While the same-sex wedding frenzy dominates headlines from California, it’s important to note that Saturday, June 14, 2008 was a red-letter day in same-sex sports history. The Gay Polo League played in its first real tournament.
I lucked into attending because GPL’S moving spirit, Chip McKenney, gave me a heads-up on the event. Chip, who played polo back east and used to ride show jumpers, helped organize the league. Place: the California Polo Club, a handsome tree-shaded facility with an arena, barns and corrals, located in northern L.A. County. Opposing team: the California Polo Club.
Many people think of polo as elitist, expensive and inaccessible. Not necessarily so. With some gay-friendly support from the Santa Barbara Polo Club and the California Polo Club, our lavender league got started on a shoestring. One Club member told me he had never ridden a horse till a year ago. Others showed me the mechanical horse with a polo saddle, where a rookie can learn how to handle the mallet while being galloped and jolted this way and that.
Owning your own polo ponies can run into big bucks, but at the learning level, horse ownership isn’t required. Students learn on ponies provided by the Club. For the tournament, a string of experienced ponies were shipped in by a supporter in San Luis Obispo.
This was arena polo, with three players on a team instead of the usual four. The GPL fielded two teams – the Hollywood Hookers, and the Killers. They played round robin against the California Polo Club, and the Killers (Chip's team) won.
Trophies were presented, horses were led off to cool out, and everybody settled down to a terrific barbecue put on by the GPL. It was grassroots polo at its best. Best of all, it was another example of how the wide world of sports is getting wide enough for us.
Congrats to Chip and all members of the GPL -- and their supporters -- for a unique first in gay sports history. --Patricia Nell Warren