Cover photo: Photography By Erick
I wondered if watching Knoxville Hardcourt Bike Polo‘s Polloween Tournament would be like watching the movie 300. Only King Leonidas would be on a bike screaming, “This is Spartaaaaaaa! Tonight we dine in hell!”
Sure there were some spills and thrills, but nothing like a bloody army battle. A bike polo match consists of two teams of three players each. The first team to score 5 goals wins the match. At the Polloween Tournament, players from Tennessee and North Carolina enjoyed a friendly match-up, not in hell, but at North West Middle School’s recreation area. They also dined on grilled hotdogs.
Tennessee bike polo clubs have formed in Memphis, Nashville, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. Knoxville team captain Sean Messamore says “No one is too aggressive. The number one rule is: Don’t be a dick. Players can engage in ‘like kind’ contact, like an elbow jab for an elbow jab. Also, we don’t strictly follow the NAHBPC rules for bike polo. We have sword fights with our mallets just for fun. Beginners are welcome to join us. We try to practice twice a month. Bike polo is too rough to play with your good bike. Most of us have purchased bike frames and have built our own custom bikes.”
Messamore says,” While bike polo is awkward for beginner players, it’s still easy to fall in love with the game.”
Maintaining your balance (feet can’t touch the ground) while coming to a quick stop, being stuck in a corner, quickly changing directions, cycling while using the mallet to maneuver the ball, all while trying to avoid collisions with other players makes this a physically and mentally challenging sport. Acquiring all these skills will make you a bad ass Zen Master of the court.
Contact with pavement, handlebars, and wheels can cause serious injuries. Falling on top of handlebars can lead to groin and inner thigh injuries. At a past game in Asheville, a player suffered a punctured lung after a high-speed collision and tumble on the handlebars.
Wheels are another danger zone. Jackson Mutsu, a seven year bike polo veteran from Asheville, once fell and broke several fingers after his fingers got caught in someone’s rear wheel. “Hands getting run over is a common injury,” he says.
Helmets with full face guards are highly recommended. Other safety gear includes padded gloves, elbow and knee pads, and shin guards.
The philosophy of seeking forgiveness instead of asking permission first has resulted in mixed results for teams looking for courts. The Ashville team has been kicked out of three different locations. Players are attracted to abandoned or underused parking lots. The less said about this, the better.
Jocularity abounds in the international world of bike polo. From team logos and mottos, to costumes and lingo, spirited bike polo players and fans enjoy the camaraderie forged from this dangerous and exciting sport.
Knoxville’s Poloween tournament prizes were tiny trophies, fake mustaches, and small change. A decorative jack-o-lantern and costumes were also part of the mix. Only the irreverent Asheville team had a team motto: Bikes, Beers, Blunts, and Babes.”
Get a Room (heckle)
When two players on opposing teams are tangled/snarled in a stalemate on their bikes on the court, like two lovers entwined
The Loose Shorts Rule (fact)
When an incident occurs on court and no one is sure who is at fault, the person wearing the looser shorts must take the blame. Where both parties are wearing equally tight shorts, the person with the longer shorts is deemed to be at fault. (Origin: Sydney, Australia)
Getting Pantsed (verb)
Getting beaten 5-0.
Horribly botched as in “that shot was scrotesque.”
Like Missy Elliot sang, “Boys, boys, all types of boys.”
Also, seeing female players hold their own on court. It makes us feel good.
The teams playing at Saturday’s tournament shared the same philosophy about goodwill and good times with other players. Jackson Matsu says, “We like to score goals, but if you miss a shot, it’s not a big deal. Players who are quick to get angry are usually quick to cool down.” Tara Lambias of Winston-Salem says, “At a past game, when an angry player sought retaliation against another player, everyone shouted at him to ‘chill’ and we gave him some hugs.” Hugs are frequently shared at the end of a match.
When players successfully instruct teammates on which positions and actions to take – it’s a beautiful thing to watch. Kind of like an aggressive ballet on bicycles. The Poloween players said some teams create their own language so opposing players can’t understand the instructions. Players are also quick to compliment and emulate another player’s killer techniques.
Knoxville Hardcourt Bike Polo fans and supporters also enjoy the camaraderie of the games.
Knoxville Hardcourt Bike Polo’s Second Annual Turkey Jam Bike Polo Extravaganza will be held at North West Middle School on Saturday, November 16. Players begin arriving at 11:00 a.m. Games to begin at noon. For more information please visit the team’s Facebook page.
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© Debra Dylan, 2013.