Chitwan National Park, Nepal—The New York Blue, America’s finest elephant polo squad, recently won the silver medal in the 27th World Elephant Polo Championships held at Meghauli Airfield, just outside the Chitwan National Park in Nepal. The New York Blue, one of only four American teams ever to compete in the sport of elephant polo and this year’s only American entry, lost in overtime to the Tiger Tops, who hail from Iceland/Thailand. With two seconds remaining in regulation, the Tiger Tops scored, tying the match and then going on to win in overtime. Stopping that goal in regulation would’ve given the New York Blue the coveted gold medal.
Since the average elephant weighs about 6 ½ tons and can reach charging speeds of 25mph, the sport is not without its risks, as New York Blue found out first hand. Chip Frazier, the team’s high scorer, suffered a concussion, and teammate Rob Forster limped off the pitch with a strained MCL and severely bruised patella. The team fought hard throughout the match and came very close to winning gold.
The New York Blue Elephant Polo Club was created in a bar in Anguilla. Bill Keith was tippling “http://viatraveldesign.com/journal/archives/negroni_300.jpg” Negronis, two years removed from covering the World Elephant Polo Tournament in Nepal as a journalist. The memories of this experience haunted him. At this bar he met a woman, Melanie Brandman, who had a scotch and newspaper and the musk of a woman who gets things done. Bill spoke to Melanie of mountains and jungles and glorious beasts thundering in pursuit of a small, white ball. “I want to bring a team from New York to the tournament,” said Melanie, as she put down her paper. Bill quickly assembled a crack team of sport enthusiasts and professional opportunists, and soon an idea became a team and the team became the mighty New York Blue.
Elephant polo was first played in India around the turn of the 20th century, by members of the Maharaja’s Harem (Zenena) to keep them busy. WEPA is the first organization in modern times to sponsor elephant polo as a game with organized competitions. The first games were played with a soccer ball, but after finding that the elephants like to smash the balls, the soccer ball was replaced with a standard polo ball. The sticks are made of bamboo and have a standard polo mallet on the end. The length of the stick depends on the size of the elephant, and are anywhere from 5 to 12 feet. Also, for obvious reasons, it is a penalty for an elephant to lie down in front of the goal line. The team is already laying their plans for next year’s competition. Since they don’t have elephants in NYC to train on, they use SUVs instead. Team member Jay Kubassek, whose company, CarbonCopyPRO is also a corporate sponsor, wasn’t satisfied with the silver. “Close only counts in hand grenades and quoits,” he said. “Second place is really only first place loser. Next year we’re going to win it all. But at least we all had fun.”
The New York Blue’s official website: TheNewYorkBlue.com