NAH Bench Champs – Where does your club stand?


As you know, NAH announced that they will be hosting a NAH Club Bench Championship. Basically, the 12 top polo clubs in North America will be traveling to Lexington, KY this fall to find out who is the best. The catch: clubs will be invited based on their 2014 NAH Series Rankings. In each of the NAH qualifiers, and at the NAHBPC, players will earn points for their club.

For the  ranking at the NAH qualifying series players will earn the following points: 1st : 10 Points; 2nd: 7 points; 3rd: 5 points; 4th: 4 points; 5th: 3 points; 7th: 2 points; <7th 1 point.

At the NAH Championships players will earn the following points: 1st: 50 points; 2nd: 35 points; 3rd: 23 points; 4th: 15 points; 5th: 10 points; 7th: 7 points; 9th: 5 points; 13th: 4 points; 17th: 3 points, <17th: 2 points.

It may not seem like it, but 12 clubs is a lot. Obviously, clubs with teams advancing to and performing well at Nationals have the advantage. However, clubs that roll deep but don’t necessarily have podium teams will squeeze smaller squads out.

The top spots will surely be taken by the historically top performing clubs, aka Cascadia: Seattle, East Van, Portland. San Fran will be a gimme because of The Beavers and that other handsome team from Cali.  But the rest are up for grabs.

I was hecka curious to see what the spread looked like, especially with big dreams for Boston’s future in bench league. So I nerded out HELLA and tabulated up the stats from the 2103 qualifier. Heres what it looked like:

(Note that I accounted for a few small “changes” from the NAHBPC 2013 results: Seattle gets the commish, Chicago gets Lomax, San Francisco gets the Beavers(duh), Boston is fanged, Porch gets the rad caps 2x points bonus, Emmet doesn’t count and as well as few other low point transfers from folks’ relocation.)

EDIT 3-18-14 13:00: Greg Valentine has been moved from CHI to ATX. Woadie’s city points go to EVAN.


2013 NAH City Ranking
City City Rank City Points City Players
SEA 1 218 19
SF 2 179 10
EVAN 3 49 5
ATX 4 37 9
PDX 5 32 3
BOS 6 24 6
TO 7 23 6
OTT 8 21 6
LEX 8 21 4
SKN 10 15 3
NYC 10 15 5
TLH 10 15 6

Rad! Get top 3 and secure your club an invite. For all other clubs, it is a toss up. You  will be rewarded for bringing a whole bunch of players (Austin), for bringing only a few if they kill it (E.Van & PDX), or if you do both (Seattle). And don’t forget about the sleeper clubs that couldn’t make it to their qualifier last year. Either way, I’m stoked to see what the points totals will look like in 6 months from now.

If you’re interested, please help contribute so we can get a full season of stats by adding your regional qualifier using the attached spreadsheet. Just replace the proper existing cells with your results, and you can send it back to me [aminott(at)]. I’ll keep the updated tallys attached to this post.
EDIT 3-18-14 13:00: CASCADIA Quals has been added. I will update cumulative totals once all qualifiers are tabulatedClick for excel spreadsheet

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.

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.