Monday, June 11, 2012

Article on Muncie Polo in the Star Press


MUNCIE - — “Three, two, one … polo” is how bike polo starts every Wednesday night in downtown Muncie.

What started as a group of local guys in 2009 playing the game, has grown into a weekly match at 6:30 p.m. in a parking lot behind Savage’s Alehouse. Today, it’s mostly Ball State University students and graduates, but they’re looking for more people to pick up a mallet and join in - everyone’s welcome.

Bike polo might seem like an odd choice for Muncie - or for Indiana, for that matter. But the game has grown around the state, boasting teams in West Lafayette, Indianapolis and Bloomington.

“It's been getting bigger and bigger,” said Adam Buente, 26. “Each city has a team.”

Buente began playing about a year ago when he saw a group of guys playing out in a parking lot.

There are about nine men who play the game regularly and occasionally a woman will jump in.

The game has a few key rules that should never be broken.

First, they have the gentlemen's rule. Players must treat each other with respect. But that's pretty easy, because they're all friends, Steven Putt, 22, said.

Those interested in playing will need to find a bike - any will do. Then they can make a mallet using a ski pole and some piping, but the group said they can provide those.

“It’s such a do-it-yourself culture,” Putt said. “You just take an old bike that can take a beating and build it up.”

The group sets up behind Savage’s because it’s an enclosed parking lot where they won’t lose the ball, which is a little smaller than a baseball. They bring orange construction cones for the goals and old piping to set boundaries. Then the game starts.

It’s played three-on-three and teams are usually random. The Muncie group mostly plays what they call a pick-up game.

Everyone playing will throw their mallet in the middle of the court, then somebody will put the mallets behind his back and throw them out to each side. That’s how the teams are picked.

Putt said random teams keep the game fun.

The game is played until five points are scored or 10 minutes pass.

Seth Winn, 25, has been playing Muncie Bike Polo for three years. He said it’s harder than it looks and sounds.

“When I try to explain it, people say that sounds pretty easy,” he said. “When I first tried, I couldn’t do it.”

Buente agreed with Winn.

“It’s a kind of sport where you get better and better as you go,” he said. “It’s kind of awkward at first.”

But Putt said people shouldn’t be intimidated by the group of friends or the sport.

“These are the friendliest guys I know,” he said. “If you like riding a bike, come out.”

Buente said his favorite aspect of the sport is that it’s competitive and aggressive in nature, but still fun.

“It’s a camaraderie sport,” he said. “We don’t play super aggressive because we’re fairly new.”

Still, the sport can be dangerous. Players fall off their bikes and onto the pavement and can even get hit with a mallet in the face or chest. Those playing in Muncie have bruises and scars to prove it.

Their bikes also get damaged.

Sometimes they have to leave the game to get tools to make repairs and other times they can be made on-site before or after the game starts.

The team is trying to make the game’s presence in Muncie bigger.

“It died off a little bit,” Buente said. “We’re hoping it will continue to grow.”

They made flyers they plan to hang around town to spread the word and created a Facebook page.

Mast said he enjoys playing bike polo because it’s a different type of sport and it’s not solely physical.

“It’s not like you go work out to play bike polo,” he said.

Winn likes the challenge.

“It seems so simple to me and when I can’t make my body do what my mind says I should be doing, it frustrates me and makes me want to do better,” he said.

If the game seems too intimidating to play, it’s fun to watch.

John Callahan, 22, said that’s how he got involved.

“I hang out with these guys all the time and it’s a lot of fun to watch,” he said.

He played for the first time a few weeks ago and scored a goal, which encouraged him to keep trying.

The team hopes they’ll find a better place to play. Until then, you’ll find them behind Savage’s.

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Nice Muncie!  Glad to see you guys getting some press.  Hopefully it bring ya a few new players too.

See you guys this sunday in indy!

-W.

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