Come on by on Saturday, May 9th for our Women and Gender Queer Bike Polo Clinic! Bring a bike, a helmet, the ability to laugh at yourself and we’ll bring everything else!
On Saturday May 17th in association with Boston Shines, BBP players spent the day cleaning up Smith Park. The park is the home turf of Boston Bike Polo, and it has been due for a clean up. We picked up bottles, cigarette buts, about a million bottle caps, and some abandoned homeless people encampments. You can safely say Smith Park is a cleaner place this week. Help us keep it clean for the rest of the summer!
This is an open love letter to Boston and Boston Bike Polo.
Boston is probably one of the worst biking cities in North America. I don’t know why specifically; it could be because of the generally unfavorable road conditions, the oblivious and ornery automobile drivers, or the roads that look like someone dropped a handful of spaghetti on a map. The city and its bureaucrats hate that we play polo on the hockey court in Allston, the hockey players hate that we use the rink more than they do, and hardcore road cyclists with their $4000 Cannondales hate the way that we represent bikers to others on the road (no helmets, ignoring traffic signals, bombing one-way streets the wrong way, etc.)
I have a theory: all of this hate directed towards Boston Bike Polo brings us closer together as a community. The fact that the city of Boston generally sucks is in fact the glue that binds us. When the weather isn’t great, we get together and play awesome board games and drink beers and geek out until 3am. When the court is covered with a foot of snow and the forecast looks promising, we strap on our duck boots, grab our shovels and a 12-pack of Sam Adams, and we scrape that lumpy white devil powder (not the fun kind) off of our court. When the city says we can’t do something, we secretly do it anyway, and then we light a bunch of firecrackers.
There is a reason that I feel more comfortable with my polo friends than I do with the people I work with. I can truly be myself: unashamed that I make more shitty puns and more dick jokes than any reasonable adult in his mid-twenties ought to. Polo gives me an excuse to fly to Puerto Rico for the better part of a week with my best friend, and subsequently forget to wear sunscreen on the beach. Polo gives me a relatively healthy outlet for my desire for carnage.
Boston is not a fun city. The bars close at 1am, the T stops at 12:30, and the city resents me as a resident. Every year my friends tell me they want to move, and every year I get more excited when they don’t. You guys, I don’t want to be here either. I have weekly fantasies about moving to other dope polo cities like Austin or Toronto or San Francisco or Lexington. However, it’s when I travel to other cities that I hear whispers of people saying they want to move to Boston, and let me tell you, you wouldn’t regret it if you did.
Come April, if you need me, you can find me sprawled shirtless on the docks of the Charles River with my Harpoon IPA in a Freaker, warning other kids not to touch the bottom when they dive into the water. -ZS
There has been some literature on the internet (you know what) this week that encouraged me to explore my feelings towards bike polo. At first I thought bummed things; I didn’t feel comfortable questioning the legitimacy of the activity which I hold so dearly. But I quickly realized I was becoming the victim of the law of attraction: Yes, I’ve spent many nights and years and dollars and beers, and polo may have burnt me out once or twice. But, being burnt out ain’t that hard of a problem to solve. I mix it up, take a break, go snowboarding, hang with old friends, switch to flat pedals. You’ll feel the love. I’ll feel the love.
I love EVERYTHING about it. I love the all bike polo people and all the bike polo places. I love all the bike polo clubs, all the bike polo companies, and all the bike polo rules (except high-sticking). I love all the bike polo blogs and all the bike polo forums. I love the bike polo #hashtags and instagrams, and I especially love the bike polo nudes. I love the places bike polo has taken me. I love Burlington, Vermont, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Vancouver, British Columbia, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Montreal, Quebec, Lexington, Kentucky and Seattle, Washington. I fucking love Seattle Bike Polo. I love that polo gives me an excuse to take a long road trip or a quick weekend to the other side of the continent, no matter how broke I am. I love traveling with my bike. I love taking my bike on an airplane. I love taking off my fork when I am packing up my bike. I love putting my bike together in the airport, but not as much as I love how stoked OTHER people are when they see me putting my bike together in the airport. I love not knowing where the fuck I am when I leave a new airport on my bike. I love how when you show up to pickup from the airport, you are hanging out with the same people you would have been if you’d lived in that city your entire life.
I love riding my polo bike. I love riding in a gang filled with all sorts of other polo people and polo bikes from near and far forming a mob spanning the street in the night. I love the whirrly sound the mob makes because everyone has the same sick freewheel. I love riding TOO fast on my polo bike, skitching across the Mass. Ave. bridge or up Pine Street. Thats a guaranteed adrenaline high. I know its not safe but I just love polo too much to wait any longer to get to the court and play. I love meeting a random polo player on the street because I noticed that they’re riding a polo bike. That’s how I started playing polo in the first place.
I love all of the polo people, even if they are from New York. I love the polo people with beards and shitty tattoos, and the ones without beards or with good tattoos. I love all of the polo people from other countries who have crashed on my couch and spoke with funny accents, and who did or would let me do the same at their place. I love all of the polo people who travel across the GLOBE to play polo. I love all of the polo people who lend me bike parts when mine get fucked up. I love the polo people who share tokes of herb. I love the polo people who share swigs of booze, especially when they’re from Kentucky. I love all of the polo people I will one day meet. But more than all of these tangible things, I love how much fucking PASSION all of these polo people have.
I love bike polo even when it’s dirty. I love cheap shots, unless someone gets hurt. I love polo heckles, especially if they cut deep. I love that I’ve lost significant amounts of blood playing polo. I fucking love when I get slammed cleanly into the boards, even more when it’s by Dirks.
I love playing pickup. I love all throw-ins. I hate dabbing. I love how stoked a new player gets when they score their first goal. I love that I can spend an entire day at the polo court and not get bored. I love that it gives me an excuse to drink outside because I love drinking outside. I love that shotgunning brings us together.
I love that reggae music sounds just a bit more irie during a polo game. I love when someone is doing a jay mid court and I go stop next to them and they hold it up to my mouth. It is the perfect pit stop. I also love saving the puff in my lungs and blowing it into the opponents face as intimidation. I love trying trick shots instead of taking wide open gimme goals. I love taking long shots and I love it even more when they go in. I love when there are only six players so you never have to stop playing. I love when we keep playing during downpours. I love that we played last week, two days after a blizzard.
I love that polo love is spreading with no end in sight. -Addison
(And to prove I’m not alone and full of shit here is a small collection of photos of other people who also love bike polo):
Over the past week Mother Nature dumped about 15 inches of powder snow on the city of Boston. Most urbanites were stoked, as it meant they didn’t have to report to work or school. But Boston Bike Polo folks were fully aware of reality of the situation: we may have to actually heed Lancaster Polo’s advice.
Not playing Polo this weekend was a an option we could not swallow, so a small crew headed to Allston yesterday to assess the situation and see if we couldn’t make the court playable. Upon arrival, much to our surprise, a 2014 miracle! A rogue group of out-of-town hockey enthusiasts had clear half of the court! We went to work and moved a butt ton of snow! When the temps buldge above freezing today, our court will be ready for a january whack session.
Some may think we’re crazy for spending our breaking backs, hauling snow. But we’re not crazy. We are just polo players.
As if you need to read more Lancaster articles about what amateurs we polokins are of not having our shit together (“THANKS” MATT, see here and here … but this time not sarcastically: thanks), but srsly, lets face it: most polo clubs could be a bit more organized. Boston Bike Polo is no exception. We’re lucky to have a solid crew of people coming out to pick-up, and a sizable core that is dedicated to advancing the club in our city and in the Eastside region. And I’m proud to report that we are doing a pretty good job so far of taking advantage of the offseason to further our club and plan for the upcoming year (this may be premature, because lets be real – it’s barely December).
In that spirit, here is my (ideal) list of what every polo club should do this offseason.*
- Have a club meeting. Talk about what your club wants to accomplish in 2014 and how you’re going to do it. Maybe even hold elections for different positions in the club. In fact, polo elections are the only form of democracy where your vote really matters – we had a three-way tie here in Boston for one cabinet position – it then became a 3-man committee. Now that’s democracy at work. And as an added bonus, you can give people some time to ‘campaign’ and see what unfolds. It’ll be guaranteed to be hilarious.
- Do some court maintenance and clean-up. Before the snow falls (… BBP might have missed this deadline…) spend some time cleaning up the area around your court. Maybe even snap some pictures and make a big deal to your local park and rec department about what a nice, upstanding group of citizens you are. This way when you submit applications for permits for the tournaments you planned (see step #1), they’ll be all ‘oh wow! It’s those nice bike polo folks! We should totally grant them a permit. In fact, they’re so nice we’re not even going to charge them!’ (LULZ)
- Speaking of which, do us all a favor and post the dates of your tourneys now. This way we can all book tickets and see a light at the end of these dark, cold, polo-less nights.
- Be jealous of everyone who is going to play hott polo at the tournament in San Juan. Fuck you, you fucking fucks.
- Talk to shops and other bike organizations in your area about sponsorship and support. Not only could you potentially get a discount on parts for your bikes, but you’re also building relationships that are helpful when you want prizes for a tournament later in the year or a permit from the city. I think the whole bike polo community can benefit from these types of relationships.
- Have knife fights all the time.
- GET A NEW BIKE
*I agree that there is no real offseason if you bleed polo (like we do in Boston)– but we all gotta admit that we play less when the nights are wicked cold and it gets dark at 3:30pm. As humans, we have a natural inclination to hibernate and spend less time on the courts, so we can spend more time buffing up our collective organization game and our club’s treasury and “emergency” funds (i.e. escapist Hockey Town subsidary fund). -CF
For fuck’s sake, follow the rules of bike polo. The rules are there to keep you safe (you fucking goon), and they are there to protect your disgusting body and your piece-of-shit bike and your expensive polo gear. The truly beautiful thing about our sport is that there are so few rules in the first place. I recently read something I really liked on League of Bike Polo: every new sport is advanced in the space between the rules, and that strategic advancement is not dictated by the rules themselves. For example, with the development of bike polo specific equipment, such as mallet heads that enhance scooping ability and frames that center your weight more appropriately for hopping and pivot turning, we are each individually granted the new tactics, and those tactics give us exponentially more choices to make as a team on the court. And that’s a beautiful thing if you ask me.
Now, I realize that not everyone shares my peachy idealistic view of the rules. Some kids want to be Spartan renegades and play by their own rules, and I have been trying my best to appreciate that position. I understand that everyone interprets “the rules” differently, specifically the definitions for high sticking, slashing, and off-ball contact. Some kids want to play exclusively by our golden rule of polo, Don’t Be A Dick. But can’t you see how this reductionist point of view leads to less of a grey area and more of a black hole? If there are enough kids on the court playing by different definitions of a slash or hack, aggression will escalate wicked quick. Retaliatory strikes (guilty of these myself) are arguably even more egregious than offending actions such as slashing, because they are motivated by vengeance and anger, and are way more likely to cause accidents. Also, that’s like totally the definition of being a dick, and we all JUST agreed that we shouldn’t be dicks like thirty seconds ago.
I want to take a moment and recognize the work Nick Kruse is putting into updating the rules. He recently showed me a few of his updates, and his language is so clear and his writing is so effective that I swear I saw a flock of doves fly out of his laptop’s screen. But what do we do when we have a disagreement about the rules at pickup? Shouldn’t the rules be more flexible (i.e. allowing wrist shots, throwing your mallet at the ball) since there are beginners present and we’re all just drinking and having fun? I suggested to our club that we use the most current version of NAH rules and regulations at pickup, but only to enforce turnovers. That way, we have good habits on the court when traveling to other cities for tournaments. You might argue that strictly reffing and enforcing turnovers during pickup games takes away the inherent punk-rock nature that is essential to the spirit of bike polo. To that, I say you are dead fucking wrong, kiddo. We all have lives outside of bike polo, even if we don’t want to admit it; we can’t go around breaking each others’ bones and sporting black eyes to the office— I’m not sixteen anymore. I know that taking hits and falls is part of the game, I know that the smart thing to do is wear pads and a face cage, because accidents (that is to say, accidents caused by Tobi) happen. But should I dress like a NFL linebacker just to play a pickup game of bike polo? I have responsibilities as a human being— I have cats to feed, man!
Let me reframe my argument: I don’t particularly care if people break the rules. It doesn’t make me cry and it doesn’t make me cum, I am completely indifferent to it. Really, I just want to play polo, and if you break the rules and endanger my well-being, frankly that’s ok because I should have expected it— bike polo is dangerous. However, there is a line that any reasonable person should not cross, and it is an admittedly fuzzy line. How do you quantify the aggression in Lomax’s wild swing? If Zach Blackburn elbows you in the chest while you’re playing goal, how aggressively can you protect yourself? I don’t have the answers to these questions. I only hope that we can get back to what the game is truly about, in my opinion, which is mallet skill and speed. Picks and hits have a place in bike polo, but slamming on your friends’ steering arms and knocking them off their bikes seems unnecessarily barbaric. As Bill and Ted once said on their excellent adventure, “Be excellent to each another, and party on, dudes!” -ZS
This Miami Dolphins “bullying” case has been grinding my gears for a week now. As a fan of the Miami Dolphins, it’s disappointing to see the team in the news for reasons other than on-the-field performance, but this is the reality we’re dealing with. The NFL has its flaws, and I think we as a community of athletes have a lot to learn from that. There is an interesting parallel between this story and any given polo club’s member dynamics.
I am not denying the fact that Richie Incognito is a common street thug that lucked into a NFL career through sheer brutality and ruthlessness. I will gladly grant you that fact. There is no denying, however, the fact that his brutality and ruthlessness are desirable qualities— for modern NFL linemen and in other sports. He is a committed leader, a loyal teammate, and a fearless competitor. If Richie Incognito was on my team, I could relax knowing that this dude has my back if the shit starts going down.
Let’s say that there is a guy like Richie Incognito in your polo club. For this example, our version of polo Richie is a nice guy with a fierce temper, likes to drink excessively, hit on girls, talk shit about opponents, and goon out on the court. He’s capable of tournament-level skill position performance, and he’s fiercely loyal to his teammates. Sound like anyone you know? I think every club has a guy like that.
A lot of talking heads are throwing a lot of buzzwords around such as “bullying,” “harassment,” “abuse,” and “hazing,” so let’s say that this parallel-universe polo version of Incognito likes to heckle teammates from the sidelines when he’s not on the court. Holding a PBR he screams, “I’m gonna SHIT in your MOUTH. You’re still a rookie, I’ll KILL you!” (on a personal note, I have heard WAY worse heckles from the Boston sidelines, more akin to personal attacks than anything). At this point, I’m still not convinced that anything inappropriate has transpired. The only things thrown were insults, not punches. It’s clear that Richie is an asshole (clearly he has an anger management issue), but there is no evidence that he is a deviant. He strongly encourages rookies to buy 30 racks of PBR and drinks five beers without chipping in. Is this harassment or hazing? When I first started playing polo I brought a twelve-pack every time I went to the courts, because I knew that if I couldn’t contribute on the court, I wanted to be able to contribute something on the sideline.
Yeah, polo Richie’s behavior is generally inappropriate, and you might not want to play with him at pick up, but in a tournament when the game is on the line and the next goal wins, I want Richie on my team because I know he has the killer instinct to smoke the opposition when the team needs a boost. I call this “mental toughness,” the ability to focus under pressure and ferociously guide a team to victory. A significant portion of winners-bracket level polo “athletes” did not grow up playing team sports. Personally, I played tennis, and I sucked at it. I wasn’t exposed to good coaching or leadership, and as a result I can be a very sore loser, and an even sorer winner. We all have our mental handicaps when it comes to sports performance— some people choke, some people allow their frustration to take hold and ruin all the accomplishments that preceded it. Being mentally tough is a desirable quality in sports.
I think the important thing we take from this story is that there are different levels of mental toughness at any level of every sport. We as athletes have to be tough enough to take constructive criticism from teammates and focused enough to block out heckles and insults from opponents. The number one rule of bike polo is “Don’t Be A Dick,” but for some players, being a dick is a big part of their game. You have to block that shit out, play your game, and be in the business of winning. Don’t let the Richie Incognitos of the world dictate how you interact with other players. And above all else, GO DOLPHINS.