Hating on bike polo

Commentary on an Urban Sub-Culture.

A Boring Game.

Bike polo is a boring game.


It's boring to watch, and it's becoming increasingly boring to play. With little perceptive effort, one can see that the very structure of the game makes a liability of passing, creativity and flair.  The cumbersome turning radius of a bicycle, the inability to effectively move backward, the legality of moving picks and the inherent 3 on 2 offensive advantage favor speed and simplicity in all aspects of play. For those wishing to have your hobby taken seriously, I have sobering news for you.


No one will give a nano-shit about your 'sport' until it is more enjoyable to watch.


First and foremost, is the flaw inherent to the structure of the game. There are only three players on a team, and there are no designated goalies. With one of the defending players forced to sit net, the offensive team has a structural 3 to 2 advantage over their opponents.


Now add in the talentless and uninspiring effectiveness of the moving pick. What could be more trivial than getting in someone's way?

A three-toed sloth. Being far more entertaining than your average game of bike polo.

Even if the player you're assigned to pick knocks you to the ground, you've done your job. The ball is heading toward the goal and the defender is caught in the backfield. You've canceled out an opposing player, cementing what was a 3 vs 2 advantage into an even more inequitable 2 vs 1 arrangement. If you can throw this pick against a player of superior skill, you've done even better. So congratulations, if you can ride a bike as well as this young gentleman, you can be a contributing member of a competitive bike polo team.

So now it's effectively 2 on 1, and becomes what is known in game theory as a "solved game." It's solved in the "weak" sense. meaning that for a given possession, if the offensive team sets 2 effective picks the defending team can do no better than a draw (a blocked shot.)


Red-2 has no choice but to move to the ball. At least then he forces another pick or a pass. A chance for something to go wrong. But all he ends up with is the least worst. No matter what Red-2 does, either Blue-1 or Blue-2 is going to end up with an open shot on goal.


Now I know what you're thinking. "In a real game, this type of theorizing is about as useful as a quadriplegic's dick."  


Not so. They now have Caverject and Vacuum Erection Pumps, but I digress. This isn't just theory. It works. It wins major games in major tournaments. The team that seems to have figured this out most explicitly is The Beaver Boys. You can see it in their methodology. Every offensive possession follows one of two patterns:


1. Reset the ball behind the goal, set two picks, shoot.

2. Reset the ball behind the goal, set a pick, make a pass, shoot.


Both result in an open shot on goal, are virtually impossible to defend, and are about as riveting as watching flies fuck. 


Watch some of their recent videos, and you'll see it in practice. This is a team that in the Midwest Regional Qualifier, the North American Championship, and the World Championship, lost only a single game. How you ask?

Consider Beavers vs Call Me Daddy. Winners bracket final. Two teams with a world championship on their résumés. If there was ever going to be an entertaining game of bike polo, it should be this one.

Watch the possession starting at 3:55. Two picks and a shot. I'm not sure how the crowd stays awake.


Watch the possession starting at 7:40. Two picks, a shot, and a goal. And to ice the irony cake they seem to think they've done something worth celebrating.


The following possession (8:31) Call Me Daddy runs the two pick offense but flubs the finish, proving that no matter how boring something is, it can always get worse.


Beavers recover the ball (8:50) and, clearly bored by their own monotony, run a possession without a pick. Watch how ineffective it is by comparison.


11:07: With Call Me Daddy demoralized by the Beavers third goal, the commentator remarks "who knows what they're going to do now..." Really? Who knows? I'll give you one guess. Two picks, one shot, goal. "That's why their world champions." If I could yawn any wider I'd dislocate my jaw.

The Beaver Boys. Playing "World Class Polo."

It doesn't get any better in the Championship Game. 7:53. Two picks, one shot, one goal. I could go on ad infinitum, but you get the point. The most effective offense in polo is less enthralling than a used condom. (as if to prove my point, the Beavers stop running the two-pick after the 9:15 goal by Joey, and they don't score for a solid 10 minutes.)


To tl;dr this shit, I'll put it this way. There's a reason every single game which has a goal has a goalie with specialized rules and equipment. Because without it, a fundamental inequity is created between offense and defense. You're always playing a man down. 

There's more to say on this issue, including possible solutions to the problem, but they will have to wait for another post. I will close with a note of optimism, saying that there are some teams and players out there who consistently put  on a show worth watching.


Watch this video from the 2013 NAC. Skip to 8:45. That's the kind of thing I'd like to see more of. But until it's more effective than the two pick offense, The Guardians will have a meager trophy case, and this bullshit (skip to 2:41) will continue to be "World Class Polo"


Cheers,

-Ben