Yes, I have been more or less sidelined due to my ticker. No, that doesn’t mean I’m giving up polo. No, it doesn’t mean you can have my equipment. NO IT DOESN’T MEAN YOU CAN HAVE MY EQUIPMENT STOP ASKING.
While on a hopefully temporary sabbatical, I have the chance to sit down and fill you in on just a few of the happenings within the North American Bike Polo world. Let’s start our round up with upcoming tourneys:
First, let’s talk about Davis’s 3rd Annual Gentlemen’s Polo Deathmatch out of Davis, California. The tourney is held in the “blue cage of death,” and is free (donations are accepted, of course). Both days are listed as a “friendly 3×3 polo tournament,” so let’s just assume it’ll be Saturday placement and Sunday tourney. Hey, the price is right, and the blue cage of death sounds like a lot of fun for a weekend. Just remember to have a safe word.
The Decatur Illinois Bike Polo Gathering is going on July 27th and 28th, featuring one court with 2 foot walls, this shuffle tourney (you don’t go with a team, friend. You get one when you show up) features camping and food included. You also have a chance to win a Joust via raffle, and that’s kinda swell, isn’t it? At twenty bucks a head, why not, right? Seems like a fun time, and there is still plenty of space left to register.
Finally, we have The Last Stand IV, Apocalypse Later, which has such a reputation for being a great tourney that I really don’t even need to mention much more than this: it’s probably, really, actually going to be the last time this tourney is being put on. 75 bucks a team, includes food and dollar beers. It’s a tiny tourney of 16 teams only, so there’s a good chance that it’ll be all filled up by the time you read this, but you should give it the old college try anyway. The format is your typical swiss round Saturday to double elim Sunday, with boozing and partying peppered in-between. If you can make it, make it.
Now, normally I’d share something that caught my eye in the League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL) forum at this point. I’d bring up the subject and discuss my thoughts on the matter. Well, the one I found was a discussion about what makes for top shelf shots (shots that leave the ground and fly in the air/into the goal). When I dove into the topic, however, I was met with the following:
Thinking of the moment immediately prior to impact. Is the face of the mallet moving at a constant rotational velocity, or is it still accelerating? Higher elastic deformation if accelerating, and I think adding wrist on gives just that much more at impact and follow-through. –Alias of DC Bike Polo, Robot.
I mean, I think I understand what Robot Alias was getting across, but come on. It’s polo. Let’s not think about it that much. Sheeeesh.
Anyway, I guess people are excited about figuring out the 1s and 0s of how to make a little ball fly in the air once being struck by a piece of plastic on a glorified ski pole. Keep on keeping on, polokins.
Moving over to new products, I can honestly say there isn’t very much popping up on the old Crusher-radar 2000. One thing that did come up just today is a very interesting little picture from Modifide of smaller Arc head (dubbed the Arc 4). It looks as though it’s taking into account an earlier drawing made that the Modifide group put together (I seem to remember the picture looking more like a cube), but still maintaining the hourglass figure. Note, however, that this will be a limited run, so as soon as these go live, snatch them up if you’re interested.
Fixcraft Friday is coming down the line, and with it will come—I can assume—at least one new color option for the Cleat mounting system. But it’s rare that the new color will be the only exciting deal happening this Friday, so put some coffee on and keep refreshing the page to see what else pops up at a great price.
As far as Northern Standard, Milwaukee, MILK, or Magic are concerned (yes, I know there are more companies than that), no news. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t check out what they’ve already got, of course, but there are no new products as of my typing. Get off my case, man.
So that’s your update, dear poloistas. I hope your summer tourneys are going swimmingly, and remember to drink plenty of water while you’re out there.
I recently watched an episode of (I think) Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel just before heading off to polo. One of the topics discussed was the increasing amount of attacks on officiators by athletes, their parents, and spectators in general. There was really some faith-in-humanity destroying segments, including interviews with a family of a ref who was recently killed due to a head injury sustained by an angry athlete in Utah.
And I guess this is the way it is now: refs arriving early to games they are officiating in order to find escape routes , contacting the head of security for events and asking who they should run for if things go wrong—it’s the nature of sports in our country.
So how does this apply to you and I, polo players extraordinaire? To put it as simply as possible: our sport is young enough that we can avoid that trend.
When bike polo was first invented in Ireland, sportsmanship was very different than it is today. You played hard, but players were also expected to be knowledgeable about rules and recognize when they’d done something particularly against them. Officiators were respected and obeyed (and, to the defense of your great grandfather, there was still plenty of arguing and cursing, but the call on the field was obeyed as law—that’s why the officiator was there).
The reason for this is really pretty easy to grasp, too: you’re playing a game, and games have rules. If you break those rules, you’re ruining the entire basis of the game, and that’s just as lame as you can get. Take the call and move on.
Lots of sports are now so entirely focused on amazing achievement and not on sportsmanship – look at American football as your paradigm of the player becoming more important than the sport—and this has caused a fundamental shift in respecting officials and in listening to their enforcement of the rules.
One thing that is constantly called for in our sport is a more organized, widely available set of refs to officiate every NAH event—and I don’t disagree. However, I think we as the players of that sport also must make sportsmanship as integrated as possible in the game itself. We don’t have to look at rules as limiting, but rather enabling for great plays to be achieved and for the playing field to be more equal between teams. You might be a heartless brawler, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should win everything simply because the other team is scared you’re using a spraypainted-yellow-iron mallet.
Our rule set – as flexible and changing as it is – started as one single rule: don’t be a [jerk] (I honestly don’t know if I can swear on Urban Velo, but you know what that rule actually says). Within that simple little rule is the entire foundation for sportsmanship. It wasn’t a specific binding law, it was an understanding through polo that there were situations where a player could manipulate the game in such a way that made them dangerous to other players (while benefitting themselves). Before the larger rule set, players themselves made on-the-court decisions if a particular event was fair or violated that first rule of polo. It worked because we agreed to have it work.
I’m not suggesting that sportsmanship can be instilled by just removing all of the other rules we have now and going back to one, but I am suggesting it’s important to keep that ground rule in your mind—to instill it in new players and remind veteran players to keep the first rule as a basis for actions in heated tourneys. We’re fortunate that we don’t need to deal with players who attack refs (there’s always the possibility that it will happen, and that will be a fun day of shouting at my computer screen as I write incomplete sentences about the end of our sport). I think it’s important that we continue to keep a level head about sportsmanship and accept calls as they come – learn what the rules are – and keep ourselves vigilant against making ourselves more important than the game we are playing.
It’s from the polo war room that I write to you, and with the season in full swing, I’m more than happy to be here amongst my many leather bound mallets and polo related beverages. This is probably my second favorite time of the polo season, actually, as anything is still possible in relation to Nationals and Worlds, there are so many tourneys to go to, and people are still working out exactly what they’re going to blame the NAH for the most.
My money is on the 17 year Cicadas, btw. Totes the NAH’s fault.
So, let’s see what’s going on by way of the tourneys:
First, we have the Solo Polo Santa Fe II out of Santa Fe. A pickup tourney were you go, free of charge, and just play. Despite my natural desire to hate them for spelling “immediately” as “IMMEADITLY” on the flyer, it does seem like a pretty rock solid good time if you’re able to make it there. Breakfast and lunch provided, fun to be had by all, and lots of room for polo rookies.
Next, I want to highlight the Northside Regional Qualifier which is taking place June 15th and 16th . It’s the Northside Regional folks, I shouldn’t really have to explain this one too terribly much. How-ev-er I will tell you what makes it great: one court for dedicated pickup the whole tourney, and the courts are lit until 1AM – so don’t you worry your pretty little heads if someone is a few minutes late to get into their game. Lots of beer to be had at the registration party (at a pub) and a brewery crawl for people who understand that Michigan has some of the finest beers about.
And ON THAT VERY SAME WEEKEND OH MY GOD is the SouthEastern Regional Qualifier which has been dubbed by organizers as “Ya’ll about to drink so much moonshine you’ll think you’re Hellen Keller.” If that doesn’t set up your expectations, I don’t quite know what will. This tourney will only see five teams qualify for Nationals, so competition is expected (by me) to be fierce and bloody. At least I’m hoping so. If you are planning to attend this one—as in already have registered and are all set—make sure you get your housing sorted. Looks like it’s going to be tight quarters unless you’re prepared.
As a side note: if you look at the thread for this tourney on League of Bike Polo (ALL HAIL!) you’ll see that, once again, someone thinks that Horse is the person running Lancasterpolo.com and not me. I guess nobody can believe that a short hobbit-y fellow could talk so much about polo. Let’s leave the tourneys before I start crying.
Next, let’s talk about some of the hoopla in the forums.
One topic that caught my fancy was a conversation about joint pain. Outside of VFW bingo nights, conversations about joint pain often come up on the LoBP forums and are often met with the same series of comments: “man up,” “here’s a wrap you can try,” and “yeah, me too.” The best advice I’ve come across as far as what people say has worked is twofold: take a break and exercise the joint. I understand why that can sound like bullish advice, but it makes sense: you’re using a specialized set of muscles to play the sport, and those muscles, probably, don’t see much workout during your regular day. Making them stronger can help in making them more resistant to the strains our sport puts on them. Give your wrists a break for a while and after they feel better, figure out a way to work them out for strength.
(Insert joke here. Laugh to yourself. Moving on…)
Honestly, though, I think it’s important to not act like a buffoon if you’re experiencing nagging pain in polo. Nothing could be worse than doing real harm to yourself because you chose to ignore the pain. Taking a few weeks off is much better than taking a few years, right?
Now, let’s talk about bike polo equipment:
First, Milwaukee has released this new head you should be excited to catch. See what I did there? Okay, seriously though, the Small Mouth Monohead from MKE has been out for quite a while, but I’ve never caught up to talk about it: at five inches and about 83 grams, the never-recycled UHMW head is as clean as it is dependable. Pre-drilled so you have a harder time messing up your mounting, the head has a 2.5 inch outside diameter and a single capped end. Currently at $21.99, it’s well within the price range of high quality heads and really is just a no-nonsense, I-want-to-buy-a-good-mallet-head purchase.
Next I was excited to see that Portland Bike Polo’s “Electric Salmon” head is back and up for sale. (I’ll spare you all the fish jokes I had lined up for this one given that I used a bunch for the MKE above.) Anyway, the Electric Salmon is UHMWPE milled to have an open side and a capped side. Weighing in at about 78 grams, the head is softer than what you’ll find with a UHMW head but lighter for it. What I appreciate most about the head (outside of how good it feels, as I had one for a little while before giving it to our resident mallet expert Kyle), is how honest the product page is: “If your spirit animal is Thor riding the Incredible Hulk, you will break this mallet. If you smash the mallet into the ball instead of into the ground, the mallet will last for months.” Coming in at 25 dollars a head, it’s high in cost compared to some other non UHMW heads – but take heart: multiple orders get discounts in initial price, depending on how many more than 2 you buy.
Finally, Fixcraft is planning to release its new mounting system on the 7th of June (during their Fixcraft Friday event). There has been a lot of hub-bub about this new mounting system and I can echo the excitement. I wrote an initial review here, if you want to read particulars, but I think I can safely say that the world of polo is pretty excited to see what Fixcraft has come up with this time. Price is unknown at this point, so we’ll have to see how it falls in line with other mallet assembly options. They’ve also redesigned their mallet heads, and shafts, thought it doesn’t seem like you need to use either, necessarily, to use the cleat mounting system. I don’t have a link to point you to, so I’ll point you to the Merch Table and let you gander around there for a while.
And that’s your polo update! Before I leave you, I want to invite you to comment and make suggestions as to what you want to see here. More strategy? More about tourneys? Something else? Feel free to drop a line and let me know what you’re wishing for. I’m like the godmother of polo, minus the wings.