and me?

Well, nothing really. Especially for you. You’ll keep playing the sport, I suspect, whether or not it’s covered in the media in a more general way. However, it might be the next stage in the development of our little sport: a wider consciousness of it that might just bring in a few more people to play. If anything, you may notice more film crews or reporters here and there at tourneys, perhaps a few more newbie players who didn’t hear about it from a friend, but rather from an article they stumbled across online.

As for me and the esteemed Association of Bike Polo Journalists, this might be something different. As more news agencies and websites look to reach out into Bike Polo, they might turn to us to help them. Or, alternately, they might push us out of relevancy. I’d like to think that only I will push myself out of relevancy, but whatever.

So, really, I guess I’m just sharing the little bit of pride and excitement that comes from bike polo getting press. I look forward to a day when it happens so often that it’s no longer exciting.

First Touch: Mycro Xtra Lite Hurling Helmet

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There are some fine things that come out of Ireland. For one thing, it’s (most likely) the land of my one grandfather’s birth, and also the land where I have family from the other side of my gene pool. (I like to think of that side as the deep end).

It’s also the home to Guinness, shillelaghs and Tullamore Dew. And most recently out of all those, the Mycro Xtra Lite Hurling helmet.

Now, for those of you who aren’t aware of the proud Irish sport, hurling is a game wherein…uh…well look here’s a video, complete with horrible music:

And as you saw in the video, part of the equipment the folks who play hurling wear is a helmet; which brings us to a package I got from the county Cork. I know a few people who already play bike polo with hurling helmets here in the States, but I haven’t seen a review of them up on those other bike polo sites, so I thought I’d give my thoughts here.

Editor’s Note: Metriod Polo just pointed out that Poloakademia and GOALHOLE both did reviews on this helmet. Of course. Irregardlessly, here’s my take: 

Read more

First Look: FBM Ballista

FBM Ballista (11)

Last year, custom polo bikes were all about the sudden and urgent shift to 26” wheels.   Polo specific frames were popping up left and right aimed at the smaller, slightly more agile wheel size, while the 700c crowd was left with a choice between the MKE Bruiser….and……the MKE Bruiser.

It (finally) feels like the steam from the 26” revolution has slightly cooled, and we’re finally starting to see support for those preferring the speed and familiarity of the larger wheel.   FBM stepped up to the plate early with their FGFS Sword frame, which was fairly well received as a workable polo frame, and then really got people excited with the release of their all new Ballista frame, a prototype of which was seen under the asses of Koyo Maeda and Evan George of Assassins fame.

A production pre-order happened, monies were exchanged ($750 to be exact), and quite a few people (our own Jon Kokus included) waited not so patiently by the door for the big brown van to arrive bearing gifts.

Well, for some east coasters, Yesterday was that day!

Here is your first look at the 2014 FBM Ballista polo frameset.

 

Interview With The Organizer: California Ladies Bike Polo Summit

trixiesladies (2)
I had the good fortune of interviewing Christine C. about the upcoming Ladies Bike Polo Summit, which has not only a women’s only tourney, but also a co-ed bench tournament. I asked her a few questions about the tourney and the ideas behind it. 

So! Where did the idea for this tourney come from?

This tourney started with a simple picture of what we are doing in our city.  We play with the Davis Bike Polo crew Tues., Thurs., and Sundays.  Our courts are about 15 minutes from each other so although we are 2 clubs, we really support and play with each other.  In November, Jennifer Kutzleb (a fellow previous polo wife like myself) got on a bike, grabbed a mallet and started recruiting more women to show up to polo on Sunday’s.  Within a couple weeks we had over a dozen ladies learning about polo and playing. (see attached pic.) We posted a picture on FB and other ladies in the community started to talk.  Mel Brocious from LA suggested we put together a mini boot camp and the idea just took off!  I tagged a couple of local slayers in the comments (Sam Bell!!!) and the ball just started rolling on it’s own.

This is described as a boot camp for Ladies Army–why is that?

trixies2 (1)Although billed as a boot camp, I really am considering this to be a social summit of sorts.  A chance for ladies to network, get to know each other and control the pace of the tournament. This will also allow ladies traveling to Toronto an opportunity to practice (some for the first time as a team.) So far I have been contacted by ladies from East Van, Toronto, New York, Uruguay and Geneva.  WE’VE GONE INTERNATIONAL!

 What’s the schedule look like, and how is the rest of the polo scene around there responding?

ladypolo (1)We will be playing day one in Folsom CA (a suburb of Sacramento) on Saturday.  The courts in Folsom are AMAZING and will be the home to this years SW qualifier. Sunday we will be heading over to Davis to finish up the lady brackets then get in a co-ed bench.  We have SO much support from the men on our scene!  They are grocery shopping and cooking for all us ladies  :)  We figured we’d let the men slay with us since they are just as excited about all of our visitors as we are. It has been an amazing journey for both of our clubs to incorporate so much camaraderie and equality.  It has been one of the greatest things I personally have ever been a part of.
This tourney will be the first of this kind in our city and we hope to create such a buzz that we can bid to hold Ladies Army 7 here!!!

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!

A Quick Tip: On Defense, Be The Weight On A Metronome

Metrinome

Consider the metronome.

This little clever device uses two weights, one on the bottom of a long, thin rod and one (which can be slid up and down that rod) which helps dictate how quickly the rod moves from left to right. No matter where the smaller adjustable weight goes, it’s always attached to the larger weight at the base by the rod it’s affixed to.

Now then, what does that have to do with bike polo?

Nothing. It’s for keeping time when playing music, you dummy. What a dumb question.

But if I had to stretch to come up with a link (since you’re forcing me to), I’d say that the humble metronome can be used as a good reminder of how you should play when on defense. Or at least a way you can play while on defense.

I'm SURE this clears everything up, right?

I’m SURE this clears everything up, right?

At the Thaw this year, Alexis told me several times early-on to “come back to center,” after I left the zone of the goal to disrupt a play. After the first few games I realized that I was basically creating an arc of defense around the goal, but that I should always swing back to center after I did my part to either move the ball out of play or, more advantageously, reverse the play entirely.

I’d swing out, interact with the play, and then when the immediate danger was past, come back to just in front of the goal (allowing me be more prepared for the play moving to one side or the other.

Back and forth, and back and forth. Like a freaking metronome.

And I saw the logic behind it: having a reliable, consistent point of resetting on defense allowed my other two team-mates to know approximately where I’d be, but also allowed me to not get stuck too far away from the focus of most offensive plays (this being the goal, of course). I tried not to linger too far to the right or left, and certainly didn’t engage too far away from my own goal when we didn’t have the momentum to support it.

Great offenses begins with gaining possession of the ball in your own half and charging past all those poor folks who are facing the wrong way, I believe, and acting more like a metronome allowed me to be prepared to make this happen.

So give it a try (instead of chasing the ball into the corner or shadowing your own player as he tries to dig something out from another player). So far I’ve been incorporating it into my own play and found it to be a very useful technique.

One Special Day: M4M

craigs

Me: thin, wearing a red top with orange pants.

You: dark flannel shirt, leather gloves, a black helmet that covered your (I’m assuming) perfect and always listening ears.

We met in a park where you were exercising with friends. I was scared you wouldn’t remember how to hold me but you must have thought about me as much as  I thought about you. Every time I thought you were going to mix me up with someone else there, you came to me like I was the only one for you.

2014-03-16 16.56.55

But then people started going home and you went, too. I waited for you, but I guess you had other things on your mind (we all do, it’s okay).  Another guy took me home but all I could think about was you.

I’ll be back to the park on Wednesday, Mr. Flannel. I hope you will be, too.

do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers.