It is no secret to any of you that I am an extreme fan of bike polo. I skip meals for polo, I quit bike tours for polo, I’d move for bike polo. And I know exactly where I would go: London, England.
“But you already live there, you thickhead,” you say. But I leave for Bilbao tomorrow and must say goodbye to this wonderful city. Carla and I once had a short conversation about why I enjoy London. “Why do you like London so much? Is it-”
“Um….well…Not really. Just mostly polo.”
This is world-class polo in London. Guadalajara was fantastic. Bilbao had enough to play with. It was a struggle to find players in Ashland, but still lots of fun. And I’ve loved playing in every city I’ve gone to for quick pick-ups. Of course, Portland will always be home, but Portland can’t do what London can.
With the city split in two by the Thames there are organized pick-ups 6 days a week, and often 7 days a week. And each region has something different to offer and reviles the other. The Northern Phoenix have a more competitive nature and a drive to improve the game while the Southern Dragons are more about having a good time on good courts. The northerners are like Portlanders, huffy and proud, while the southerners are like the rest of the States, just kickin’ it.
But the most amazing thing is the London League. With each region comes a regular squad of at least 30 people. Plus there are the scattered newbies. The massive amount of people gives the opportunity to create a proFESSional league. There was a draft, there are refs, goal refs, time refs, official rules. I mean, it’s a real sport now. Plus, the game of polo is shifting towards Bench Minor. Up until recently polo has been 3 vs. 3 because that’s as many people as you could fit on a court and that’s how many people showed up. But now that the sport is growing there is the possibility of having proper teams. The Bench Minor League in London is 6-person squads playing hour-long games. The level of competition and camaraderie alone makes it more fun, but now the dynamic and strategy of the game is different and evolved.
I’m leaving my team just as we are sitting at the top of the league, undefeated and glorious. But worse is I’m saying goodbye to my friends, which London does in an insane style. The Tap Out.
Last night it was me vs. everyone. 15 people lined up on one end of the court while I sat scared and shivering on my end. The trick is they don’t get mallets. So their strategy is to bash the hell out of me and keep me away from the ball while they dink around with it. However they are really good at it. Couple scrapes and bruises later. London won 4-2.
Goodbye London. Can’t wait till we meet again.