When I mention my love of polo to the uninitiated, they tend to mention either the polo scene in Pretty Woman or that Britney Spear’s video filmed in Santa Barbara. I blame this partly on Ralph Lauren, whose ubiquitous polo shirt and heavy-hitting sense of marketing has changed forever the western landscape of what polo means to people who have never seen it.
When I think of polo, I think of watching some of the best players in the world while sitting on the tailgate of a GMC Sierra, drinking beer. Or the legendary India versus Pakistan test matches at Lahore Polo Club, so exciting to the locals that there were people crowding the sidelines and even sitting in the trees for a better view.
No matter what Ralph or the US Polo Association or even luxury brands might tell you, it ain’t about the swag. It’s about the thrill.
So why do we persist in perpetuating this myth that polo is a rich man’s game? Why do we continue to reward the wealthiest players with all the spoils, while everyone else gallops around slowly at a local field, enjoying the game, enjoying their friends, and getting absolutely no support nor recognition from the powers that be?
It is high time for the governing bodies to recognize the negative impact that highly paid, professional Argentine high goalers are making upon the game. It’s too expensive to play. It’s needlessly focused on winning. And, with all due respect to the Argentines, the style of play, heavy on the forehand, is recklessly hard on the horses.
The reason that the USPA has been brilliantly unsuccessful in the promotion of polo in the United States has more to do with this fat cat image than it does with the game itself. I have been on the sidelines at matches all over the world, talking to ordinary people who liked what they saw but were intimidated by the richster vibe permeating the VIP tents. Also, people want to know what they’re seeing. Admittedly, as Churchill said, “polo is a game that takes place far away.”
This is not to say that there is not a place in polo for professionals, but the focus should be on the development of the game for young people and amateurs, affording them an entrée into the sport that otherwise is out of reach. The truly rich will take care of the pros and themselves.
As much as I love him, Cambiaso will never be on my team.
But I’ll gladly buy him a beer.
Lynn Morris Khan, 10 April 2019, North Carolina.