COG Polo Invite
by Captain Jake Newborn
MKE Bike Polo - Hero Squad
The state of the game of hard court bike polo, and the community as it stands now, is spreading like herpes at a Gloria Gaynor after-show party. If a team or player had the will, and the financial means, to play in a tournament every weekend this summer of 2009 it could be accomplished. The inception of the bikepolo.ca forum brought together a community that had been there just waiting for a way to connect all together, worldwide, in one place. The use of this online forum, as well as others, has allowed people from all over the world to find bike polo clubs in or near their city, advertise tournaments, and ask for advice on making mallets, bikes, or wheel guards. Don't forget the healthy dose of shit talking. At this point I believe every major (and more and more college towns and smaller cities) US, Canadian and European city has a club playing weekly pick up games on unused tennis courts, parking garages, or roller hockey rinks. Asia, Australia and South America boast burgeoning clubs as well.
Bicycle polo has grown into a community as many of the same players and teams show up at tournaments and sleep on floors, couches and yards of the hosting club's players. There are pick up games before, after, and during tournament weekends that give players a chance to play on a team with folks from other cities they normally wouldn't have a chance to play with. When traveling for other reasons, besides polo, players look up the local club and often make a point to stop by and play a few games either with their own or borrowed equipment. As a community, polo players want more people to try playing the sport and are always willing to let a rookie, newcomer, or out of town player borrow a mallet or bike to get on the court and experience the local flavor first hand.
The idea to host this tournament came in the winter of '08/ '09 after talking with Ben Schultz of Chicago Bike Polo. Seeing as Milwaukee had not hosted a large event as of yet, but had attended many of them, and hosted a few smaller tournaments we were excited to take on this project. We attempted to draw the best players and teams from different regions of the continent. In an effort to make sure the event allowed for maximum games played as well as attracting top teams from across the continent it was billed as an Invitational, and the word went out that Milwaukee was inviting the best of the best teams to compete for a prestigious title and kick ass prizes. Some people had initially, and may still; disagree at the idea of an "invite only" tourney, whereas most tournaments until then had been "open invite." At this juncture of the sport though it is getting difficult to plan and organize for the large number of teams wishing to play in tournaments. Some sort of pre-registration is almost becoming mandatory to make these tournaments run smoothly and within the time constraints of a single weekend. Not to say it isn't possible, Seattle seemed to have done a good job of it at the North American Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships, where almost 40 teams participated. I would hope that we didn't burn any bridges in making this decision and that the community understands the theory behind this reasoning.
By the morning of the first day we had 22 teams registered to play. Teams were split into two divisions and round robin style play began. An unusually cold and blustery wet day in June did little to dampen the spirit of the event as we played games on three courts in Kosciusko Park, around the corner from Milwaukee Bike Co. A mistake in scheduling the third court made for a slightly confusing first day of play, but in the end every team got to play a lot of games as everyone pulled together to sort out match ups and gather results to seed Sunday's double elimination bracket.
Sunday's weather was much better and everyone seemed to be just the right amount of hungover from the copious amounts PBR and shots of Jameson at the Irish Pub on Water Street downtown. Once the results from the previous day are tallied it doesn't take too long to put together the brackets. Double Elimination seems to be the favored format of bike polo tournaments. I am a proponent of it because if a tough match up happens early on the losing team still has a chance to fight their way out of the loser's bracket for a shot at the title. It also is a way to guarantee teams that came along way to play at least two games on the second day instead of just watching the whole day, or leaving for home early. It is in the spirit of camaraderie that I feel the 2nd day should be as inclusive as feasibly possible.
As Sunday wore on, the sidelines of the main court became more and more full, as teams got knocked out, but remained close to the action to see who would prevail. The cheers became more intense as players and spectators rooted for their favorite team and against others. After getting knocked out in the quarterfinals by our longtime rivals featuring a free agent hired gun, I was able to enjoy some cold ones without the worry of not getting too drunk to perform in a final game. It is a different mentality when you are organizing and trying to play. You are not only thinking about what your team is doing, or needs to do better. You are worrying about other teams being where they need to be, making sure the keg tap is working and, making sure there are designated goal refs and a timekeeper, and if the lights will cut out on you during the final match. I much prefer having other people handling that so I can think about how to win the next game, but it's a true labor of love and others tournament organizers have dealt with the same issues.
As the Shobiz Kids (featuring Eric Crandall, formerly of MKE now residing in PDX, Brian Thrillman current MKE player, and Drew PDX) lined up across from Ballz Deep (Pieter, Rory, and Chris) of East Vancouver for the final game I thought to myself " I wish we could all come back and do it again next weekend", but alas I'd have to wait three more weeks until Ottawa hosted the Northside Polo Invitational to see all these people again.