Editor’s Note: this post is going to be a bit different than what I normally do. Just bear with me and let me know if it was alright. Worlds is kinda huge, and I am going at talking about it a few ways. This is one of them.
The woman who drives the white van is named Joelle, and she is as full of laughs as she is spritey. She smiles whenever conversation comes up between the four of us (Machine, Lomax, herself, and me), which makes me feel like we aren’t inconveniencing her though I’m sure driving polo players back and forth across Weston isn’t anyone’s idea of fun.
This is the first time I’ve met Machine in person, and he’s exactly what I expect him to be: full of quick stories, turns of phrase and songs that are never without customization. Lomax, my room-mate and brother in second-breakfast arms, busts his chops the whole way to the court.
We get to the court sometime around 9am and the Sun (which deserves that capital S) is already making sure that we know just where we are. I can feel it digging past my clothing and taking root in my bones. I remember to put on sunscreen. I remember to take my heart pill. I remember how much I was looking forward to the colder weather of PA and how horribly far I am from that in Florida. My pith helmet, which was more or less a joke up to this point, begins to become a necessity. I am thankful it exists and that I have it.
The rounds begin in earnest a bit late, which is expected. Chandel seems stressed but who wouldn’t be? She has just enough time to shake my hand before bolting off to see about refs and judges, which will become a running theme throughout the first day of the tourney.
The games in the morning are about what one would expect to see, with all the little tells that each team gives: Call Me Daddy serving up smooth, clean passes and not so clean body on body contact; Nasty Boys tuning their game to match competitors, Wooly Bullies setting the pace of games as much as they can. It’s there if you can see it, if you’re actually looking for how teams are shaking off the dust of travel and remembering the muscles of their hands. It’s entertaining to watch the competitiveness spring back inside of them after the initial loss or win.
By noon I am completely shot, having not played a single game. The sun has drained out any sort of energy I had and instead fills me with the want of water and food, which I under satisfy with the watering stations the organizers have established and an occasionally offered cookie. I have not planned for eating while at the courts, and the forgetfulness makes me feel lonely and foolish.
I make it a point to interview players–I tuck myself away to begin writing the article for Urban Velo that I’ve been sent down here to complete. I try to get away from the heat and the tiredness it grows, but in the end I shamble back to Fixcraft’s tent to grab my camera, thanking Sean once again for the use of his under-table space.
I find that people here know me. They recognize the name and the dumb headware. They give me their hand and perhaps enough time to interview before they excuse themselves away. I don’t put up much of a fight, as I don’t know how it feels to play at Worlds, and I’m hesitant to have them believe I am so egotistical to take them away from meeting with team-mates.
Still, I do pull a few aside and get some words from them. Occasionally they come up to me with an idea or suggestion for an article, so I listen, because I’m not sure if the Florida sun is planning to bake away my intelligence or not. I smile and take notes and appreciate how excited they are to tell me what they’d like to write about. Truly I am. It’s less work for me, after all.
The games over all feel like any other tournament I’ve been too, which is remarkably disappointing. Sure, there are more languages being spoken than English and Bad English, but overall there is the same lethargic camaraderie, the same we’ve-been-here-before-edness. Maybe that’s just how polo feels in general: some sort of class reunion where everyone is happy to see each other, but doesn’t want to admit to being too excited by it.
I meet Sweet Jenn (Mr. Do is a bit busy with figuring out set-up), and she hugs me like a longtime friend. She has a smile that makes me feel like there is nothing else in the world but what we are talking about, and I kind-of forget to be clever. Instead I just say “thanks” a bunch of times and then excuse myself to find a way back to the hotel.
Eventually I meet up with Evan, Neil and Brett, who not only make it a point to share everything they have with me, but also to act as old friends though I’ve only met them at Masters earlier in the year. Still, the kindness does a lot to quell the lingering feeling that I’m out of place, and the beer and tacos we share after we leave the courts (point in fact, after they take me back to the hotel in their truck) sets me on a good path to sleeping. When I get back to the room, it is still empty, and I do some more writing before Megan and Lomax arrive and we talk a bit before falling asleep fitfully.