I Hate Bike Polo, Too

Today isn’t even over and it already sucks.

The first link I clicked on this morning was www.hatingonbikepolo.com, where I was greeted with an excellently written, well-thought out argument against playing bike polo entirely. And it was shared all over the internet— by my friends! Who all love playing bike polo more than they love their parents. Was it an inside joke? Because I don’t know if I entirely “get” it. Was it a manifesto? Because it had some very poignant arguments that really forced me to reevaluate my priorities. Was it a rant? Because this page was written in a very upsetting tone, to which I can certainly relate. Well guess what, friends: sometimes I fucking hate bike polo too.

This new blog accomplished everything it set out to achieve: it left me feeling kind of empty inside, like all the money and sweat and blood I’ve spent over the last two years was for nothing. Suddenly, all my experiences with the awesome people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at tournaments and events were meaningless. What am I doing? Why am I doing this to myself? Is there anything to be gained from my involvement in this young, dumb, [relatively] poorly organized sport? And as a NAH rep, am I part of the problem?

You're not the only one who hates bike polo. We all hate bike polo, you were just the first person to put it into writing.
You’re not the only one who hates bike polo. We all hate bike polo, you were just the first person to put it into writing.

I don’t always love bike polo, in fact sometimes I hate it. I hate that no matter how hard I try, I am still not good enough to win a tournament, or oftentimes even just a pickup game. I hate that I feel like I have dropped several large stacks of $20 bills into a paper shredder for a bike that will likely snap in half while I’m riding it. I hate the rules and the regulations and the refs. I hate the people that make bike polo hate-able: the stuck-up bike snobs that call me “butt hurt” when I express frustration, the renegade pricks that threaten my well-being with dangerous and irresponsible play, and the care-free veterans that make me feel bad for trying or caring. Maybe I do care too much. Maybe I am trying too hard. Maybe I’m not macho or drunk or stoned enough. Maybe, paradoxically, I’m not invested enough, even though I write these blog posts about the best polo bike or the coolest video of a “pro” game. [Maybe I’m just feeling under-appreciated, and I’ll completely regret this post tomorrow.] But seriously, tell me, what does it take to get good at bike polo?

I can’t stop playing bike polo, I won’t stop playing. I’m too invested— monetarily, emotionally, physically. I’ve put in too much time to care whether or not I will win a tournament, a prize, or an award. And if I’m being 100% honest with myself, I’ve grown too much as a person to stop playing. I’m reading, writing, thinking and doing more than I ever have in my entire life. I have learned more about myself in a year than I had learned in the previous ten. And even though I doubt bike polo will ever have corporate sponsors or be featured at the X Games, I’ll know that I did something active, different, and interesting with my Sunday afternoons, instead of watching football, singing karaoke, and playing board games. I can do all that stuff any other night of the week. -ZS

Dedication + Physical Labor = 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.




2014 Polo Resolutions

It’s that time of year – the time to make New Year’s resolutions, only to fail at them around the third week of January, make a half-hearted attempt to restart them in mid-February, and then totally abandon the resolutions all together by March. Maybe this year it will be different. Probably not. But either way, here are MY polo related resolutions for 2014:

– Master the Mateusz (of Berlin/Krakow) Goal. It’s that goal when you’re racing down the court and on the goal line you just tap the ball between the goalie’s wheels. I’m going to master it this year.

– Don’t break any more bones. (This is kinda a big one.)

– This is going to be the year of being that person. You know that person – the one who goes to the court on off days to hit around by themselves (ideally with some headphones listening to some sweet reggae tunez), shows up early to pick-up, and, you know, practices. I want to be that person this year. For once.


– Play tournaments in the northeast, and make northeast polo friends (I’m looking at you Eastside polo).

– Encourage more rad women to play polo in Boston.

– Be a good club member in Boston/help get shit done/be friendz.


I asked some of the other members of BBP for their goals, and this is what they said:


Radd I son’s Resolutions:

– be able to to put every shot (that i want) top shelf

– bring the radcaps lifestyle interstellar

– talk less shit to the refs (especially while i’m playing) (unless they deserve it)

– shotgun way more beers

– stay fully fanged


Alan’s Resolution:


I’d like to strengthen my off court relationships with my club mates. While not directly polo skill related, I think it’s something that can really affect what happens on the court. Also, I’d like to play in more tournaments and play in those tournaments with more players from other clubs.  


The game must go on
Bone Stimulation

(Amateur) Jav’s Resolutions:

-stay injury free

-go to nahbpc and maybe worlds

– improve shot accuracy

-teach Diego how to ride a push bike






Never lose my temper on the court

-Get on my bike and practice ball touches once a week, separately from pickup

-Qualify for NAs

-Qualify for worlds, even if i can’t afford to go

-Write cooler articles for the blog

-And alan i’m with you on hanging out with polo kids when not at polo.

YoungBlood said that he’s going to “actually play polo.”


Toby’s resolution

is to post a picture of his lunch everyday on our forum. This was his first one.

nom nom nom
nom nom nom

Absurdity and Amateurism

My name is Javier, and I am retiring my pro status.
My name is Javier, and I am retiring my pro status.

It’s interesting writing something about bike polo, posting it on Facebook, and then going home to New Jersey for the holidays and having to explain why you enjoy inflicting so much pain on yourself to family members who barely know that you play bike polo.  And the one thing that is arguably more absurd than playing bike polo is spending time writing about it.

For the record bike polo is not that dangerous if you don’t want it to be. I might have given the wrong impression in my last post. Once you’re a proficient bike handler, you can avoid crashing or even dabbing pretty easily as long as you put safety first. Of course, in competition, we will compromise our own safety (and that of others) for the sake of winning. And even if you always take the safe road you still risk getting ninja balled or slipping on court debris from time to time. Or getting gooned out by some tattooed beardo with daddy issues. But for the most part you can make bike polo pretty easy on yourself if you want. Add a nice face mask and some pads and your risk of injury goes pretty far down.

Will you still get hurt? Yeah, but you can break your bones playing tennis, too. Or skiing. Or just slipping on the sidewalk. Better to stay on the couch playing video games, but then you’ll just die of heart failure, na’mean?
Still it’s salty to get hurt doing something silly. No one is paying us to play, after all. And bike polo is pretty silly in the scheme of things.

This is a rad knee brace. I want to tear my ACL just so I have some sweet new accessories.
This is a rad knee brace. I want to tear my ACL just so I have some sweet new accessories.

Speaking of doing something dangerous for no pay, I was watching a lot of college football over the holiday. I noticed almost all the linemen on the top teams are wearing custom DonJoy knee braces painted to match the school colors. A lot of wrist guards too. We need to get bike polo represented in the NCAA. Fuck, BBP’s court in Allston is right in the shadow of Harvard’s football stadium and we can’t get a fucking cent of that endowment loot? Gotta be kidding me.

The root of the word amateur is the Latin for lover. He who does a thing for the love of it. Here at BBP we decided as a club to retire the term “pro”. It had come to stand for too much perhaps. The distinction between the top players and the rest. Created tensions between veterans and rookies. Every rigged mallet shuffle became a slight to one pro or another. Pro night is for pros only. Get a pro bike. Go pro. $60 mallets, etc.

It was about time we stopped pretending to be pros. We are a bunch of sorry amateurs. That’s fine though. All are welcome to join us.

Taking Advantage of the Offseason

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.*

  1. 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.

    And take copious notes so you can remember what you decided for your offseason in the first place. Sometimes we’re a little too 420 friendly and stuff falls through the cracks ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
  2. 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)
  3. 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.
  4. Be jealous of everyone who is going to play hott polo at the tournament in San Juan. Fuck you, you fucking fucks.
  5. 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.
  6. Have knife fights all the time.

*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

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.

HOLY SHIT – Assassins vs Beavers WHBPC13

Assassins vs Beavers

Assassins vs Beavers.

This is how bike polo is meant to be played. Hard-nosed, tough, physical and fast polo.

I can’t figure out how to embed the video into this post, so here’s the link: http://mrdovideo.com/2013/12/beavers-assassins/ ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°)

Here’s what I was watching for:

Koyo vs
Look at that sunset! Watching Koyo on the ball is like watching an American Bald Eagle poach a salmon out of the Mississippi River.

Ball handling. Koyo is a master at keeping the ball where only he can control it, specifically when he has a lot of momentum. I don’t think I saw him turn the ball over once. Do you know how incredible that is, to play the World Champions and never lose the ball? Teams that control the ball dictate the pace of the game. The Assassins play fast, take hard quick shots, and take a lot of calculated risks playing goal. This works out for them because they are positionally perfect; they don’t get caught behind the net or get beat at halfcourt. And to the Beavers credit, they are not dumb. They play tight, tenacious defense with a relatively soft forecheck and wait for the Assassins to shoot, taking advantage of the Assassins mistakes and creep into the offensive zone. That’s where they excel, pressuring the ball into the net.

LOL u r lookin the wrong way dood
LOL u r lookin the wrong way dood

Picks and setting up plays. The Beavers do it better than anyone. Whenever a Beaver feels pressure from any of the Assassins, they drop the ball to the last man back and pick that attacker off the ball. That’s phenomenally unselfish teamwork. Mediocre players want to streak down the court and force a shot into a wheelcover every time, but that’s not a great way to score goals. Great players are often patient and calm, waiting for a shot to present itself after the defense breaks down. That’s what happens at 2:55, Dillman slowly snakes his way into Assassins territory, draws Lefty Joe out of the goal with a deke, and shoves a limp dick goal into the net. It’s not very entertaining, but you can’t deny that it’s effective.

If Nick Kruse falls down in the forest and there's no one there to make fun of him, did  it really happen?
If Nick Kruse falls down in the forest and there’s no one there to make fun of him, did it really happen?

Bike handling. This is less important than controlling the ball or setting up picks, but holy shit these kids are great on their bikes. Obviously when you dab, you’re of no use to anyone on the court. This game displays a lot of smart hopping by both teams. Staying upright and turning towards the middle of the court is your best bet for creating or disrupting opportunities on the ball. My favorite example comes at 4:50, where Koyo takes an errant rip at the net and the rebound bounces out to the top of center court. Koyo is totally out of position, but he still uses his momentum to pivot turn on his front wheel and maintain possession of the ball. He then curves around down the left wall and takes a perfect backhand shot, resulting in a goal for the Assassins. Poetry in motion.

Thanks to Mr. Do for posting these incredible games on the internet and giving me something to do for an hour. I can only hope that some Boston players get on the internet so I can make fun of them, too. -ZS

The Art of Losing Gracefully

If you have played bike polo in your lifetime, you have been a loser.  If you continue to play bike polo, you will definitely lose again.
If you have played bike polo in your lifetime, you have been a loser.
If you continue to play bike polo, you will definitely lose again.

Losing sucks. It’s probably the second most shitty thing that can happen while playing polo, after breaking your scaphoid. There are only four different outcomes from a game of polo: your team wins, your team loses, both teams tie, or the game ends prematurely because someone broke his scaphoid. There are so many emotions that we have to deal with as players, and not to get all psychiatric or anything, but having the emotional maturity to deal with a tough loss is SUPER important when dealing with angry drunk bikers holding long aluminum sticks.

I’ve recently changed my perspective about losing (or as I like to call it, “not winning”), and while the pain of losing still stings like a nest of wasps, I am much more gracious than I used to be. I used to throw mallets and mean mug my friends and yell and scream like a little bitch. It was embarrassing in the purest sense of the word; embarrassing for my teammates, embarrassing for my club, and most of all embarrassing for me. I’m not proud of it, but I am man enough to admit that I can be a sore loser.

When you lose, don't be this guy.
When you lose, don’t be this guy.

The change I made is specific to the way I relate to the game in my head. I make a very conscious effort to remind myself that I have to be friends with everyone I played with when I get off the court. On the court, this means that I can’t make fun of my opponents stupid shirt, no matter how fucking stupid it is. I can’t cheat or be a dick or be unsportsmanlike, it is unbecoming of a newly elected NAH Eastside Representative. Most importantly, I can’t avoid tapping mallets and saying “good game” to the guys who beat me, and I definitely can’t avoid acknowledging the effort made by the guys on my team.

I am genuinely happy for anyone that scores a sick goal on me. Seriously! It fuels my fire. It makes me want to get better at defending shots, it shows me what I should do to prevent it from happening again, and it gives me and my team a chance to adjust and figure out what we can do to thrash the other team for the rest of the game. But no matter what happens with regards to the score, the tournament seeding, or the bracket standings, I will say that you did a great job and congratulate you on a good game.

I can only try to improve myself and my game. I can’t control the people around me. I want to win just as much as the other team, and while a loss is disappointing, it isn’t the end of the world. There will be other games, other tournaments, other players and other teams. As long as we keep playing bike polo, there will always be winners and losers. And in a way, none of us ever really win, we just do a little better each time. -ZS

This guy is a huge loser, but for a slightly different reason. Maybe it's his denim jacket & jeans combo. Maybe it's his extra long fu manchu. But it's probably just his dual-dildo sideways bike.
This guy is a huge loser, but for a slightly different reason. Maybe it’s his denim jacket & jeans combo. Maybe it’s his extra long fu manchu. But it’s probably just his dual-dildo sideways bike.

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

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”