Editorial, Interview, Player Profile

Meet your World’s Refs: Zach Blackburn

November 4, 2013

The second ref we want to introduce you to is Zach Blackburn. A long time veteran to the sport, I’m sure many of you know him, but as the ref for the 2012 and 2013 World Championship finals, we feel you should get to know ref Zach.

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321Polo: What is your home club?
Blackburn: NYC, home of the first worlds champions (2008, Toronto)

321Polo: How long have you been playing bike polo?

Blackburn: Since 2005, back when it was a drinking game and we just circled out for a dab

321Polo: When was the first time you reffed at a tournament?
Blackburn: I think the World Champs in Geneva (2012) was the first time I actually signed up for the job. I vaguely remember holding a whistle before then, I don’t remember where.

321Polo: What do you think of fans heckling you?
Blackburn: It must mean I’m making too much of an impression on the game. The match and the fans should be focused on the players, it shouldn’t be about what the ref is doing. That said, any true fan isn’t going to like a call against the team they’re rooting for, no matter how deserved.

321Polo: Are there any major changes you hope to see in the reffing world next year?
Blackburn: I can think of a few. In fact, I can think of a couple hundred. I wish NAH would let me rewrite the rule set to make it a bit more readable, and also to close up a couple glaring omissions: like being able to check someone that’s trying to get out of play. Unless they’re in the way they shouldn’t be able to get blasted while heading to tap in because if they protect themselves in any way they’re effecting the game, and thus, get penalized. Also the goalie shouldn’t be fair game for getting checked into the net, they’re in a vulnerable position while standing there and should deserve more respect than being an easy target for elbows and shoulders. The rule against throwing your mallet should include strategically dropping it. The requirements for possession of the ball should be more specific. With the way it was interpreted in Minneapolis this year it was possible to score while having a delayed penalty against you because refs weren’t blowing the whistle until the offending team was controlling the ball for a couple seconds. I was just dreading the moment that someone one-timed it in the net and the shit show that would follow. The high sticking penalty also got out of hand at NA’s. Luckily we didn’t have a rash of sticks-to-the-face at Worlds, but all we needed to do was just take out “attempts” from the stupid rule that says you can’t “attempt to contact the ball above the shoulders etc etc”. It would have been so simple to just say, if you hit the ball over your shoulders you’ll get it turned over. If you hit an opponent with your mallet up, you’re going to get the book thrown at you. Kev got hit twice in the same game by a stray mallet! He had to deal with a minor face injury for the whole tournament, so the offending team should have at least had someone in the box for 2 min or until Kev’s team scored. If that had happened after the first incident, I highly doubt he would’ve been caught a second time up high. Make a big enough deterrent, and people will be a lot more careful about where they’re swinging.

Video

Watch MalletheadZ Now!

October 31, 2013
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Sorry to say, this article is not about the infamous bike polo product company. Womp, womp. Instead, we are advertising the bike polo documentary that was filmed last year in Colorado. A film crew followed the Durango, Colorado grass polo team, The MalletheadZ, as they headed to Denver, Colorado to compete in their first hardcourt bike polo competition.

After a summer of taking the film to festivals, yesterday director Tom Donley decided to post the documentary on his Vimeo page. Clocking in at 30:41, this short documentary is worth your time!

Check it out here:

Product

Channel your inner Warlock

October 30, 2013

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Down in Florida at the 2013 World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship, Magic Bike Polo debuted their new tournament head. Just like the other themed named heads, this new one is appropriately named Warlock. Weighing in at 90 grams, Warlock is looking to conjure spells on the court that allow players to hit harder, scoop easier, and win more games. While this may be heavier than other “tournament” heads on the market, that shouldn’t turn you away from giving this head a try! Unlike other tournament heads, the Warlock has an outer diameter of 2.6 inches. In a game where heavy accurate shots can be the final deciding factor between two teams, it’s important to have more surface area on the head to contact with the ball.

Magic Bike Polo sold out of these heads at Worlds, and I’m sure for good reason. But no worries, the Warlock is back in stock and ready for you to build up. Head on over to the Magic Bike Polo website to pick one or two or three up!

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Editorial, Interview, Player Profile

Meet your World’s Refs: Bruce Wahl

October 29, 2013
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This is the beginning of a mini-series where we will be introducing you to the top notch people that slayed from the ref stand at Worlds. We will be focusing on the four refs that took us through the finals as the tournament dwindled from four courts to two. On the Republic/Origin 8 court we had Zach Blackburn and Robin Cunningham, while on the Chunk court we had Joe Rstom and Bruce Wahl. The first ref we will be introducing you to is Bruce Wahl. Poloverse, meet Bruce Wahl.

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321Polo: What is your home club?
Wahl: My home club is the Mankato Blue Skunk Bike Polo Club.

321Polo: How long have you been playing bike polo?

Wahl: I’ve been playing for three years

321Polo: When was the first time you reffed at a tournament?
Wahl: The first time I officiated was at this year’s North American Championships in Minneapolis.

321Polo: What do you think of fans heckling you?
Wahl: Personally, fan heckling doesn’t bother me. It comes with the territory and my expectations are that I will be hassled in each and every match that I officiate. Just like in all sports, spectators have their bias towards a team so whether or not you make a right or wrong call, it will always and forever be scrutinized. As a referee you simply need to focus and be resolute on each and every call despite the persistent badgering from onlookers.

321Polo: Are there any major changes you hope to see in the reffing world next year?
Wahl: I believe there are many things we can do in bike polo to help facilitate a better environment for consistent officiating. One, I feel strongly that our sport needs multiple referees officiating a match. As a head referee it is extremely difficult to see everything that is going on off ball and extra sets of eyes would be paramount in catching important infractions that are potentially changing the outcome of games. A repetitive issue at Worlds was it was increasingly harder and harder to catch infractions near and around the net. With so many bicycles stacked within that area that I feel goal judges need to be trained referees with the capability to blow a play dead and make a call which would be hard or almost impossible for the head referee to see. So in a perfect world I think a match of bike polo needs a referee crew of at least 4 to 5 officials. There are also things within the rule set that I would like to see changed to make our jobs as referees easier but that’s another can of worms for another day. Ultimately, I would also like to see the referees get compensated for their time. I realize our sport isn’t gushing with money but if you want an individual to be dedicated to something that is demanding as officiating, you need to pay them. Personally, I enjoy officiating bike polo but I would much rather be enjoying a beverage and cheering on the teams when I travel to beautiful places such as Minneapolis or Florida. Make it worth my while to referee a game because I’m missing out on being a fan which I was first and foremost before I picked up the whistle. The final thing I would like to see in the referee world is more participation. More referees will lead to better play across the country at local tournaments and qualifiers, which in turn will create a better brand of clean, beautiful bike polo.

Editorial

The Best and Worst of Worlds 2013

October 25, 2013

Worst #3: Lack of Food
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I felt that the World’s organizers did an amazing job setting up, running and maintaining the tournament. The shuttles to and from the court and airport were a perfect touch that amateur organizers would have just over looked. It made it easy and cost efficient for players stay with their friends and get to and from the court. But the one area where the organizers fell through was with food. For a tournament without food in biking distance (and no, a concession stand does not count), the organizers should have budgeted and arranged to feed the players. Donuts and coffee were a nice morning treat but it doesn’t sustain throughout the day. Just a note for next year’s major tournament organizers, make sure you feed the players!

Worst #2: Fighting
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One reason that I fell in love with hardcourt bike polo had to do with the fact that it seemed like the punk rock of sports. The sport seemed to push for punk rock ideals like unity and community, and it checked all jock-bro attitudes at the door. For this reason, it disappoints me to see this side of the players come out on the court. At Worlds I can recall three fights/near fights, and that is three too many for hardcourt bike polo. I understand that this is an intense sport and all of the players let their emotions run while fighting to win, but that’s not an excuse to punch someone, get off your bike and shove someone, or anything else of the alike. If you want to play a sport where being a jock is cool, take up adult softball or MMA.
Worst #1: Volunteers
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I completely understand the lack of volunteers for the Wild Card. Most of the main tournament players were at the beach, on fan boat rides, doing bathsalts, or whatever else one typically does while in Florida. I understand not wanting to attend an extra day at the courts while you’re trying to enjoy your vacation. Where I start to get confused is with the morning bracket of the first day of the main tournament. Several of the afternoon bracket teams showed up early to watch their competition and several of the Wild Cards teams that didn’t make it were in attendance, yet that morning bracket went two hours + over time because no one would step up and help out. This is a sport for and by us, and without everyone taking 20 minutes of their time to goal judge, time keep, etc. for a couple games, then we will continue to have afternoon brackets games get cut off and restart the next day. STAND UP AND HELP OUT!

Best #3: Volunteers
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With all of our disappointment in the lack of volunteers, we are ever grateful and truly impressed with those that did help out. Jerod Walz, Chandel Bodner, Danny Wood, Britt Willey, Zach Blackburn, Bruce Wahl, Joe Rstom, Max Power, Charley Berry, Brandon Carter, Donnie Pepper, Jordan Bailey, Matt Kabik, Nic B, Meg Lee, Megan Mazzei, Robin Cunningham, and others that are escaping my brain right now. All of these people deserve emails, Facebook messages, phone calls, texts, etc. thanking them for being awesome and putting in a lot of their free time to help make the 2013 World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championship run smoothly. From 321Polo, Thank you all so much! You all made this the most amazing World’s yet!

Best #2: GATOR BEES!
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If you’re allergic to bee stings, then you will probably disagree with me on this one, but Gator Bees is one of the most badass (yes, I still use badass as an adjective) I’ve ever heard of. I remember when Chandel made the announcment to stay away from the Gator Bees. I was on the court getting ready to play a game and she could barely get the sentence out of her mouth without cracking up. Walking around the tournament, I heard so many people talking about the Gator Bees. The imagery in my head for Gator Bees is never ending, and I hope to see several teams in the coming season to be named Gator Bees. It’s such a fun phrase to say in a hick accent, so announcers at any tournament will have fun with that one.

Best #1: The Austrailians
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I feel in love with Ollie Wykeham after the 2012 Worlds in Geneva. And shortly afterwards, I feel in love with Ned and Scotty from the Australian championship team Not A Single Fuck Given. All of these guys know how to make polo fun. These are the guys you will see partying later than you, partying harder than you, and then get on the court and beat your team the next day. And after they beat you, they will give you a hug and be your best friends. These are the people that I was most looking forward to seeing again at this tournament and the ones that I most look forward to seeing again soon. I know I’m not the only one  who feels this way, either. I’ve seen several Facebook statuses and Instagram pictures where people express the impact that these three, and all of the other Australians, had on their trip. Thank you all for the Edison’s chant that is forever in our brains. Thank you all for being amazing people.

(Thank you to ILIKEMAX, ButtCrackJenny, MakeItADeal, TP6017, ddubddub, and tomlinhood for photos)