From Roman gladiators to wrestling theaters, by now we are pretty aware of mankind’s fixation with destruction and chaos. And an excerpt from the book Bain’s New York: The City in News Pictures 1900-1925 has revealed another sport in not so distant past that elaborates the point further.
“Auto Polo” was the traditional game of Polo played with a twist; instead of horses, it used automobiles.
The sport was the brainchild of a Ford employee from Topeka, Kansas called Ralph “Pappy” Hankinson, in a bid to boost sales of the Ford Model T that the company had started producing in 1908.
And you can bet your bottom dollar that Hankinson’s plan worked like a charm. Not only the Ford Sales picked up, but the sport also became a hugely popular event.
The bizarre sport had everyone on the edge of the seats, even the drivers as they were ready to jump out of the car any moment it had an accident, and boy did they have some accidents in the sport.
It was not only dangerous for the participants, but also for the teeming millions of spectators that flocked to the arena as the mechanized vehicles went wild in the theatre of utter destruction.
The matches took place all across the country, and since they could be held in small areas and even in cold winters – unlike the conventional polo – it was a huge success in the Northern America.
The first major auto polo exhibition was held in Washington D.C. in 1912.
The sheer carnage that this sport yielded also meant that most of the cars would be completely useless by the end of the event, thus would have to be routinely replaced several times during a match.
Well played Ford, well played!
The game’s arena usually was an open area field at least 300 feet (91 m) long and 120 feet (37 m) wide with 15-foot (4.6 m) wide goals positioned at each end of the field.
A single match consisted of two halves (chukkars), and each team had a maximum of two cars and four men in play on the field at one time.
Cars typically had two men sitting, one driving the car and “trying” to avoid the wreck, while the other a malletman that stood on to the side of the car as he looked to hit a regulation-sized basketball toward the goal of the opposing team.
The cars used to reach a top speed of 40 miles per hour (64 km/h), so it meant a collision would certainly mean unadulterated annihilation and possibly deaths for the drivers, although it was reported that these deaths were “surprisingly rare”.
Thinking about trying this with your Tesla S? DON’T, as due to the fatal accidents and the brutal nature of sport it was banned altogether, turning it from a loved sport to a mere legend.
What are your thoughts on the sport? It does sound entertaining, doesn’t it?