Thursday, March 31, 2011
The Greatest Bike Polo Player That Ever Lived
Some of us are lucky enough, at some point in our lives, to be in the presence of greatness. Greatness can come in all forms, usually from places where you'd least expect it. Out of the blue you are standing there looking at it directly in the face, and it leaves you standing in awe. The way old timers talk about having seen a baseball great in his prime, or when anyone who saw Jordan on the court tells you they saw the greatest. The majestic pride in knowing that you felt something that will never be duplicated and will never be taken away. Attempting to share that feeling in words is what I will now attempt to do for you.
A group of Nashville riders had traveled down to Memphis for the Bicycle Film Festival. After a night of excessive debauchery at the roller races we were in charge of hosting, way to much alcohol, and drunken bike riding, we awoke to a wonderful day of infinite possibilities. My girlfriend (now fiance) and I made our way to the theater where the films were being shown. After a few brief viewings we went back outside to enjoy the day. Outside were a plethora of riders. While lounging in the grass, we were approached by one of the most interesting characters of the previous night. A short, pudgy, jewfro of a boy-child with a plate full of chocolate cupcakes covered in florescent icing. His name was A.B. Chomps. Shirtless and sweaty, he approached us with a peace offering of love baked goodness. Brown cupcake lodged in metal dental gear catapulted from his jaw with every syllable spoken. Cupcake covered his fingers, sporadically took flight from his mouth, smeared across the top of his sweat drenched belly in the humid heat, and seemed forever captured by the metal additions in his mouth. I found it hard to listen to him. I am not really sure what all he said at all. I just remember the impression he left on me was the most comical of encounters yet in our adventure to Memphis. He floated away in the waves of shops and stands, and soon was no where to be found. I forgot about him, and we continued to explore the scene.
We chatted around and met some locals as well as some fellow vacationers. All with different interests, crews, and styles. In our conversations, we came across a local shop owner. We had been itching to stretch our legs and the mention of a bike polo game a couple of miles away gave us an excuse to hit the road. Under local escort, we weaved through the Memphis streets enjoying the sunlight. We made our way to the venue. A busted up parking lot, unfit for any type of bicycle awaited only the bravest of players. The asphalt was rigid at best: broken in some spots and nonexistent in others. Weeds, dirt, and years of weathering had left this small lot in its present condition. A poor excuse for a parking lot, much less a hardcourt for polo, but the chosen spot of battle nonetheless. As we arrived, the game was already underway, and a familiar face from earlier was engaged in a back-handed goal from the opposite side of the court. The ball flew between the wheels of the goalie, past the empty twelve-pack boxes being used as goal markers, and into the brush beyond the designated area of play before finally scurrying out of sight. The fantastic shot deemed lucky by the opposing team drew my attention to the shooter; the same cupcake eating gremlin we had encountered earlier was now mounted upon his rusty steed. With the sun shining hot as ever, I found my attention fixed on only one thing, the young man who I had heard called A.B. Like a snake, he snatched the ball from the court. He moved with an ever present grace across the entire lot of players. He shuffled around, crossed up, and faked out defenders with angelic ease and agility. Nothing stood in his path to glory on the court in Memphis that day. No goalkeeper could stop his aggression, no defender could contain him, and no one lucky enough to hold the ball could shake his pursuit. The only errors came from the other five contenders. The chaos of broken plays and missed shots were devoured by his systematic fluidity of movement. The DIY spoke cover on his front wheel with the markings of an eyeball seemed to stare into my soul as I watched utter perfection take form in the shape of man on a polo court. Soon it seemed as if there was no one else on the court but him. He became one with the bike, the mallet, and the ball. Everyone at the court became the audience in an award winning one man performance of glory. The games continued, but the result remained the same. A.B. had conquered every opponent that was thrown at him and remained victorious.
The day drew to a close. Some continued with the debauchery, and some took it easy. Bicycle crews from multiple cities continued through the night that ended some time in the early morning when the Memphis Police showed up to find a giant oak tree filled with bicycles and drunken shirtless man-children, and fallen soldiers in the form of sleeping cyclists and empty bottles of beer and liquor. For those involved it was a memorable night, but my highlight will always remain my encounter with A.B. Chomps. I later learned that those weren't even his initials. It was a nickname given to him the first night referring to his "adult braces". It became quite obvious that Chomps wasn't his last name either. Time passed, the pictures of the insane weekend surfaced, and comments were made. For those who missed it or were there and just thought it was just some polo match, there is no way to explain it. To them he was just some goofy kid, but I know the truth. He was the greatest bicycle polo player to ever live.
photos courtesy Art Arcinas & Keith Gallagher
Posted by Ronald Raygun at 10:30 PM