One of the reasons I like journalism is you get to know a whole lot of cool facts about a whole bunch of stuff you never, ever would have thought about otherwise.
Lately, I’ve devoted some time to learning the basics of polo, in preparation for the Knox Memorial Cup event here in EA, which I covered for the paper.
I doubt many people know anything about polo—I certainly didn’t, except that the English princes play it. So here are a few facts to help you look tres posh if you ever attend a match.
The field is ginormous
It really is. It’s so large. It’s the area of nine football fields. They cover a lot of ground in polo.
It takes more than one pony
A serious polo player has eight to ten ponies. And really, with a sport this involved, it’s kind of in for a penny, in for a pound, in my book, because it’s impossible to play with fewer than two ponies. The ponies may play a maximum of two non-consecutive chukkers per match, which means that you need two for a four-chukker match (quite short) and three or four for a standard match.
Ponies are horses
Polo ponies are only called that because it’s traditional…they’re actually just horses, usually Thoroughbreds or Thoroughbred crosses.
Argentina is the best
This one is pretty straightforward. Argentina, homeland of the pope and alfajore cookies.
The periods are called chukkers
Fun, right? This is a word that’s carried over from the Persian origins of the sport.
Even the AP stylebook isn’t sure how to handle it
And we all know the stylebook has rules for everything (Internet, always with a capital I, anyone?). However, not even the special sports section contains much about polo.
The positions and players go by numbers
Like any sport, the players are identified by the numbers on their jerseys, but instead of being chosen, the number represents what position they’re playing. Usually, number three is the strongest player and the “coach” figure.
It’s not unusual for a wealthy man (or woman), known as a patron, to pay to put together a team. The team’s ranking, so to speak, is calculated by the goal handicaps of each player added together, so an amateur or two with a couple of professionals can put together a decent team.