Whenever I’m fortunate enough to find myself on a day which contains polo, my thoughts always lend themselves to three over-arching concerns:
1. will I be able to find clean bike polo clothing?
2. will anyone bring beer and/or snacks?
3. will someone come to the court to kick us off?
It doesn’t matter that we’ve been playing at the same location for years, now; we’re not supposed to be there. And with each encounter between ourselves and roller hockey players/parents of roller hockey children/police, we draw ever closer to a moment where someone in power will tell us we can’t use the rink anymore–and then Lancaster United is back to square one (as far as a perfect place to play is concerned).
Bike polo is, for better or worse, a baby. It isn’t able to stand on it’s own, can’t support itself, and certainly can’t run with the bigger kids (imagine hockey, football and baseball personified as tween children running well ahead of a baby (bike polo) being pushed along in a stroller by Ben Schultz. Baseball is a kid who is eating glue near a pitching diamond, if you’re curious). Bike polo isn’t widely recognized, it’s not widely accepted as a legitimate sport by the townships and local governments that we so earnestly approach for our own space, and it’s certainly not in the collective conscious of our culture.
In short, bike polo needs to do a lot of growing up if I indeed want to stop thinking that we’ll be forcibly removed from our playing area every time we saddle up.
2014 is a new year, and all new years carry the assumed possibility of big changes. I’d like to think that 2014 will be the year that the NAH manages to get some sort of big sponsor to foot the bill for the Qualifier Series, a Red Bull or Gatorade that will demand our sport be put in at least a nationally syndicated commercial for a few months–raising recognition and respect of our players. I’d like to think this is a possibility, that when a group of bike polo players approach a local government they don’t spend the first thirty minutes trying to explain what bike polo is, and then another thirty minutes trying to explain why it’s worth listening to their request.
It’s something that can’t happen, I don’t believe, without a bigger spotlight on the sport. All we need is one big spotlight just for a little while: perhaps Nationals or Worlds being a “Red Bull Event,” as much as that might stick in the gullet of a few people in our community. Or it might be as simple as Nike deciding to try sponsoring a few teams for a grand each (and putting pictures of that team up on their home page).
I don’t know quite what growing up would look like, but I know we aren’t there yet, though we should be if we’d like to start seeing multi-use courts welcoming bike polo players, the securing of tournament areas becoming easier, and bike polo as a whole continue to gain players and supporters rather than becoming stagnant.