How I became a fan of polo, the Sport of Kings
Speed, strength, skill, passion. Grace, courage, technicality, strategy. Danger, excitement, competitiveness; those are words I never thought I’d speak of the sport I knew so little about. Even if though it’s been played in my backyard for more than twenty years, I had no idea what occurred on those wide open spaces I continuously drove by.
I am an avid sports fan. Passed down by my father, a man to whom I refer to before Google when it comes to trivia of the sports variety, I admit to being a sports nerd or geek; your choice. And not just a fan of the four major American sports shoved into our faces by the mainstream media, but any and all sports. If it’s competitive, I’m in. I’d actually say I could hold a conversation with anyone when it comes to the majority of all sports here in the U.S. from the NCAA to the PGA and around the world from the EPL to the KHL (google it). I’ve even been known to stay up nights to watch, learn and appreciate the bizarre sports like curling and team handball during their respective Olympic Games.
There is one sport however that’s gotten away from me, even though they call my home it’s winter capital, I never took the time to learn and appreciate the game – sorry – the sport of Polo.
I’ll be honest, most of my knowledge of polo comes from a movie. What I won’t be honest about is which movie. From this movie I lear- okay fine, it’s Pretty Woman. And from that cinematic masterpiece I know that spectators walk on the field to stomp divots and drink champagne from fancy glasses, not the red plastic cups like I’m used to. The only other thing I knew about polo was that a kid I used to battle on the hockey rink – when we were fifteen-year-old recreational roller hockey all stars – had become one of the faces of the game, again sorry, the sport.
I didn’t become a fan on purpose. It wasn’t by accident either. I was forced into it. Not forced in the way that my wife was forced to become a New York Rangers fan. Forced in the sense that about a year ago, at a time I would soon learn was the beginning of polo’s high goal season, my career in the entertainment industry brought me to worldwide leader in polo broadcasting, ChukkerTV. Forced in the sense that if I didn’t become a fan, my days would become seriously boring. Honestly I was ready for my days to be seriously boring. I had only ever attended one polo game, which I know now to call a match, and at that match I saw more food and liquor than any sort of gameplay. Although I did stomp some divots, I knew there would be no free drinks and food while I was working.
Looking back at the first time I climbed up into a deer stand in the end zone behind the goal posts, put my eye against the viewfinder of the camera and watched a player (sorry to say I don’t remember which player) ride towards goal at fifty miles an hour (ok maybe not that fast, but really fast) and knock the ball out of the air, control it with a mallet and whack it through the uprights – I was paying attention. I don’t know if it was the adrenaline of watching that play and catching it all on camera, or my slight fear of falling from significant heights, but my heart was pumping!
After that game, I was hooked! And, because of my previous work experience I was quickly taken off the deer stand and assigned to the broadcast booth. I’m glad I was too, because it gave me the opportunity to watch every play of every game. Most of those games sitting next to a professional umpire who could explain the sport to me (thanks to ChukkerTV pioneering instant replay in the sport). It also helped to be able to listen to and communicate with our announcers Dale Schwetz and Toby Wayman. Two gentlemen who are not only extremely knowledgable when it comes to every aspect of the sport but also thoroughly entertaining.
It didn’t take long for me to understand the gameplay; the rules, what was and wasn’t a foul, who plays what position and what each positions’ job was. The difficult part for me was learning the handicap system; that each player is rated from minus two up to ten, and each tournament has different goal limits. I say tournament because a polo season consists of multiple tournaments. It’s not like the typical sports league where a season is played out and a winner is crowned at the end. Every week or two, a new tournament is played and a new champion is crowned. Sometimes the same teams play in each tournament and sometimes a team will drop out and be replaced by a new one. Most teams keep the same players but sometimes even the rosters change.
I also learned what a Patron is. So I’m a huge hockey fan and I even played a bit growing up and into early adulthood. I was pretty good too, but it would have been a dream come true if I could play professionally. So say that there was a way that I can sponsor my favorite team and play alongside them. That’s who the Patrons are. Athletes who dream of playing a professional sport so they sponsor a team and play. Usually rated pretty low, a patron surrounds themselves with the best players they can. Pretty cool right. Know what else is cool? Man or Woman, you’re playing right along side each other. And the women can play!
I’m getting a bit off topic here. I learned a lot of information and my scattered brain is trying to process it all and share it with you, whoever you are who is reading this. But I digress, where was I?
So the high goal season ran several months from around February through April. A high goal tournament sets the teams goal limit usually to 26. Tournaments are usually played capped from four, six, eight, ten, twelve, sixteen, twenty and twenty-six goals, from what I saw anyway. To put that into perspective, the twenty-six goal tournament would be if Michael Jordan, Magic, Lebron and Kobe played on a team where a four goal team would be you (unless you are Adolfo Cambiaso. Again, google it), me, and my ten and seven-year-old kids. So the higher the goal limit in a tournament, the better the games are. Don’t get me wrong, some of the lower goal tournaments captured my excitement but they didn’t come close to the high goal matches.
I’ve been going to sporting events my entire life but never have I seen an atmosphere like at a polo match. It’s definitely a social event, you never know who you’ll bump elbows with. In my short time attending matches I’ve seen an NFL Hall of Famer, a silicone valley billionaire and the guy who cleans my parent’s pool.
I guess the main purpose of this writing is just to say, if you’re in Wellington Florida and are looking for something fun and entertaining on a sunny afternoon, find a polo match to check out. Seeing it up close and personal you’ll never look at the Sport of Kings the same way again. Thank you very much for taking the time to check out ChukkerTV and to read this article. In conclusion I’d just like to say, which I’m happy yet surprised to hear come out of my mouth or fingers as I type – I love the Polo.