Machine Politics vs L'Équipe, August 2010. Photo by Steph Simcox
history of Hardcourt
I'm trying to recreate an early history of the hardcourt game. Here's what I have so far.
Jay Grisham, a Seattle courier, brought the grass game to the city from the Olympic Peninsula. They played with wood mallets and a mini soccer ball.
Lacking reasonable access to grass fields, they played in parking garages on 5th/6th sts. in downtown Seattle.
When Jay left Seattle for a stint with the Coast Guard, he left his mallets with his friends, Matt Messinger and Tim Mason.
The first real Hardcourt games were played in the winter/spring of '99/2000 on carpet in a stockroom at Kozmo.com. Kozmo eventually tore out the carpet, and they played on concrete.
Matt built many of the first mallets specifically for Hardcourt out of bamboo. They experimented with differengt balls. Batting cage balls, tennis balls, and a ball made with wadded up newspaper and duct tape were tried. They eventually settled on a roller hockey ball. There were many other players. I especially remember Guy and Irving. I can't remember your last names. Forgive me.
Although many games were played before, the first verifiable Hardcourt polo event which was witnessed by civilians was an exhibition game put on at the Bike Expo by the Courier Association Of Seattle (C.A.O.S.) in the spring of 2001 at the convention center in south Seattle. I rode a BMX, most people rode their work bikes. No-one had a polo bike. I think we used a street hockey ball; mallets were wood or bamboo.
The game spread from Seattle to Portland, and by 2002 Tad Bamford created the first polo club, the Axles of Evil. Portland refined the game, and created the modern ski pole/PVC mallet which we use today.
There were several West Coast tournaments during this time, most notably the Messman Masquerade (Seattle), and the first West Side Polo Invite (Portland), which were essentially still pickup games. Seattle was still the dominant force in Hardcourt. The sport continued to grow in popularity, and there several inter-city tournaments between 2003/04.
I brought the sport East from Seattle to Philadelphia in the winter/spring of 2001/02. I was still playing a dinosaur game with wood mallets of my own construction, and a ball made with newspaper and duct tape. We used rocks and beer cans for goalposts. We shot from the narrow end of the mallet, and we tapped out at the nearest sideline.
The first major Hardcourt polo tournament was scheduled for the the Seattle World's in the summer of 2003. it was a miserable failure, and, after the organizers lost their venue we played a pickup tournament on the roof/parking deck of Castle Superstore, a big box porno and sex toy shop on the south shore of Lake Union. I played on a team with a dude from somewhere, and another dude from someplace. We didn't win. A men's and a women's team winners were declared (this was back when almost as many girls as boys played polo. I miss those days). I have no idea who the men's winners were. One of the three girls on the winning women's team was my girlfriend, Kathryn. Anybody, please help fill in the blanks. This tournament was Ottowa's introduction to the sport, and I have a sneaking suspicion that Brian was one of the dudes on my team, but that's too wierd to think about. I'm pretty sure Guy from Seattle was on the winning men's team. There were a mixture of wood, bamboo and ski pole/PVC mallets. We played with a street hockey ball, and I don't remember where we tapped out. People were still playing on their work bikes.
The 2004 WSPI in Portland was probably the first successful Hardcourt tournament, with around 15 teams from at least two cities. Seattle, Portland, maybe Vancouver? Help me out.
Polo continued to grow in Philly; we switched to a street hockey ball, but still played with wooden mallets. Corey Hilliard (AKA No really, put your pants back on, nobody wants to see that) organized the first East Side Polo Invite in 2005. I remember Ottawa first, Philly second, NY third. The Philly team was Capriotti, Alex and another dude named Notme. Ottowa was Alexis, Angelo and Jen? NY was Brad, Jared and ? This was the first tournament where I remember there being a fixed point where players had to tap out. Some of us had bikes specifically built for polo. There were fewer than a dozen teams.
In 2006 the NACCs came to Philly, and there was a tournament on a similar scale. This time I think it was Ottowa, NY, Philly. I know the Philly team was Alex, Capriotti, and Dave Wagner. Other cities please fill in your rosters. Most people played on polo bikes.
In 2007 shit really blew up, and I think most people have a pretty good idea of their history from there on, but there are some gaps left to fill. NY made the first wheel covers, Philly refined super low gearing. I would love to hear from the Pacific Northwest about turnout (numbers of teams) at the WSPI from 2005 to present. I would love to get firm numbers from NY and DC for teams at the ESPIs 2007 and 08. I want to know when Vancouver started playing. Although some people have said that New York learned about polo from Portland at the 2005 Worlds, others insist that NY was playing Hardcourt as early as 2004. What's up? The upper Midwest apparently made their transition from a grass game in '07 after Ben Schultz returned from ESPI, but in the fall at Northsides Milwaukee was still new to Hardcourt. I'm sure the rest of the country has stories to tell, and I want to know how the South and the lower Midwest found the sport too. I think that really, the most pressing question facing us today is, if I've been playing this sport so much longer than the rest of you fucking amateurs, how come some of you assholes are so much better at it than I am?