The thought of polo always rubbed me wrong. I used to play water polo at the University of Maryland. And while I’ve grown used to smiling off clever people who like to ask me where I parked my ark, I always found myself straining when that same sort of quick wit led that same sort of person to ask me where I parked my horse.
Another reason that polo never appealed to me was the way it was always depicted in the movies. The men on horseback usually played before a crowd with a fondness for wearing loafers without socks or gloves in the summertime.
As you can gather, that is not my sort of joke and not my sort of crowd. So, as uninformed judgment would have it, I never wanted to attend a polo match. But then my wife made plans for us. And we were going to Bethpage Polo at the Park.
Resisting the idea was my first instinct, but then she mentioned that we’d join our friends at the tailgate.
“A tailgate?” I asked, recalling that the only tailgates I had ever participated in were the ones at Maryland, which involved cheap Coors and hot dogs purchased on sale. It never included those with sockless loafers or dainty, summertime gloves. What sort of crowd would be at a polo tailgate? I was interested and opted in.
Better yet, she explained, the tailgate wasn’t in some parking lot adjacent to the fields before the game. It was along the field and during the game.
Since we lived close to the grounds, we walked the few miles to the park and pushed strollers filled with water, champagne, tents for the baby, and all the ingredients to make a muffeletta sandwich. (Yeah, I get the irony here: champagne and muffeletta sandwiches seem a bit too hoity-toity for a person who just lodged the previous complaints, but you get to pamper yourself after pushing strollers for a few miles in ninety-degree weather. And also, this was polo… with the sockless loafers and the dainty gloves. So when in Rome, folks. When in Rome.)
Bethpage Polo at the Park
Polo at the Park proved to be a splendid day. Tickets were cheap: five dollars. (You could tailgate with your car for an additional $18—eight to the state park and ten to the polo ticket handlers.)
I’m also happy to report that I saw no white-gloved ladies under parasols and no khaki-shorts-wearing men sans socks.
We did what you would expect of parents at a tailgate: we ate, we drank, we pushed strollers so that the kids would nap.
As it happens, though, I saw very little polo. The horses always seemed to be in distant corners of the field and I was, of course, busy eating my muffeletta sandwich and popping champagne open much of the time.
While much of the aristocratic air that gets pinned to polo speciously was absent, there was one tradition at the match that will certainly satisfy any blue blood looking to enjoy their elitism. You know how in hockey and baseball they pay employees to drive the Zamboni between periods or rake the infield during the seventh inning stretch, respectively? Well, in polo, they somehow convince all those who left their white gloves at home (or brought their socks) to flip the divots that the players had overturned with their clubs.
So if you’re looking for fun on a Sunday, in the summer or early fall, or if you’re interested in doing free landscape work, head down to Bethpage Polo at the Park, or Bethpage Tailgate at the Park. Whichever you prefer.