Lexington, KY: Midwest Open 4 Sure

I had a few “holy shit!” moments this weekend. It was never, “holy shit! I’m going to die!” or “holy shit! there’s Obama, where’s my healthcare!” It was more along the lines of, “holy shit! I’m on the road to Lexington, KY and I’m going to poop my pants with excitement!”


That's a dank wheelcover, kid.
That’s a dank wheelcover, kid. (photo: @thekaylastory)

I had never been to Kentucky and I was jazzed to get down there. I had heard legends of bourbon-fueled chaos and hardcore polo in Lexington, as the city is clearly the lynchpin that keeps the Eastside and Midwest polo regions together. It goes without saying I was super stoked for the games, the bourbon, and to see all the kids that are as addicted to polo as I am. In the weeks preceding the tournament I had been hearing rumors of brand new fully-lit courts and boards provided by the Lexington Parks Department, which was as baffling as it was tantalizing. Somehow these Lex kids tricked the city into cooperating with them, and I was going to reap the benefits of a fully torqued weekend of high-octane polo.



***I wrote a couple paragraphs about our road trip down to Kentucky, which was eventful but irrelevant. Skip down to the end if you want to read about it ;’) ***


Check out these courts, they look so fucking nice!
Check out these courts, they were so fucking nice! (photo: @willisvandamage)

Anyway, back to the polo. Pickup on Friday night was fantastic. I really can’t stress how awesome the new courts and boards are. The surface was incredibly grippy— almost no one slid out and the boards were wicked live, so all the rebounds bounced deep back into the crease. As more friends arrived, it turned into a PBR-crushing party until the lights went out. Afterwards we hit Al’s, the local dive bar, where I drank local beers until I couldn’t see straight and then I passed out on a futon in Irishtown, a small ghetto on the other side of Lexington. I woke up at 8am in a room full of new friends.  I blasted What’s New Pussycat? at full volume for several repeats until everyone was awake enough to tuck away their morning erections. Chris Simpson “cooked”  a shitty piece of steak and destroyed a fried egg for me, so I was ready to get on the court and smack some balls.


This dude thinks he can match my American flag hat game, but everyone I asked said my hat has much more character ;')
This dude thinks he can match my American flag hat game, but everyone I asked said my hat has much more character ;’) (photo: @bearcat2004)

Swiss rounds were awesome, as the morning bracket was full of really impressive talent. My favorite team to watch was Fuck’n Fat Chance, made up of Charlie Sprinkle and Daniel Sebring (Instagram: @sprinkskinks and @rimgrippers, respectively) and they had a great showing. I didn’t get to meet every player on every team, but of the kids I remember, The Grins (Jessi with Nick McLean) and the Green Beards (Hamersly and Nate) were clearly winners bracket contenders. We’re Just Partyin’ (Chris Simpson and Nic Maglio) knocked me around like a pinball on the court, and The Significant Otters (John Hayes and Nic Savage) were some of the most fun opponents I’ve faced in recent memory. The weather was beautiful and spirits were high. No one cried, everyone got laid, and the Spice Girls showed up and made out with everyone– it was crazy, you should have been there.


Later on, everyone ended up at Sidecar, a shitty bar physically attached to Al’s, and we all got shitfaced on $2 PBRs, $3 bud lite lime-a-ritas, and had a crazy karaoke sing-along. Nico Paris (@robo_nico) screamed Bohemian Rhapsody into my face, including the guitar solos, and everyone in the room felt his/her junk wiggle when a kid named AJ sang Let’s Get It On by Marvin Gaye. I considered breaking out my favorite R. Kelly songs, but in a very uncharacteristic move on my part I chickened out like a little bitch and slinked back to my futon in Irishtown to watch VHS tapes, most memorably Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze.


The rain didn't bother anyone, the courts were too nice and we were having too much fun to care.
The rain didn’t stop anyone from playing polo, the courts were too nice and we were having too much fun to care. (photo: @c0motimd)

The fun stopped temporarily on Sunday when it started to rain. There were tornado warnings screeching and the skies opened up and poured out like God’s vagina, so we all knew some serious shit was about to go down. Everyone got soaked, and not in a fun way. I didn’t pack at all for the rain and I was freezing my shaft off all morning. The games were too infrequent to keep my blood pumping so I hid out in the nearby rec center with the hot coffee. I got several cups and some dank maple bacon doughnuts with Kiki of Toronto (@kikiknots) from the local bakery / coffee roasters, North Lime coffee shop across the street from Al’s. The doughnuts were so dank that I felt the need to put it in writing; thinking about those doughnuts makes my peen swell. After my team was eliminated I reffed and timed a bunch of games, reminding everyone that we still had to be friends after this tournament’s winner was decided. It got chippy on the court, but it never got out of hand. You’re welcome, Lexington.

Her face says it all. Wicked dank doughnuts.
Her face says it all. Wicked dank doughnuts. (photo: @bearcat2004)

Unfortunately, we all know how this story ends: two Lexington-led teams ended up in the final match. The Grins forced a double final, and Drew of The Green Beards let in a heartbreaking own-goal in the second final game, forcing an overtime re-joust for a golden goal. The tournament ended when Nick McLean ripped a perfect shot, bulging the net, costing Nate’s team the trophy, the glory, and the fame (for the second time in three weeks). Everyone was very gracious, no one acted like a dick, and we made a solemn promise never to forget the events that transpired this weekend. It was very special.


I don’t mean to get all sentimental but I just don’t know how else to sum up this trip. Personally, I felt like I connected with a bunch of people that I didn’t give a fair chance in the past. And that’s really what I love about bike polo; I feel like we’re all constantly growing up and balancing out. This sport has forced me to become more understanding of myself and more in tune with others. I can more effectively balance out my aggression and passion, and I can see what connects my friends to each other and to their friends in other clubs. Ok, now that all that mushy bullshit is out of my system, I’m going to go to pickup and knock some rookies off their bikes. See you next time, Lexington! -ZS






This is obviously super illegal but how else were we supposed to get back on the road? CSDees is a hero.
This is obviously super illegal but how else were we supposed to get back on the road? CSDees is a hero. (photo: @bearcat2004)

***At 11:30pm on a Thursday, Colin Scott Dees (@CSDEES) picked me up in his ancient 1990 Audi and we hauled ass out of Boston. As a newly appointed NAH Eastside Rep, I was exhausted from my responsibilities so I fell asleep pretty much instantly. After a few wrong turns in New Jersey, we made it to Crown Heights in Brooklyn around 4am where we bodysnatched Nate Mumford (@nate_mumford) and all his gear. So now that all three of us were in the same car, we kicked off our bro-road-trip towards Kentucky. We were the only three Northerners heading to Lexington for this tournament and that was about all that we had in common. It was nice to pick their brains about how their clubs work, how they approach the game, and what they look for in teammates. However, as soon they started talking about cyclocross I fell the fuck asleep and drooled all over myself, because that shit is boring.

Aww, he sleeps sitting up and pees sitting down.
Aww, he sleeps sitting up and pees sitting down. (photo: @bearcat2004)

Now I am not a religious man, but I thank God for troopers like Colin. This dude drove 18 straight hours all the way from Boston to Lexington, stopping only a few times to roll a splif and eat a banana. I was astonished that he didn’t ask me or Nate for any help with the driving at all, and believe me, we offered. To be fair, his shitty old car was full of quirks— our phones kept dying as there was no place to stick in a phone charger, and we ran out of gas on the goddamn highway because of a faulty gas gauge. But Colin took full responsibility: he assembled one of the bikes in the trunk, rode the wrong way down the highway for a mile to the nearest gas station, and filled an emptied gallon jug water bottle with enough fuel to get us back on the road. He’s a peach, and I wish him nothing but happiness and wealth for the rest of his days. Also I hope he gets a better car.***

Polo Incognito – Bullying in Bike Polo

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.