Hardcourt bike polo has been played for years, but with the growing popularity of cycling and all the media attention on bike polo, the sport is being found in a lot of new places. I don’t know just how all these places are finding out about it, but I’d imagine all the YouTube videos and MySpace pages have something to do with it. I was introduced to bike polo in the spring of 2005. At the time I was visiting friends and family in Ohio but I was living in California. A group of friends had started riding fixed gear bikes since the last time I had been home, and told me about how they had started to play bike polo. So on Sunday I met them at the park with the street hockey rink and we played. It was a lot of fun. With no prior knowledge of the sport I didn’t have a care in the world as to how other cities played the game. I didn’t even think if other places played. I was just into the challenge of something so simple, yet so complex. AND it was on bikes! I was hooked, but a couple weeks later I went back to CA and didn’t play polo for another six months.
Later that same year I was visiting Ohio and wanting to play polo again. All the same friends, and even more were still playing every Sunday at noon. I wanted to be good at this but it was so hard. I forget how they found out about it, but some were planing on going to Philly to play in the East Side Polo Invite tournament. The event was happening a week before I was going back to CA so I decided to go along.
Once we got to Philly, registered and got our spokecards we then found out that the sticks we brought weren’t the right kind. We had no idea that we couldn’t use field hockey sticks. I had no idea. So we had to borrow some crappy all wood mallets. These things were short, heavy, and impossible to shuffle the ball with. Passing was really difficult, especially considering that we had always played with a kids sized soccer ball. That’s right, we had no idea about the small ball “little beirut” style. And the “it has to be a hit to count as a goal” rule really made us suck. Bad. We sucked, we got heckled, we got whooped on. It wasn’t fun losing at someone else’s game. But it was still fun to play.
I think I scored two or three goals in two days of play. I can’t remember winning a game, but I do remember that in the second day a team we got close to beating was a team from New York. The same team we faced up against in our first game of “little beirut” style the day before and lost quickly to. In the second day of play the rain had stopped and my Ohio team was about to play that New York team again. By this time I had figured out that the little guy with the beard didn’t play very physical but he’ll speed bump the hell out of your rear wheel and pull as you ride over his mallet. I also could remembered that the really big guy with red hair was too heavy to mess with. The third player on their team was about my size and liked to check you any time he could. I learned all this the day before when my team and I basically got beat up. We had no hope of winning the tournament and I didn’t care. But I wasn’t about to get pushed around without a fight. This game is one of my favorite games I’ve ever played but I only sort of remember one play out of the whole game. After a few minutes into it and after all the expected rough house moves, there came a time when I rode up to the ball on the edge of the fence and was trying to get it out and the other guy who did all the checking rode up and ran right into me and was reaching over and around me to get at the ball on my left side. His bike was a little more forward that mine and that gave him a chance to start kicking me because the ball was still stuck between the fence and my bike. When he started with the kicking shit I started kicking him back and my elbow was going and he was forearming me and neither of us were going foot down because we both had a firm grip on the chain link fence. From this point I can’t remember what exactly happened. All I heard was the crowd going nuts, and that felt pretty good. Either we both foot downed or neither did, I don’t recall. The rest of the game was just as awesome. We tried our best to get some goals but those guys were more like bruisers and less like scorers so it was a close, tough game but we still lost. Afterwards we shook hands and said “good game”. That was the most fun I had on a bike in a long time, all I could think was that I needed to get good at this.
The two things I learned by being in the tournament were that Ottawa’s A-Team is super good as this, they beat everybody and showed us all how it’s done. The other thing was that playing with a soccer ball was a waste of time if I ever wanted to do good in tournaments.
As for the New York team we played against, that was Zach, Eric the Red, and Alex F. All of which I can say are friends now.