Stories, Tips

Bully Polo: We Don’t Have Time, Move Over

December 2, 2014

I’m a sensitive guy. I’ll admit it. I get choked up at some commercials, will blubber at films, and have spent the better part of an afternoon sobbing on my bed after reading the last line of Love in the Time of Cholera. It’s part of my character (the blubbering sensitive part, I guess).

Being as sensitive as all that, I’ll also say that I’m very well aware of when other people are, you know, trying to get under my skin or, probably more likely, just being jerks.

There are many groups within bike polo, so making the ol’ “there are two kinds of people” won’t work here, but I will say this: there is a subculture in our sport that fosters the devil-may-care, I-don’t-give-a-shit-about-you sort. Folks who try to hurt you when playing just to hurt you, who try to make you feel small afterwards, and who, generally, don’t give a damn about your feelings.

But I’m going to lay it on the line, here: you can only be so badass when you’re playing a sport like ours. Let’s get real about this. None of us are that far outside of being a bunch of bike nerds playing a fringe sport. That’s just how it is. To lord yourself over another player because you think they aren’t part of your core group is just silly. It’s middle school antics, and we don’t have time for it.

Out of all the tourneys I’ve been to, it’s probably only happened three times or so: where a small group of people are viciously (not for funsies) yelling at refs or yelling at the other team or being mean spirited. It’s lame, and everyone who isn’t in that small bullying group doesn’t find it all that helpful. It’s also kinda weird for our sport, as we are generally such trusting, lovey-dovey sorts.

Bike polo is evolving, as much as it ever does, and for my part I believe the folks who try to stand in the way of other folks–the folks who try to pull others down–aren’t going to have a place at the table soon enough. Our sport is really big on inclusion and good feelings (we’re all nerds, after all), and those who are against that are going to come up against a pretty significant brick wall in the coming years. Sportsmanship is a huge thing in our sport, lest we forget the first rule of bike polo.

I’m not free in this jaw-waggling attack, either. I have been, at times, the aggressor in situations where someone was new to a group or an easy target, and I attacked. It’s easy to be a jerk, it really is. It’s by far much harder to be friendly.

So if you find you often judge your performance at tourneys by how much you can tear someone else down, go ahead and start a new sport or just make a “We’re cooler than you” version of bike polo to play with the other 20 people who think that way in North America. We’ll wish you well on your way out.


Liam’s NAH Bench Championship Photos

December 1, 2014
nah bench championship tiff

Blazing the trail of hardcourt bike polo photography, Liam Gilson once again wows us with his amazing photos. This time Gilson comes through with amazing shots from the 1st NAH Bench Championship in Lexington, Kentucky. You can find his bench team portraits HERE and his action shots HERE. Enjoy!

Other than Polo

Urban Velo Goes Out of Print: Thanks for Everything

December 1, 2014

Brad of Urban Velo always intimidated me a bit as a writer. Whereas I was plunking around with this little blog, he was really building (or, by the time I met him at a Philly ESPI, had already built) an empire around writing about bikes. Troy Young challenged me to go over and talk to him–to tell him about my blog and see if he needed a writer for it–and as I was more scared of his disapproval than I was about seeming like a nerd, I did approach Brad to introduce myself.

Actually…now that I think about it, I can’t remember if it was Jeff or Brad. I want to say it was Brad. I don’t know.

Anyway, I spoke and BradJeff gave me his card and that was that. Fast forward a few years and you have where the game really started playing out.

Brad reached out to me with a proposition: I give him articles for Urban Velo (at this point, for the online pub), and he’d give me sweet, sweet money. I mean good money for writing, especially good for writing about bike polo. I tried in earnest to create unique content for UV while I still made content for my blog, too. Brad was altogether fantastic: never pressuring me into writing, never telling me what I wrote wasn’t right or needed work. I just came up with a formula and he supported me, adding a good credential to what I was doing at Lancasterpolo.

Then Worlds 2013 came up, and Brad came to me with another proposition: he’d pay for me to go to Florida if I’d provide him with a  longer story about the event. I couldn’t believe it.

I mean, I just want you to consider what this was: someone from a great bike mag was paying for me to travel to the World Championship of Bike Polo to cover it. I felt amazing. I felt valuable.

So I go and do my thing, and I send it to Brad who says “this isn’t what I was looking for,” but in such a sweet way that I’m anxious to rewrite it exactly how he wants, which I manage to do on my next try. I get to see my story in print and online, I get to help contribute to a great publication, and that’s that.

When I write that it pains me to see Urban Velo close down their print magazine, I want you to understand that it’s not just overstating a small emotion: it does bother me. It bothers me that this publication–which has given me so much and promoted me and this blog–is going to close down the mag.

Anyway, a lot of rambling to say: thanks, Urban Velo. Thanks Brad and Jeff. You did good by me, and I won’t ever forget that.