Few weeks ago in Zagreb some Euro Cup took place. Some unbelievably important Tournament I presume. I haven’t watched it, but I hear that it was pretty good visited from the visitors which were visiting it. It was for Men exclusively. The participation in the tournament I mean. All sexes were allowed to visit it. On my Instagram I saw that the weekend before were some unbelievably important Tournaments for Women played also. They were held all over the World. (applause) Anyways, I heard that the Hungarians took the Gold, Croatians Silver and Espana took home the bronze I think. Besides this tournament being the Premiere of these New Water Polo Rules, I still didn’t understood the full meaning of it. As LEN and FINA order that’s just how it has to be. Everybody knows that the players are not being, and are not gonna be asked anything. I am aware that the ex players and coaches helped to create and figure out these new rules, but the players which play for their clubs in their National Leagues, Champions League and which have to play on Malta for the Summer League. They are not being asked anything. But let us leave these Problems alone for now, we will talk about them some other time. Let us talk a little bit more about these New Rules, but not about their practical usage. More about the theories and ideologies which stand behind this latest resurrection of our Sport, or at least behind its try.
First off…they changed something, they gave up on something, mixed stuff, took stuff, added some sugar, added some spice and they made it look over the Internet all so cute and so nice. Honestly I don’t care, but this time I really decided to read a little bit into these New Rules. For the first time since they said that people are allowed to shoot after a foul from 5 meters and beyond, I will inform myself a bit more about these New Changes. In the end I play and am involved with this Sport of Ours for almost 20 years now. I think that finally the time has come for me to fully learn all of the aspects and the rules of my Sport.
I went to the official Facebook Page of Water Polo Referees to find something official about the Rules. I stumble upon some Official Quiz which tests my unofficial knowledge about the New Water Polo Rules. Even I must admit that that was a bit cute. I haven’t answered it but respect for the originality. These questionnaires are very hard and very rare to find on Facebook. After a short expedition on this official Facebook page I found myself eye to eye with the official link which should lead me to the official internet page of the Water Polo referees, where I should be able to download for free the Official Water Polo Manual for the Water Polo Rules. Click. Hmm After a short period of time I was able to locate the file. It wasn’t hard to spot it. The name takes almost half of your screen. The full name of these new Rules is (breath in) „FINA Water Polo Manual 2019-2021 (formerly called FINA Water Polo Guide)“ (breath out)… I don’t know why but the song Purple Rain came to my mind.
On the opening page I saw something what had me immediately discouraged. Ain’t gonna lie. In the upper right corner of my android screen I saw „Page 1/31“. Big googoly moogoly as Uncle Joey would say. 31 pages of rules? I was really trying to motivate myself. I was digging deep. I was quoting some of those really epic quotes from famous movies to myself. „What you read now will echo in Water Polo infinity“. Or something like that.
Anyways. Somehow I finally start to read this damn thing. I pass the first 3-4 pages like there is nuthin to it. Maybe because it took them that many pages to write the complete content of the whole Manual with its 31 „paginas“. And then I see and I realize with these real eyes some written lies. I see that in the content was written that the whole manual should include 60 something pages, but my android(which is gonna remain unnamed until payed otherwise) is showing me that the opened file is only 31 pages long. Okay. Maybe this is some version of a Manual explicitly for the referees and the rest of the judging bodies inside our beloved Sport. I got what I had been asking for. I did somehow went to the official Facebook Page of non other then the Water Polo Officials. I try to see it from every possible angle just so that all the included parties find some touching points. Never mind. I go back to the Web Page and I start to search for any other possible PDF-file with these new rules. There I go. Scroll and Scroll. Digging. Deep in the Internet trenches and I have stumbled upon some PDF-file with 41 pages and a title „FINA WATER POLO RULES Part VII“… ?!?! What the f.u..? But whats with the first VI parts of the rules? How many parts are there altogether? Does each and every single bloody Part have 30-40 freakin pages? Why the hell I didn’t played baseball. There are less rules and the New York Yankees. Never mind. I go back again to the „31 Page“ Rule book, as I like to call it nowadays, and I try to find some sense to all of this madness. I took a closer look of my screen and I suddenly realized that these rules are only going to be valid for the Season 2019/20. I have only recently fully accepted that the „expiring date“ for these new rules is year 2021. and now I find out that they still might do a little bit of „twerking“ the following year. Well… let us all hope that they will do it better then Miley Cyrus did and I’m pretty sure that we all will be able to live with the consequences. Que será, será So these rules/laws are valid only till the 2021 A.D. But does that mean till the end of the calendar year, or till the end of the European club season of 2020/21? I don’t get it.
Lets say I will look the other way this time. Maybe this Water Polo Web Page is being govern by the same type of people as the people who run this Facebook Page. Maybe the whole Water Polo is being governed by these type of Peoples. People who do it purely because they love this Game of Ours. This Sport of Ours. To these type of peoples mistakes are easier forgiven. I will give them a bit more time before I accuse them for their passiveness. Lets hope that one of these days they will get themselves organizized. Or that they will at least get themselves those little signs they have in offices that says “Thimk”.
Alas let us move away from our poor referees and their worries to some concrete Problems. Where does this almost masochistic need to change the Rules of our Holy Game comes originally from? Well every Sport sooner or later changes and „twerks up“ some of their Rules. In Football (Soccer, for my American readers) at some points in time the width of the Goal was 6 meters and only later was it widen to 7 meters. I don’t believe that the „offside“ Rule was always in play. For all the beatings that young Pele had to endure FIFA decided to add yellow and red cards. NBA didn’t always had 3-pointers, it was not always allowed to dunk. Even Water Polo saw a big chuck of its changes.
One of the Rules was that the excluded player was allowed to come back into play only once his team has scored a goal. Imagine that. A team has to play without the excluded player until they score a goal! Then out of nowhere along came one heretic which said that the excluded player will stop to actively participate in the game for 20 seconds only. They burned people for less in the media-evil times. I don’t believe that anybody could remember the name of a person which did this change. Even Better!
Even though I don’t know what made this witch to change the Rules about the player exclusion, I think that it is clear to everybody why is FINA now changing the Rules. In 2008. Water Polo got a warning from the IOC that it needs to work on raising its popularity among the mainstream media and fan-base, because otherwise our beloved Sport might be excommunicated from the holy olympics. I don’t know how but I think that that same year the comparisons between Water Polo and Hand Ball were being pushed as a way of branching out into the mainstream audience. To this day I still don’t know why, but I do remember that at Summer Olympics of 2008, which took place in Beijing Carmelo Anthony was seen a lot in the attendance watching the Hand Ball Games and he later said that he fell in love with the Sport of Handball. It is what it is.
Personally I don’t know if Melo ever watched a Hand Ball duel again, but I do know that these comparisons have been bothering me ever since. Water Polo is Water Polo, and Hand Ball is Hand Ball. I am annoyed that I can’t be just a Water Polo Player, but instead I have to present myself as some bastard mixture of wrestling, swimming, hand ball and ping fuckin pong. I know that Jon Snow made bastards popular again, and nothing against Jon Snow, but dear Team Snow please do understand that I play Water Polo. That is my Sport. People need to be interested in my Sport. They will learn all the Rules of a certain Sport, but only if they are emotionally invested. Nobody is today a Water Polo Player, but just somebody who „plays“ Water Polo, or who just „participates“ in Water Polo. To quote Mr. Wizard from the movie Taxi Driver, „You get the Job, you become the Job.“ Why would somebody emotionally invest themselves with somebody who doesn’t consider him/herself as a Waterpolista?
I could now easily explain to every one of you why are people emotionally interested in Jon Snows Story, but I don’t want to spoil it for you. I ain’t no snitch. Anyways. The logical conclusion to Our situation and Our Problem is the question of could We make people identify themselves with the „new rules“ narrative? Water Polo in its self is an Art Form, but stories around this Art Form is what draws the people in. Could any of us here spell Mix Martial Arts without Bruce Lee?
This is how I think that the „Timeline“ of this last Water Polo Heresy went. In 2008. We had very very very very bad Ratings. IOC is very very very very much bothered by that, because all due Respect towards the Athletes, but they are only only only only interested in the Earnings of a certain Sport. Last add-ones to the Olympic Family are Skateboarding, Sport Climbing and Surfing. Citius. Altius. Fortius. Surfingus. Inside of all of this Water Polo Heads had a dilemma in front of themselves. How to raise the Ratings of this Sport of Ours? The Heads decided that They will find a Solution for this Problem. They will change the Rules, and these changes in the Rules should cause bigger interest and higher Ratings. That is the Logic by which they are governed. Every Sport needs to „up-date“ and „refresh“ itself and its Rules every now and then. The Change to the Rules is not our Problem. Our Problem is the narrative in which the Changes to the Rules are going to increase the Ratings of Our Sport.