In-CREASE-ing Polo’s Entertainment Value

February 11, 2014

DSC_0219If you look closely you can see the Wingman II’s use of a crease.

I know it’s a major goal of the NAH, Mr. Do, and several of us as individuals to help the sport develop into a mainstream sport. While hardcourt bike polo may never sit next to the Big Five (Basketball, Soccer, Football, Baseball, and Hockey), we would love for it to gain a following to the likes professional skateboarding or roller derby. Just today I saw an advertisement for an upcoming Roller Derby match here in Portland on the back of a bus. If hardcourt bike polo wants this recognition we obviously need to do more to develop rules, reffing, and tournament structure alike (which are all definitely taking place under the current NAH lineup, and it gives me great hope). And as our sport develops I must beg the question, is it appropriate to create rules for the simple fact of making our sport more interesting for spectators? When creating new rules, the NAH’s number one concern would/should be player safety, so I’m not saying that we should consider allowing fighting on the court to draw fans, like in the case of Ice Hockey, but what does comes to mind is the idea of a crease to prevent boring triple goalie strategy and what roll the NAH should play in making the sport more entertaining.

When the NAH conducted their 2014 Rule Modifications survey back in November, they asked the simple question “Should we define a crease?” For this question the most votes (186 in total) went to the answer “No crease should exist”, followed by “A larger crease should exist to prevent physical contact with the defender who is ‘goaltending’ AND eliminate ‘double goalies’ by requiring movement/prohibiting stationary players” with 152 votes. “A smaller crease should exist to prevent physical contact with the defender who is ‘goaltending’, until the point the ball enters the crease. This would not eliminate ‘double goalies’” and “A crease should exist that prohibits stationary players but does not prevent any type of physical play on the ‘goaltender’ or any other player” brought up the rear with 101 and 69 votes, respectively.

It doesn’t take a mathematician to understand that while “No Crease” had the most individual votes; more people thought it would be beneficial to include a crease in the 2014 ruleset than those who didn’t.  The NAH is ran by very competent people who understand basic deductive reasoning as well as basic addition, so it came as a surprise to many that no crease was introduced in the 2014 ruleset. In talking to NAH’s Head of Rules Committee, Nick Kruse, as well as NAH’s Head of Reffing, Joe Rstom, the overarching reason for leaving out a crease was the introduction of the interference rule.  As mentioned above, the NAH’s main concern is player safety, so they felt that the interference rule would protect the goalie enough that a crease would not be necessary. Rstom recently posted on League of Bike Polo that “We (NAH) had a crease rule written, and it was very long and complex. We (NAH) opted to leave it out this time around, in favor of a slightly less long and complex interference rule (as that would protect the goalie).”

While the NAH did develop rules to protect the goalie thusly allowing them to omit a potentially complicated crease, they neglected to address the other half the number one reason people wanted a crease: preventing the double goalie. The new interference rule not only protects the goalie, it also prevents a team’s enforcer from riding in, breaking up the extra coverage, and allowing their attacker to get in close for a shot. To put this in terms created by Christian Losciale in the amazing article for Lancaster Polo entitled What’s Your Polo Style? The Turtle a.k.a Triple Goalie style will be even more effective now that enforcers on teams who use the Three-Cog strategy are no longer allowed to clear the way for their goal scoring attacker. By allowing the Turtle strategy to become more effective on the court, we will undoubtedly see it used more this season, thusly making a step backwards in the spectator entertainment value of hardcourt bike polo.

The NAH rules survey was released shortly after I had arrived home from Worlds, and my mind was still clouded with the boring images of Turtle style of play so I voted for a large crease to protect the goalie and prevent double goalies.  Thinking about it now, this is the only proposed rule that limits a specific style of play purely for entertainment reasons, but if NAH wants the sport to gain spectators it’s important for them to implement it. In his article, Losciale argues that the Tic-Tac style of play is the most entertaining strategy because “the team functions as a unit to try to score. The whole court gets used, quite creatively when pro Tic-Tackers are on it. Also, it’s risky. One misplaced pass can cater itself to an opponent’s breakaway. For some reason, audiences — of movies, rodeos, WWE Pay-Per-Views, etc. — love the thrill of a risk.” and I couldn’t agree more with this idea. So if the NAH wants to promote a more entertaining sport for spectators, with the hopes of gaining a bigger public following, they need to encourage Tic-Tac style strategies and prevent Turtle style from becoming the prominent force on the court. I appreciate the interference rule and the way it protects the goalie (I think it was a much needed rule), but if we really want the entertainment value of the sport to flourish NAH must mandate a crease.