Philly One-Day A/B Tourney

TipTop Playground: where dreams are born and prompty killed.  photo: @bearcat2004
TipTop Playground: where dreams are born and prompty killed.
photo: @bearcat2004

The Saturday after Thanksgiving Alan, Mars and I began the drive down to Philly to meet up with Zac to represent Boston Bike Polo at the one day Philly A/B tournament. After casserole at Mars’ parents house, too many hours on the New Jersey Turnpike, and failed attempts at eating baklava while driving, we arrived Saturday afternoon just in time to participate in judging Lori and Tucker’s chilli cook-off at the court (Lori won- duh).

To my surprise, Philly is such a polo court blessed city that when we arrived at the predetermined location, and the lights never came on, Drew rode to another court across town to find us an alternative spot for Saturday night pick-up. And though that court was slick as fuck, it also had beautifully curved boards, was the perfect size, and located under a highway exchange. We played some awesome pick-up as folks trickled in from Richmond, DC, New York, and other East Coast towns, until we finally shut it down after someone may or may have not broken their nose faceplanting trying to pick up their mallet (but he played the rest of the game like a champ).

You know… just some “art” n polo n cool light n stuff.
photo: IG @alanotallen

The cool thing about a one-day A/B tournament, is that everyone gets what they want: “A-class” slayers get a high intensity one-day gig playing good games, and “B” players get a chance to have more evenly matched (and arguably more fun) games all day. And after this awesome one-day single elim tournament, I may be a single elim convert. We got in 5 or 6 rounds of swiss rounds before we began the elimination bracket, meaning the seedings were pretty accurate, and just about every team got to play each other. Then the elim bracket went pretty fast, but each game was higher intensity because everyone knew it was sudden death. I often feel like teams don’t really begin to try hard until they’re in the losers bracket – and single elim eliminates that nonsense. But I’m just thinking out loud.

Mars, Alan and David (Lancaster) played awesome and came in second in the B bracket (fuck the A bracket, have no idea what went on there) losing to Puff Puff Pass from Lancaster in the finals. Zac, Jackie from NYC, and myself formed team Sparkle Motion and also lost to Puff Puff Pass in the semi’s. Let me just say that if I hadn’t BROKEN MY WRIST in the semi’s, and finished the game more or less stationary in goal on said broken wrist (in golden goal OT might I add!), we totes would have been in the final. JUST SAYIN’. I chipped the hamate bone in my wrist as a result of putting my mallet under my own front wheel going full speed, like a chump. I didn’t even realize my wrist hurt so goddamn much because I’d knocked the wind out of myself and was more concentrated on trying to reinflate my lungs (it’s actually the smallest, lamest injury ever in the history of bike polo). Point being, Puff Puff Pass – we’ll see you again, and next time we will not be denied victory!

At least I’m using my extra time to venture into more serious ‘photo editing.’ : )

The finals ended with only enough daylight left for Mars to get out the rest of his caffeinated energy in two pick-up games, before we packed up the car with an additional passenger – Graham from New Haven – and drove back to Boston. We avoided the New Jersey Turnpike mostly on principle, and because it was the Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend and we’re not complete idiots. And even though the whole adventure took less than 41 hours, and I (kinda) broke my wrist, it was still worth it for the fun road trip, vegan coffee shops, and laid back tournament. -CF

Sparkles be sparklin' on team Sparkle Motion!  photo: @bearcat2004
Sparkles be sparklin’ on team Sparkle Motion!
photo: @bearcat2004

Too Cool for Rules? Don’t Be That Guy.

I am not proud that this meme is attached to this post. It’s so obvious, it’s the laziest thing I’ve ever done.

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.

This is a clean hit. Good job, Javier! Lead by example.
This is a clean hit. Good job, Javier! Lead by example.

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.

If I were reffing this game, I would eject every player for tucking his shirt into his underwear. Also this is a high stick, that's a turnover.
If I were reffing this game, I would eject every player for tucking his shirt into his fucking underwear. (Also this is a high stick, that’s a turnover)

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!

Classic Tobi (edit: this is actually zac) photo:@TP6017
Nice salmon head. But keep it under your shoulders or else it’s a turnover.
(photo: @TP6017)

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

These guys would NEVER do anything un-excellent like put a mallet under your front wheel.
These guys would NEVER do anything un-excellent like put a mallet under your front wheel.

Let There Be Lights! (on our court plz)

Those lights in the background are only powered from April through October 🙁

What the hell are we supposed to do during the winter without lights? The sun sets at 4pm and we’re stuck without usable daylight for polo. Boston Bike Polo is truly blessed to have such a fantastic court— four foot boards, chain link fence, fully pro nets, and the city lights the court until 10:45pm on weeknights from April to late October. However, when November rolls around, we bring up the same argument every year: do we play in the dark at our usual spot and increase the chances of injury and potentially get worse at playing the sport? or do we seek out a new lit playing surface, even though a basketball court wouldn’t have the things we’ve become accustomed to (i.e. boards, fences, nets, etc.)? or do we try to find a new way to light our current court within our budget of zero dollars?

In my admittedly limited travels through polo-playing cities I’ve seen how some other clubs deal with the cold and the dark. Charleston, SC has a covered space in a bus station that is lit well into the night, impervious to the rain and snow, but they don’t have the boards that allow you to check someone properly. New York City uses a basketball court in Brooklyn, far away from the famous Pit, but I can tell you from personal experience that it is the most slippery court I’ve ever eaten shit upon. In Boston, we just play in the dark under a flickering street light until someone gets hurt. It’s super dumb.

There are certain advantages to our famous Allston court; the city leaves us alone completely, so we can do all the fun semi-legal activities that make polo worth playing, and it’s just barely off-center geographically in Boston, so the kids from Somerville, Cambridge, and Jamaica Plain are approximately equidistant from the court. Even Javier, who lives eight miles away in the burbs with his wife and kids, only takes half an hour to drive to polo.

See? Our photos aren't even in focus because it isn't lit properly!
See? Our photos aren’t even in focus because they aren’t lit properly!

Playing in the dark makes us worse at polo. Everyone chases the ball, people play with their head down, and shots are almost completely invisible. Yes, we would be making a sacrifice. Maybe we wouldn’t be able to shotgun PBRs in public anymore, but we could get more kids on polo bikes, which means more nights of polo to accommodate them.

Tyler and I have been suggesting to our club that we find a different, fully lit court even closer to the center of the city to increase our street appeal and get new kids interested in the sport. Even if we have to play on a tennis court with cones and check each other into a chain link fence, that’s better than potentially taking a mallet to the face in the dark. It would help our close-quarters game as well: handling the ball, short finesse passes, and pivot turns.

If someone has a suggestion, please let me know, because I am not satisfied playing decent polo only one day a week. I need more. After 7 winters in Boston, I am impervious to cold, but I just need someone to shine a light on this issue. Pun intended. -ZS

Bike Check: Tyler Paul Farris

It was a cold, blustery day in Lower Allston on Sunday, but we managed to get in a few games of polo before our toes and fingers started to go numb. During a particularly physical game, the unthinkable happened: Tyler Paul Farris’s (Instagram: @420cat) Peruvian-made Marino fork snapped at the steerer tube, precisely over the crown.

sorry about your bike, bro
sorry about your bike, bro

Obviously Tyler wasn’t happy. “I guess this is what that creaking sound was. I heard it a lot while we were playing.”

We had been talking just yesterday about how reliable the fork appeared to be, and I was seriously considering buying one of these Marino forks myself.   I think now I might go with a different company.

He looks so beefy in that jacket, like he broke the damn thing himself with his bare hands.

I think Tyler got his money’s worth, as the fork only cost $80. Shout out to Shelley Smith of NYC for the pro tip; for anyone considering buying a new fork for their polo bike, stay away from Marino.

marino sucks
what a piece of shit!


The Polo Injury and the Happy Life

When my left scaphoid, the bone supporting the thumb, broke, I did not know it. Felt like a sprain. I would have just hopped on my bike and kept playing but my stem was twisted 90*  so I took a sub, and went to go fix my bike and finish my beer. I played a few more games that afternoon in early August. It was six weeks before I would go see the doc. Displaced fracture. Bone graft and a titanium screw. 12+ weeks in a cast. FML.

Continue reading “The Polo Injury and the Happy Life”


when the nyc club came up here in may for the first in hopefully a long series of city vs. city matches, it rained a lot. and basically the only one on their team scoring goals was Ken. final score was 2 numbers and boston won. yeah, so we knew they couldn’t wait to get us down there to redeem themselves.

it took a minute but we finally got ourselves down to the ol’Pit for the rematch a few weeks ago. tony, thunder and I took the early bus and found jake the first guy there waiting on some dude meditating dead center of the court.

blahblahblah… one hour, 9 goals between both teams, i score the game winner with two minutes left. victory beers on the bus back were tasty.

full game was shot by Clement.

and someone put together a nice slideshow:

NYC BBQ Polo recap

Thanks to NYC for hosting a great weekend –
Boston fielded four teams: the Fantasy Boyz, Killdozer, the Travis Bickles, and Doppler Radar 2000. NYC, Ottawa, DC, Richmond, and Philly all brought great teams, and 17 total teams showing up for the tournament meant over 130 games to be played! Competition was tough, but two of our teams walked away in the money – Fantasy Boyz at #7 and Doppler Radar in DFL! Boston definitely held an edge on the injuries with Phil sustaining a mallet to the eye and Nick with a sprained wrist, until Bainesworth from Richmond dislocated his shoulder, twice in a row. One thing that’s undebatable – Boston definitely took the best pictures for Doug’s polo player archive. Top that!

more injuries…

another injury to add to the mix…this one apparently from Melbourne? Injury sustained in East Van.
nice. keep em comin. for more, click here

Titanium screws in 5th Metacarpal, Left Hand

Event: Bikeways in the Emerald Necklace?

Boston’s Greenways: Eight Missing Links
Tuesday April 22
6:30 p.m.
Northeastern University

The April 22 event will serve as Northeastern Professor Peter Furth’s civil and environmental engineering students’ official final presentation for their senior design class with five teams presenting. The students have created group projects to design bikeways/walking paths for challenging sections of the Emerald Necklace. The presentations will be in room 108 Snell Engineering Center at Northeastern University. The Emerald Necklace Conservancy is co-hosting this event with Fenway Alliance, Mass Bike, Walk Boston and the Solomon Fund.

They got some press here, and bostonbiker dug up some more info here

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff