Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bike Polo

Photo from Doug D.
I thought I was a good bike handler until I watched New York City's bike polo players in action. If you think that trackstanding at a stoplight on your road bike is hard, wait until you try reaching over your handlebars with a mallet, straining to reach the ball, while turning to avoid the wall of the court as an opposing player shoulders you and tries to swat your mallet away from the ball. Needless to say, the learning curve is such that it may be several games before you manage a shot on goal.

Bike polo has grown a lot in the past several years. I remember, four years ago, getting invited to a pick-up game somewhere on the East River. Two years ago, it really took off, and Sunday games drew crowds of bikers who would hang out, drink beer, and enjoy the day in Chinatown. These days, cities host tournaments for out-of-towners - there's a surprising National element to the game, complete with high-caliber rivalries and all. Of course, it's also got plenty of mainstream attention - an article in the New York Times and, I kid you not, a scene in a Cameron Diaz/Ashton Kutcher movie. This summer, my own Nana mailed me an article about bike polo from a newspaper in the small Vermont town where she lives, with a short note at the top: "This looks like something you'd be in to!"

It's been fun watching this sport develop, try and figure out the extent to which it should articulate its rules, while also watching the polo culture develop with a bit of tension between the developing athletecism and the desire to make polo welcoming for people of all skill levels. The folks at the helm are a pretty good bunch and it seems that polo's rising profile hasn't disrupted their ability to enjoy themselves (unlike what may have happened with alleycat racing). It's been a while since I've swung by the polo grounds to hang out and watch the play, and even longer since I've played, but maybe in the next week or two I'll get out there. Courtesy of NYC Bike Polo, here's a video of poloistas in action. Enjoy!

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