Tag Archive for Bike polo rules

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).

Review of the 4.0 Ruleset: Curiosities

you can

First, and before I even utterly destroy this nonsense of a rulebook dive into what the newest rulebook offers, I’d like to recognize all the folks who put the time into getting us to a point where we’re on the 4.0 rule set. Sure, I could write up a post about how much this ruins bike polo (or about how much I hate bike polo in general, just to be on the inside), but things like this take a helluva lot of work, and I am not blind to that.

Now then:

I’m not going to be covering everything, just what I find to be notable. If you want to read the whole kit n kaboodle–and you should–go here:

http://www.nahardcourt.com/proposed-2014-ruleset-version-4-0-beta/

1.1: Ref

The first section that strikes me as kinda great is the hand signal section at 1.1.9:

Hand-Motions

Why is this great? Well, for one thing, it removes doubt visually for what is being called. I know I as a player can barely hear a ref, and as a spectator I definitely can’t. Adding visual cues is an outstanding way for refs to communicate instantaneously what their intent is.

1.3: Goal Judge

Section 1.3 (Goal Judge) is also a move in the right direction, as it gives more power to someone who should be assisting the ref as much as possible. I would like to see the power of the goal judge expand even more, honestly. While I think it’d be tough to implement a GJ who is able to ref in tandem with the ref, I would like the GJ to have the power to signal an illegal action has been taken, and then be able to signal to the ref what that illegal action was (infractions, illegal moves, etc).

An interesting bit of phrasing comes up around 2.1.2.3.1:

injured playersSo if you’re team-mate breaks their toes, is replaced, and then “thinks” they can play again, tell them to bugger off. No you won’t ruin this for me, Harold. You’re the one with weak toes. 

2.2: Courts

Only two notable things I want to bring up here:

1. Court boards are 4 feet high at least

2. Courts have two doors symmetrical to the half court line

Both of these are, for better or worse (I think better), putting the demands of running a good tourney into law. You can’t half-ass your courts for an NAH tourney anymore, and for a short guy like me, having doors required is super great.

2.3: Goals

I have a disappointment here, and I’m sure someone could explain it all away for me pretty rapidly, but why do we require that goals have firm top crossbars? It seems to me that goalies leaning on the top crossbar is a big issue (big enough to have rules written for), and we could eliminate that issue by making it so goals didn’t have firm crossbars, but rather just the net suspended in between.

Oh, I guess because falling on a standalone bar would suck, maybe. I think I just answered my own question. Carry on.

2.4: Bicycles

Crandall Rule

I propose we call this the Crandall Rule.

2.5: Mallets

I see we still have language about carbon fiber mallet shafts. Who the hell is using carbon fiber and could you please contact me? 

5: Ball Handling

This whole section introduces some changes to what we understand currently. Most notably:

Ball Handling

So, you can ball joint anywhere, but only for two seconds (I plan to shout while I’m ball jointing so the ref knows I’m following the rules), you can scoop, and you can’t carry. I enjoy that violating the time limit and the carry-rule results in a ball turnover.

Sorry, Dave.

We then get into penalty format which, while very interesting, I will not really cover here in full. I really strongly suggest you go out and visit the proposed rules to read over this section though.

Section 10: Bodily Contact Penalties

However, I will bring up a few of the body contact rules that struck my interest in particular the checking rules:

body movin

I like that a hard line has been drawn to remove some of the confusion over what constitutes an extension. Hit with your shoulders, people. It’s not hard to understand.

I also like the inclusion of ball-specific contact (anything outside of that, save for a moving screen, is deemed interference). This helps strengthen the fairness of the game, I feel, as we had some issue last year with off-ball contact.

Disappointingly, headbutting (10.6) is still illegal.

10.10: Flagrance

defenseless

If this is the case, I should never be physically struck, as I should always be deemed defenseless.

And that’s my overview. Again, not a complete examination of the rules, I’ll leave that to LoBP (ALL HAIL), but the parts that interested me the most.

Bike Polo Isn’t an Institution. It’s an Experiment. Calm Down.

Experiment

The announcement of proposed changes to the structure of the regions in North American Hardcourt Bike polo came with it’s expected share of tooth gnashing and dismissive, regurgitated whatevers from across the polosphere. And for good cause–regions are being broken up, most established regions are losing allotments for the upcoming year (South East losing something like 40% of it’s allotment, I believe I read), and conversations springing up discussing how all of this is either going be a good change or yet another horrible one that nobody likes God-why-do-I-even-play-this-game.

But there is something to remember in the midst of celebration or disappointment: nothing is written in stone. Point in fact, it’s not even written in wood or dirt or…uh…I don’t know, sand? Sand I guess?

Bike polo is so remarkably under-developed as a sport, and it’s one of the reasons that the rules, regions, voting, and processes change almost every year. The people we entrusted to help solidify and protect the game are (as we all are) still trying to work out what works best. Whether you’re a confederate or a federalist (that is, don’t care what the NAH has to say or are a staunch supporter), the truth remains that those folks are attempting to do what’s right for bike polo as a whole, as we all are. Mostly.

So when you feel as though some core value of what you understand bike polo to be is being attacked, keep in mind also that bike polo isn’t an institutional thing being attacked by some radicals. It’s a developing sport which is so new it can take enormous hits from experimentation. There are no sports that were completely formed even years after they went onto a national level (American football played around with the points system, moving the field goals, allowing for the forward pass, etc). Hell, even President Teddy Roosevelt had a say on the safety rules of Football, and I’m pretty sure Obama hasn’t even heard of bike polo (thanks, Obama…). 

So when your hackles flare up because it’s decided that a crease will exist in the sport/not exist, or you see that your region is being split up/not being split up, try a few breathing exercises and remind yourself that it’s probably not forever. That which does not work will be abandoned, and that which does will be kept.

The real danger, I feel,  is in not allowing for those experiments to take place. Bike polo can’t possibly be as good as it’s going to get in structure, and it’s our jobs to be open-minded enough to make mistakes until we find the successes open to us.

My Argument for No Goal Limit

scoreboard

Game format is something that people get mighty touchy about when brought up. By way of example, just bring up the idea that bench format should be more prevalent (and see how many people either tell you how wrong you are, or just stop listening altogether and decide to not invite you to their son’s Bar Mitzvah). It’s one of the holiest things in bike polo–surprising, given what bike polo is.

Currently there is a vote occurring to determine what rule changes are on the minds of bike polo players. The NAH (Specifically Chairman Kruse)  hopes to gather up enough information through the votes in order to better determine how they can create rules which satisfy players. I for one think it’s pretty awesome that they are going about it this way. One polokin, one vote, I say.

So naturally I voted, and generally speaking, I don’t share opinions of where the sport should be heading with bike polo at large (save for jousting, contact rules, and the idea of the crease (though my vote is in 2nd place right now, I still have lots of people that agree with me (I just need validation))). But what bothered me most was this:

game formatOkay. Okay. I get it. Doing unlimited score would fundamentally change bike polo. I’m not fighting that argument because I don’t have much ground to stand on.

But PEOPLE! We’d be introducing two elements to bike polo that are very important and valuable: consistency and the importance of strategic planning! …at least in my mind right at this moment. Read more

I kinda, sorta, maybe disagree with the NAH:

blame

You know me, dear readers, and you know that I–nine times out of ten–support the initiatives and efforts of the North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Association. They have the players in mind and are trying to do quite a lot with very little in the way of resources.

Point in fact, I’ve come out and supported them on this blog quite often, so you could say that I’m kinda an ally of the NAH, if you wanted to.

So imagine my surprise when I came to disagree with this facebook post:

NAH post

Here’s the thing: I don’t disagree that polo players should go to the LoBP (ALL HAIL!) forums to weigh in on the posts that Nick Kruse has graciously put together. I think it’s great that bike polo is able to create a forum for actual changes to the rules. We’re a young sport, and community involvement is very important. My disagreement is purely a philosophical one.

But-

representatitiveI voted on representatives, and in that vote I said, essentially, “I trust this person (these people) to represent me in the meetings and decisions of the NAH.” They are my voice in that organization, and I expect them to act as such.

In turn, I expect one of them to reach out to my region to ask about what I believe changes should be to the rulesets, and for them to echo that back to the NAH rules committee.  Read more

You can’t pay attention for ten minutes?

ten minutes

I’m shamelessly self involved, self absorbed and self worshipping.

And I’m aware of that.

I want to play serious polo at all hours of the day, with all of the rules, with refs, with whistles, with no countdown, etc.  In my club, and I imagine most clubs, I’m the minority. The guy everyone secretly or not so secretly hates because sometimes my seriousness sucks the fun right out of your veins.

I get that.  I’ve accepted that.

I get that not everyone wants to play serious, tourney polo at every pickup day.  That’s why we throw A games and get our serious ones in every so often, to purge the need.  But just how unserious should you take it when it’s not that competitive A game?  I think there’s got to be a limit (are you surprised?).

Here’s my angle: We’re all leaving our homes to meet up at this place where we can play this sport, to some degree or another. We’re cutting out of work early, leaving the wife and kids behind, and shuffling obligations to make it out.  We’re doing work, so that we can play. In my mind, those people doing that work deserve some quality play. That doesn’t mean reffed pickup games, and super-dooper seriousness,  but it does mean not being super surprised when your thrown in a game and taking 10 minutes to get ready and out on the court.  It does mean if you’re going to put your mallet in the pile, to actually play the game with some sort of effort.  It does mean not robbing the other 5 guys of their good time for the sake of your “good time.”

Now, I’m not saying don’t come to polo.  Saying something like that is a really good way to get your clubs numbers down in a hurry.  But I am saying to consider the 5 other people on the court with you.   They might actually want to play something resembling a game, and just rolling around uninvolved/disinterested is robbing them of that chance. There are beers on the bench for that reason, feel free, they’re there to share.  If you just want to get shitfaced and heckle, awesome.  If you just want to ride around carelessly then I promise you the parking lot won’t complain.

Why is this important?  Well, for the newbie players.  Yes, they suck right now. They’re not fast, their shots aren’t accurate, and they don’t really have any flow, but you throwing any shits-given to the wind and just watching the clock tick down isn’t helping them get any better, and chances are if they’re still showing up, they have some sort of aspiration to do more than be sub-par players. It’s also not going to get them coming back.  Why should they go through all the effort to get there if games resemble the 4th hour of a frat party?

So how do we change this?  Well, we can’t.  We can’t point at someone and say “you’re not serious enough, don’t play this game.” But we can hope that you’re at least cognizant of your reasons for coming, and if they aren’t the reasons the other people are there, and act accordingly.

I dunno. What have you guys done to deal with this problem?

Post by Horse

ARE YOU LISTENING, NAH?

megaphone

Good. I humbly submit that, upon reflection of the rules drafted in this year of of hot balls, 2013, there is room to grow. As such, I hereforthwithshall submit my recommendations for new rules and regulations to the governing body of North American Hardcourt.

Here are a few rules I’d like to see come about for the 2014 season:

point and stare1. At the beginning of any match, a player may call out another player by raising their mallet in the direction of that player and mouthing the phrase and you will know my vengence. The called out player accepts by running his or her hand over their opposite shoulder (as if dusting something off their shirt).

  • anything that happens between those two players during the match is legal

2. All players are required to have 17 pieces of flair.

3. Referees will be given Super Soakers filled with water and cayenne pepper. If any player on or off the court frustrates the holy responsibilities of the referee, the referee shall discipline them with a spray of cayenne pepper water to the face.

  • Laughing maniacally is required at the time of discipline by the referee

game of cones4. Any player who presents themselves as a violator of rule 1 in bike polo shall wear the cone of shame for the duration of the day’s events. This includes after parties, trips to the bar, or bathroom breaks. The cone will stay on until 11:59:59 PM

5. Anyone who’s bike is found to be below the standards set forth by the NAH must use a recumbent until such a time as the joke stops being funny

6. Whenever a player has a legitimate disagreement with the organizers of the tournament, they must present their argument in such a way that they mimic Eric from DC in every way possible.

  • If the player manages to include a stuffed animal lobster into the argument, they win the disagreement regardless of whether it’s a valid argument or not.

7. Only players from RVA are allowed to have voice amplifying devices (megaphones)

8. Wrist shots will be legal only of the player making the wrist shot groans like a tennis player while performing the action.

 

I’m waiting for a response, NAH. I think we all are.

NAH Ruleset V3.3 is Here – Now With Expected Hipster Fonts!

NAH Ruleset

The NAH has released the ruleset that we’ll be using for the rest of the year – ten pages of rules around ball handling, infractions, equipment, and mallet handling penalties.

I haven’t read it yet, but I wanted to get this quasi press release out quick.

Click here for a link directly to the pdf, and enjoy

Rainy days and Fridays always make me drink

This post is about politics. No, not the politics of pachyderms and jackasses. Nor is it about the governing bodies of hardcore bike polo (<– for you Sabrina). This is about interclub politics. The esteemed Crushman for some reason felt that something should be written about it. Now, if you are one of those polo players who generate, or are magnets for, controversy – be it on court or off, please close this page and go find something else to waste your time. There will be nothing for you here. Likewise if you typically just fly above all the shitstorms in a cloud of blissful ignorance, same deal – go away and enjoy your life.

But if you are like me, and you feel compelled to have people get along within your club, then please read on. In some respects the idea that people should be able to avoid emotional conflicts while playing bike polo is absurd. We are, after all, engaged in a competitive, dangerous and dare I say – potentially violent activity. And to add to this recipe of volatility we have lots of grey areas in the rules which makes for plenty of personal interpretation. Over the few years we’ve been playing I’ve seen arguments over hacking, t-boning, tourney rosters, going too fast, playing too slow, undercutting, tailwhips, checking, too serious, not serious enough and a 100 others including my personal favorite… over-coaching. Read more

The New NAH Tourney Structure: Thoughts and Insights

With the Proposed 2013-14 structure from the NAH for the bike polo season comes a new development in our sport. Let’s not mince words here: I think this is a big step in the direction towards a more recognizable legitimacy. The new structure (for those of you who refuse to use the other polo channels to find this information out) basically comes down to these points:

  • Closed Regions for Regional Qualifiers
  • Weighted allotment of slots (three guaranteed for National championship, other slots determined by the year previous NAHBPC performance of region)
  • Shorter window for qualifiers
  • Players can only play in 1 regional qualifier
  • Regional tourneys to be held mid-April to mid-June, NAHBPC and Worlds in early Autumn or Sept/Oct.

You can read the specifics here on the NAH site, I won’t waste your time repeating them, other than this endorsement:

I think the recommended changes are great, and you should too, polokin.

I am excited by the decision making of the NAH in this, and I can tell by looking over the document that lots of consideration was paid to what would work best for the polo community as a whole – making sure to include regions and people based on merit as well as on fairness.

This is something that can really go south on a sport, and addressing that concern early is a solid way to avoid some big trouble down the line. I recognize of course that this isn’t set in stone (it’s only the proposed structure for the next 2 years after all), but it’s a good starting point for getting where we need to go as a growing, vibrant community.

I did, however, have a few questions about specifics in the document, so I got in touch with Ben Schultz (Regional Board Member, Midwest) and Eric Ransom (Regional Board Member, Eastside) to get some specifics: Read more