They say soccer is a gentleman's game played by thugs, and rugby is a thug's game played by gentlemen.
Well, polo is a wealthy man's game played mostly by rich, preternaturally handsome gentlemen. Many of these men are Argentinian. They also own and ride very beautiful horses.
There's no punchline here; the point is if you're a woman you should hang around polo fields whenever possible.
Luckily for you, and in fact anyone who enjoys a lovely outing with some sport in the mix, Paspaley Polo in the City is coming to Melbourne on Saturday, November 30.
Tickets to the Kirin Polo Lounge ($91.10) go on sale on Friday, August 23 and are available from Ticketek. For more information, hit up their Facebook page.
Are you a polo virgin?
The game itself is reasonably easy to understand. Just imagine AFL crossed with hockey on horses. There are four dashing blokes on each team.
That's about all you really need to know to enjoy the game, but if you want to seem like you're more savvy than you actually are, we've compiled a list of polo terms with explanations of what they mean. Or, at least, what we think they mean:
Appealing | You know when they appeal in cricket? This is like that, but way more bizarre. If a player thinks he has been fouled, he can appeal to the umpire by raising his mallet above his head and swinging it around in a helicopter motion. It's considered bad form to overdo it, so if you think someone is being a bit too enthusiastic, gain credibility with your fellow patrons by shaking your head, tut-tutting and saying stuff like, 'tone it down old bean, it's simply not done!'
Ball | The polo ball is white and hard, though not as heavy as you'd expect. When it hits you in the side of the head, it hurts more than a tennis ball, but less than a cricket ball.
Bandages | The ponies wear bandages around their legs, purportedly for protection, but in reality because they think it looks 'dapper.'
Bump | Pretty much like a bump in AFL, though exponentially more awesome because it's done with the power of horse. Players are allowed to knock other players off their line by thumping into them with body checks. Though apparently it has to be at an angle of less than 45 degrees, so you can't just charge straight at somebody like one of Ghengis Khan's berserkers. Unfortunately.
Chukka | It's fun to say silly words, isn't it? A polo game is divided into chukkas, which are like quarters or halves in other sports. It would be counter intuitive to call them quarters or halves because there are six chukkas in a game of polo. Chukkas go for seven and a half minutes, though if play comes to a halt in the last 30 seconds of a chukka, the chukka ends. Players change ponies after each chukka because they're rich and they can. Chukka.
Ends | This is by far the most important thing you need to remember so PAY ATTENTION. After each goal, the teams change ends, i.e. they have to run in the opposite direction. If you are unaware of this quirky little rule and have had, say, four glasses of champagne while sitting in the sun, it can result in substantial loss of face for you when you start yelling things like, 'why are they going the wrong way?! Turn around! You're going the WRONG WAY!' and so on and so forth. Again, remember; they change ends after each goal.
Goal | Hopefully you already understand the concept of a goal. If you don't, you really will struggle to fake this. Anyway, obviously, getting the ball between the posts down the end is a goal. The cool part is that the ponies can score goals too or, more accurately, if the ball rebounds off a pony and goes over the line it still counts as a goal. If someone could train a horse to kick goals on purpose that would be a truly wonderful thing and they would be declared the 'winner' of polo.
Handicap | Handicapping is a big deal in polo. Teams handicaps are calculated by adding up the individual players' handicaps, which are based on their ability. The team with the lower score is awarded the difference in goals at the start of the match. Player handicaps range from -2 to 10. Ladies, you want to marry the guys with a '10' beside their name.
Hook | This is when a player seriously messes with an opponent by hooking the bloke's mallet with his own mallet mid-swing. Diabolical, but legal.
Intervals | There is a three minute break between chukkas and a five minute break at half time. That's enough time to get another drink or dash to the toilets, but not both. By the end of the game you'll be forced to make some tough choices.
Judges | The guys who signal if a goal is scored. They manage to look even dorkier than AFL goal umpires by wearing pith helmets, which is a truly remarkable achievement.
Mallet/Stick | Players hit the ball with the wide part of the mallet head, which is far less impressive than if they only hit it with the end, like in croquet.
Penalty | A free shot at goal is awarded if a foul is committed, with the distance from goal determined by the severity of the misdemeanour. An overly enthusiastic bump on an opponent, for example, might earn him a free whack at goal from 60 yards. If you were to get fresh with his sister, on the other hand, then tell all the chaps at the cigar club what a terrible floozie she is, he would be awarded a shot from right in front.
Pony | The noble beasts that everyone rides around on. They're actually horses, but they call them ponies. Don't ask, it's a rich people thing.
Sideboards | The six to nine inch boards that run around the field marking the sidelines. A better name for them would be 'wee baby boundary fences.'
Tailshot | Hitting the ball behind and under the pony's rump. What? How is that even possible?
Treading-in | The moment at half time when the spectators are asked to help replace all the divots on the field. Yes, just like in Pretty Woman.
TUL Note: After a six-year stint as a freelance journalist in Buenos Aires, Daniel is back in Brisbane to find that his knowledge of Argentinian football is of little practical value here. Luckily, his other areas of expertise, such as eating food, drinking wine, and writing about it, are applicable across most cultures.
Image Credit: With THANKS to Sun Sentinel