I, Nic Turiciano, hear the word â€œpoloâ€ and think of horses, money, shirts that squeeze biceps, mallets and balls. I have trouble relating. Throw the word â€œbikeâ€ in front of it, and it changes the meaning a bit.
My co-columnist Kate and I brought our bikes â€“â€“ skinny tires, fixed gear â€“â€“ to the north side of City Park last Wednesday ready for something new. There, sandwiched between two peewee football teams sat polo player Kevin Buecher ready to greet me.
His bike lay at his feet. Its large mountain tires and switched around brakes told me that I was ill prepared. The rest of the players soon showed up and with slight hesitation Buecher handed me a mallet.
Bike polo for the uninformed
Buecher and his friends make up the northern chapter of bike polo. Their team plays on grass, while another team on the south side of town plays on concrete. The mallets used to play are simple and are comprised of ski poles and PVC pipe.
The two most important rules for the north side team are: 1. You must â€œcircle out,â€ or ride your bike out of an attempted play if your foot leaves your pedal, and 2. Respect your fellow players.
The north team formed three years earlier, when Ryan Guillame brought the game back with him from Durango, where he first became involved in bike polo. His father, Michael Geome, plays along with them. According to the other players, Geome is the MVP.
Thrown to the wolves
Unfortunately, Kate had a bike accident earlier in the day and was unable to participate, as much as she wanted to.
I was struggling to get into my pedalsâ€™ cages when someone screamed, â€œPolo!â€ The two opposing sides quickly clashed. At first I just circled the group trying to wrap my head around the whole ordeal.
I finally worked up the gumption to make a play for the ball and came in from the fringes of the field. Playersâ€™ bikes were near grazing each other, mallets were missing their targets and players were falling to the grass. Yet it all seemed controlled.
The ball skirted out of the main pack and stopped its roll just in front of me. I approached with feet spinning, one hand on the bike and the other swinging the mallet like a pendulum.
My mallet missed the ball wide, and my eagerness to succeed caused me to torque my front wheel sideways. I fell to the ground as a heaving mess. My moment of glory would have to wait.
Bike polo: Older than your mother
Bike polo was originally an Olympic sport in the early 1900s, Buecher said. Since then, a revival of the sport has taken place, with chapters popping up all over the country.
Buecherâ€™s team participates in tournaments with surrounding leagues and encourages others to stop by and try the sport out, as there are always extra mallets available. Stay tuned for the north sideâ€™s upcoming tournament, and if youâ€™re interested in playing, the team meets at 6 p.m. Sundays and Wednesdays at City Park.
Back to the game
My fall dealt a weighty blow to my confidence. I went back to my original duty of being useless in the back of the field. I stood there, mallet supporting my body but not my pride, when the ball once again flew from the pack and landed in front of me.
If ever a moment of glory was handed to me on a golden platter, this was it. The ball was in front of me and the goal, a straight shot. I weaseled up to the target and timidly swung my mallet. This time I didnâ€™t miss and the ball rolled in between the orange cones.
I heard a few cheers, possibly even a â€œcongratulations,â€ called out from behind me. I couldnâ€™t hide the pride I felt when I pulled up next to my team, expecting smiles and warm remarks. The looks on their faces, however, informed me that this was not the team I had scored a point for.
Staff writers Nic Turiciano and Kate Bennis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.