A few things drummed up this post in my mind, one being the goofy storm caused by two players going after one another on this very site (which is great for traffic, lemme tell you), and another being the discussion I saw on Facebook between bike polo players concerning the recent events around the Miami Dolphins bullying case. It seems that these two are at least a little bit tied together, in that they both deal with the emotions that flare up during competitive sports (hell, I’d argue non-competitive sports as well, though I’m hard pressed to think of a non-competitive sport. Sport sleeping, maybe?).
Bike polo, as it currently stands, has an in-house reputation for shit talking and court-anger. What I mean is: you’ll have two guys who are civil to each other before a match, be absolute monsters to each other on the court, and then be civil to each other again afterwards (perhaps after a period of time, of course). This is an accepted thing, I’ve seen it at almost every tourney I’ve gone to and have likewise seen it within pickup days.
But that’s not to say that there isn’t a lingering emotion that sticks with people. We aren’t machines, after all [except for Robocop, who is in fact mostly machine], so it’s impossible to believe that everything that happens on the court stays there. Likewise, it’s also impossible to use the excuse of “we’re all horrible people on the court” to allow for truly unsportsmanlike behavior.
It comes down to a few things: civility and self-control. It’s easy to lean on the crutch that “you didn’t mean it” or “I was just excited,” but if you can’t keep a clear enough head to not violently swing at another person’s mallet or worse, check them illegally or without warrant, then you are the worst kind of polo player, bar none. A player who cannot remain civil, even when the tension is at it’s highest point in the game, isn’t much of a polo player at all.