practitioners of the game support it with passion. It has evolved its own
language ("Pump! Pump hard!" a player will shout to urge on his
teammate). New tactics and shots are continually being developed. Gene
Bierhorst, an American on the Buenos Aires team, has established a considerable
reputation with his "under the sprocket backhand" shot, in which he
smacks the ball between the wheels of his own bicycle—such a rarity in regular
polo that it is referred to as "a millionaire's shot" because only a
few can afford with equanimity to try a hit that could damage their mounts. And
the bicycle equipment is constantly being refined and improved. The Cuban
contingent developed the cut-down handlebar on their shot-making (right) side,
so that the sweep of the mallet would be less impeded.
value of the different types of bicycles is always a topic. A large percentage
of the players seem to prefer the minibike with an 18-inch wheel, which gives
them maneuverability. Some of the Americans prefer the 27-inch British touring
bike, normally a stripped-down Raleigh girl's model, especially on a large
field where they can use their bike's superior speed to advantage. The bicycle
polo players have considerable affection for what they call their mounts.
Carlos Concheso owns seven of them. Andr�s Carrillo of the Southampton team has
one for which he has such simpat�a that he has given it a name: Black Beauty.
"Yes," says his teammate, Nick Simunek, "you can develop an
enormous love-hate relationship with your machine. Obviously, you can't train a
bicycle the way you can a pony. But you'd think we were trying—what with all
the oiling, and grooming, and caressing, and talking we carry on with them.
It's really rather depressing...."
At halftime, the
Wysteria team having ousted Central Park and put itself in the finals against
Buenos Aires, the girls' teams rode out and played an exhibition chukker, the
Knockouts vs. the Bombers. The girls wore white hot pants and formfitting
jerseys. The interest along the sidelines, which during the main matches had
been desultory, was now intense. "No bras," a knowledgeable viewer
announced. "Helps pedal faster."
And turning is easier. The weight, you see, free like that, helps swing them
around. We call it the 'momentum factor.' " He gestured with his hands.
A few of the
girls had not been able to resist accessories: Lulie Morrisey, a striking girl
with blue eyes, wore three slender necklaces from which dangled a red coral
Fatima's hand, a St. Christopher medal and a large brass Arabian kohl jar
shaped like a fish that clonked alarmingly on her breastbone as she pumped
after the polo ball. Lee Sable, who owns a fashionable Southampton store named
Zoom and is of such competitive nature on the polo field that her nickname is
"Sudden Death," wore one necklace of seashells and another with a
lion's tooth pendant. The girls' game was infinitely slower than the men's,
with the polo ball often sitting untouched, shining like an ostrich egg in the
grass as the girls circled it warily, their bikes teetering sharply from the
effort of a missed swipe at the ball with their mallets. A Southampton summer
resident who has written half a novel said, "They move about with the agile
inconsequence of kittens." Their cries rose in the summer air. The
spectators cheered them on and booed when the exhibition was finally called
with the Knockouts leading by a goal.
The Wysteria team
took the field against Buenos Aires in the finals. As expected, it won—five
goals to three. Russell Corey scored three of his team's goals on long foul
shots. The awards were handed out at a ceremony under the school portico. Each
winning player received a small pewter mug with a glass bottom. The runners-up
got a jar of 100% Colombian coffee. "We are at the beginning of a great era
for bicycle polo," said Carlos Concheso.
As the crowd
meandered off to its evening festivities, a slim girl in a red jump suit
announced to her neighbor that everything was pretty small potatoes compared to
what went on occasionally in New York's Dutchess County, namely, a golf-cart
polo tournament in which one person drove the golf cart with a teammate in the
seat alongside wielding a regulation-size mallet against a croquet ball.