Much to my dismay, if not pique, on this, our last day in Kauai, they shooed us out of the pool early--at 3:30 to be exact. Starting at 4 on the dot, the World Championship of "Marco Polo" would be taking place, a round-robin tournament pitting the planet's best fives against each other.
Serious Marco Polo doesn't attract much attention in our part of the globe, but in places where the Union Jack once flew--Down Under, the sub-continent, Jamaica, Sri Lanka and, of course, Merrie Olde--Marco Polo is serious business.
If rugby is a hooligan's game played by gentlemen, and football a gentlemen's game played by hooligans, Marco Polo--real Marco Polo falls somewhere on that spectrum, with hooligans and gentlemen cavorting in the chlorine and placing some well-hewn "its" on their opponents.
The first match I witnessed was the veteran Australian "Green" team versus a vigorous but over-matched Sri Lankan team. As you may or may not know, Giles Thorpe--the Down Under's captain was, for six years a professional ventriloquist. His ability to "throw" his Polo in response to the hapless Sri Lankan Marcos misdirected that squad, thoroughly discombobulating the island quintet.
Next Great Britain's Red team, the favorite going into the afternoon, was up against a squad of Indian Ghurks. Bad blood there that spilled in the arena.
The Ghurk Marco called bravely out, and the Brits confounded him. "Polloi," responded one wag. Another came back with "Poltroon," and a third replied "Polymorphous." In short order the verbal barrage thoroughly addled the Indian who began flailing about in the pool bravely searching for a fitting Polo.
No dice, the Ghurk was clobbered about the head and shoulders by a Brit responding "Pondicherry," (an absolute mockery, I must say) and the game was quickly ended with the Brits advancing a bracket.
Next came the well-weathered Kiwis always up for a fight, against those from the land of the Pure, the Pakistanis. In two well fought rounds, the games ended in a tie, necessitating a sudden-death Polotime with the Kiwis just edging their valiant adversaries.
The final game of the afternoon pitted the Rasta five of Jamaica against the Bangladesh squad, but alas, my wife called me in for dinner. (We have a 6 o'clock reservation and surely can't be late.)
If you've never seen a really good go at Marco Polo you're missing a great sport. Nothing at all like the silly game we played as kids, but a ripsnorter, as they say.