321 Break Room! When to Introduce Polo at Work

water

I’m proud of that lead graphic

It took only 5 hours for me to introduce bike polo to my new workplace, and only 5 hours and 10 minutes to get someone interested enough to play (or at least say she would—so far she hasn’t asked any follow-up about pickup days or even mentioned it…there was beer involved..). It’s something I think most of us do: get excited about sharing the joy that is our sport and trying to get more and more people involved. But the following workday—when in the office—it struck me as weird to invite anyone from work to play in the very thing that I use to take away stress from work.

Overall, I don’t think it’s a bad thing to get friends from work involved in bike polo, but I think you should be very clear about what parts of your life you’re combining. Naturally this matters more for people who have white collar jobs or jobs that actually give a damn about appearance (I imagine if you work in a bike shop you’re pretty much obligated to tell them about bike polo).

I’m coming at this from the angle of a manager who works alongside directors and the president of the organization. Do I necessarily want those sorts of folks seeing me in my Crusher form, drinking down cheap beer and cursing weird, nonsensical things at other players?

There isn’t one right or wrong answer. It comes down to the environment and expectation of your company and your own personal outlook on how you wish to be perceived. I also try to make sure that the people I’m encouraging to go to polo seem like they’d be a good fit in that sort of atmosphere—that they’d enjoy it and not just forever think that I’m some loon (I have other ways to make them think that very thing).

In my case, people already ask me about bike polo every day, now. They like that I have something so unique to do, and it helps them understand why I bike to work (it’s a super short ride—under 10 minutes and mostly downhill on the way in). But I’m curious if any of you had experiences where you tried to introduce polo to people in your company only to have the introduction go south—or at least get awkward.

Complain Better, And Other Useful Polo Skills

angry coach

Complaining is (and if that darned reality TV has its way) always will be a part of the human condition. It helps us externalize and internal discomfort, it helps us commiserate with others, and it makes grievances known. It’s also a pretty great way to get under someone else’s skin, if you do t all wrong.

Bike polo is a factory of complaint. Take a look at the online forums, at discussions around the rules, or even just chit-chat courtside to get a taste of what bike polo runs on: a general mal-content and bitter dislike for anything less than what you want. 

Okay, I’m hyper generalizing here. But there is a whole website (up until recently it had gone dark, but now has a fresh new post) dedicated to complaining about bike polo. C’mon now!

However, there is a stark difference between a good complaint and a bad complaint, and just to help out in only the basic, altogether useless way that I normally do, I’d like to talk about the difference between the two.

So far I’ve come across much more “bad” complaining than “good” complaining in our sport. Bad complaining (as I see it) is made up of:

  • Bringing up problems without solutions
  • Attacking individuals rather than ideas
  • Complaining only for the sake of creating malcontent
  • Complaining only for the benefit of oneself

These four generally bring about more negatives than positives (sure, you’ve just made yourself feel better about shouting to the organizers, but those boards that are falling down are not going to magically prop themselves back up because you cursed and said something clever, for instance). Furthermore, consider whether what you’re saying is actually for the benefit of all (complaining about how there is a big ol’ hole in the middle of your court) or just for yourself (complaining that you don’t like how player X always takes the ball from you, and how they shouldn’t be allowed to because it’s not fair).

So what’s the bad outcome of complaining in a jerk-ish manner? Well, besides stirring up aggression in an already aggressive game, you’re pinning yourself as a–you guessed it–complainer. While there is fundamentally nothing wrong with bringing up problems (squeaky wheel getting the grease, and all that), there is a problem with complaining so much–and so often about things that only concern you–that others will simply begin to ignore you. You may find yourself soon bringing up valid concerns, but having those concerns land only on deaf ears.

Bike polo breeds a certain amount of dissent–it’s part of what makes the game so fun, really–but don’t try to go so far as to complain about everything without considering how you can first solve the problem yourself. If all we become are complainers, we’ll drive away the next generation of players through our drone of whining.

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

scale

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 

 

Skills Practice: Let’s Talk About BRUCE! Ball

BRUCE

Lead photo by Steve Bourque

Last night Horse, Kokus and I were waiting for the rest of our club’s players to come out for humidity +6 bike polo, and we found it hard to just sit in the sun like that and wait. Horse suggested we play BRUCE! ball so we did that for a while, and something struck me.

I’d played BRUCE! ball before, but I hadn’t played it after taking time off nor when I planned to really pay attention to what I was doing. I found it was both fun and a great way to sharpen up multiple skills all at once.

For those who are uninitiated, BRUCE! ball came to Lancaster via DC bike polo (and, point in fact, isn’t at all what DC calls Bruce Ball. It’s actually just called “Five Hole” or something down there. Whatever. We like calling this game BRUCE! ball anyway). I don’t know where they got it from (and feel free to tell your creation story below, DC), but the way we play it here in Lanc-Land is as follows:

  • There is at least one ball used during play. You can do more than one, and that adds a bit more excitement.
  • Players attempt to shoot the ball through the 5 hole (the space between the back wheel and the front wheel) of other players
  • Each time a ball passes through your own 5 hole, you earn 1 point
  • Once you reach 5 points, you are eliminated from play
  • The goal is to not get any points, or to at least get the least amount of points out of all players

I really like this game for a few reasons. To start with, it’s something to do when you don’t have numbers. It’s also a good way of just goofing around with other polo players. In a more practical sense, however, you’re learning how to defend your 5 hole against shots (which will make you a stronger goalie), you’re learning positional awareness, as you’re always trying to stay perpendicular to other players who want to shoot at your 5 hole, and you’re gaining accuracy/ball control.

On top of all of this, you’re also learning how to shift from offensive to defensive positioning and mindset quickly, which is a skill that pays HUGE dividends in the long run of your time in the sport.

BRUCE! ball also didn’t feel like something stupid to do while we were waiting to play a match. It felt like a completely different game entirely rather than a replacement, which was enjoyable. I felt like I was warmed up for playing polo, sure–hell, I even felt like my mind was more prepared for hand-eye coordination and skill–but I wasn’t upset that I was playing it instead of being in a match.

Anyway, I thought I’d pass this along for folks who hadn’t considered it before. I thought it was a pretty swell way to pass the time while building up some core skills all players need to have.

A Daydream Suggestion for the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship

daydreams

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?

Don’t Want to

 

nmazqc

 

Can’t Make me.

 

Okay–so I’m a bit out of the polo loop right now. I am switching jobs in about a week and have been super busy with getting ready for that. Please excuse the temporary break in normal nonsense.

6 Ways To Troll The League Of Bike Polo Forums

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In all truth, the LoBP (ALL HAIL!) forums are kind of the greatest thing to come out of our sport. They provide all the inside entertainment that a polo player needs in order to have a great time while at work or away from the courts.

But what if you don’t have anything constructive to say (okay, you’re in good company, really)? What if your post gets lost or nobody xWhatevers it? Might I suggest adding a new level of entertainment?

1. Ask–as a person outside of the bike polo community–what your new mallet design should have. Make sure to emphasize that you’re new to bike polo but want to revolutionize how the sport is played. Also make sure that you show a few really horrible done-in-MS-Paint drawings of your proposed design, including a mounting system that doesn’t make sense and a material that hasn’t ever been used in the sport. Maybe glass or something.

2. Copy someone else’s comment in your response, and then don’t mention any of it. For instance, copy something like “The problem with 4 foot boards is that they are hard to pay for in a regional tournament” but make your comment only about how frustrating it is that the NAH balls only come in orange. Keep doing this until someone notices, then copy their noticing into your response and call  them a poser.

3. Post a picture of a recumbent as your new polo bike.  Make sure to photoshop the NAH logo onto the flag.

4. Go into any rules discussion and demand that snortling be allowed. Do not explain what snortling is, but be adamant that the game will be ruined if it’s taken out of legal play.

5. Create a fake tournament 

6. Create two accounts and constantly argue with yourself about trivial points of the game. Type of rubber used in tires? Best kind of grip? The most appropriate shampoo for bike polo players to use? Ol’ Billybo and Charles R. Figglebottom just can’t seem to agree on anything, and will take up dozens of posts to make sure you know it.

 

Video from the Way Back

Here we have some Dublin Bicycle polo circa 1938. It seems hacking was permitted.

 

We NEED a Polo Tourney Vuvuzela

vuvuzela

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:

2014-06-10 11.03.21-2

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.

 

 

DZR Marcos: Months Later Review

DZR4

You might recall my frustrated first touch on the DZR Marco.  Frustrated not because of anything the shoe did, but frustrated because I received the shoes smack in the middle of winter and basically couldn’t ride in them for weeks.  So instead, I told you how great they were at riding the bus, or walking around town. Well, its six months later, East Sides have just passed, and I’ve been doing my best to put these shoes to their task… But you’d be hard pressed to tell. DZR1These shoes have held up amazingly well.   They show very little wear, a little crank rub on the inside of the ankle support and some wear on the Velcro strap, but otherwise they’re still mint.   Even the laces are holding up great, which is a vast improvement over the Mamba. They’re still stiff, feel perfect on the pedal;  a perfect mixture of power transfer and pedal feel, without developing hotspots.   How they do this and still make a shoe that’s honestly comfortable, I have no idea.   I essentially wore these shoes from Friday afternoon until Sunday night hosting ESQ.   Playing, organizing, running around like a headless chicken… and they never once bothered my feet. DZR3Reinforcing my previous ‘first touch’ articles predictions; the wider toe box has been a huge improvement.  Where the Mamba tends to cram my toes into the nose of the shoe, the Marco gives me plenty of breathing room which really pays off in terms of comfort after a day of playing. Also, the ventilation holes are well placed, and keep my feet at a reasonable temperature (and scent) throughout the day. Finally, the lacing system is so drastically improved that it might be my single favorite thing that I don’t notice.   Gone are the cloth hidden loops, narrow Velcro straps, and flat cloth laces.   In are reinforced eyelets, a wide and sturdy Velcro strap for mid-foot support, and round blended laces that have proven much more durable. DZR2I got these shoes for free, to test them out and review them.   That being said, even had I paid full price I’d be super happy with them.   They are the quintessential polo shoe, protecting us where we need it, offering that mixture of performance and comfort that is all too elusive, and styled in a way that fits right in with our normal getup.  (because I’ll never get used to seeing cut off jean shorts and a $300 pair of Sidi’s) Well done DZR.   Well Done.

You can find them right here on the DZR site: http://www.dzrshoes.com/marcoblk