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San Diego Polo Club site developed by Heaven's Gate

Just before they committed group suicide

San Diego Polo Club site. The author goes to great lengths to assure us polo is not a boring sport.
San Diego Polo Club site. The author goes to great lengths to assure us polo is not a boring sport.

Exclusiveness breeds itself, so it’s little wonder that when the San Diego Polo Club in Rancho Santa Fe needed a Web page designed, they turned to Higher Source, at the time the most exclusive Web design club in town. Before workers at Higher Source — the Web-design squad of team Heaven’s Gate — packed their bags, they found time to complete the Polo Club’s site (www.sandiegopolo.com), which greets you with the creepy exclamation, “The ultimate thrill ride!”

Horses don’t thrill me. A nasty horse once bucked me into a pile of his own shit and then tried to stamp in my head. My parents showed no concern that I might be traumatized, or even that I might be harboring deadly, microbial residue. They were anxious because I had been soiled many times before — one time, a friend caught me on the forehead with a frozen cow chip, which he had tossed Frisbee-style — which is probably why they had dished out for riding lessons for my brother and me: to tame us, to culture us. Horse whisperers we were not.

The piano lessons failed too. My brother Nicholas and I were ashamed to wear blazers and khakis in the Vermont woods, and on recital nights we would make a point of wrestling on the grass in front of our teacher’s house. My parents soon saw that we were Green Mountain boys, destined to loathe dressing up and unable to set a table properly. Though my father withdrew us from the riding and music programs, they lasted long enough for him to buy a piano and for my brother and me to develop a distrust for any activity we believed to be exclusive, like cultish religions, for instance, or polo.

Perhaps preoccupied with their imminent trip, Higher Source designed for the Polo Club a plain, insipid page, compared at least to other sites they designed, such as an animated site advertising early Madonna recordings (www.pre-madonna.com), a colorful site encouraging religious faith (www.keepthefaith.com), and a spacey site i promoting a film-production company (www.kushner-locke.com). In fairness to the deceased designers though, not much can be made of polo. Included here are the requisite images of finery — white tents, pompous buffets, wealthy spectators decked out in their Sunday best— and not much else.

But what the San Diego Polo Club site lacks in imagery and graphics, it makes up for in text. If, like me, you enjoy petty laughs at rich people’s expense, then check out this page. The promise underlying the site is that polo can elevate a spectator’s social standing — not, mind you, above a horse-owning aficionado’s, but at least higher than your average cowpoke’s. The process of social climbing at the Polo Club promises to have sensational, almost sexual rewards: “Your connection [to polo] is immediate, almost primal.... If you admire excellence, if the pursuit of perfection gives you a special tingle, polo is right up your alley.” It’s the “almost” I love. “Primal” sounds fun but is maybe a little too coarse, a touch declasse?

In a lengthy instruction titled “How to Watch a Polo Match,” the author goes to great lengths to assure us polo is not a boring sport. To justify any distraction or mind-numbing a new spectator may experience, he explains, “When the game starts, you will quickly learn there’s no such thing as the right player to watch and no one place to look. Take it all in. It’s sort of a Zen theory of polo spectating, but it’s a good place to start.... As in football, some of the best plays often are made by players who only rarely touch the ball.” And so that we can all rest assured that Prince Charles is not wasting his money, the author reminds us that polo is an “endeavor that honors the disappearing virtues of daring, risk, danger, and action.”

In trying to deal with the paradoxical goals of advertising its sport and keeping out riffraff more accustomed to boisterous games like jai alai, the Polo Club Web site makes some interesting elisions. Who, for example, is welcome at the club? And for how much money? The Club Membership page discriminates between “corporate and social memberships,” “box seating,” and coveted “corporate sponsorships,” but these vague categories don’t make it easy for the average browser to determine if they’re welcome. Anyone, in fact, is welcome to watch Sunday matches from the lawn gallery for a modest fee, but the price of general admission does not include certain of polo’s perks. The communal “divot stomp,” when fans gather during “intermission” (meaning halftime) to smooth the roughed-up field, sounds like an equalizer, but polo, the site tells us, is not about being equal: “The unique demographic profile to which polo players, spectators, and club members belong makes the sport extremely attractive to corporations who wish to reach an audience that is virtually pre-selected by income, influence, and buying power.”

Now that’s horseshit.

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San Diego Polo Club site. The author goes to great lengths to assure us polo is not a boring sport.
San Diego Polo Club site. The author goes to great lengths to assure us polo is not a boring sport.

Exclusiveness breeds itself, so it’s little wonder that when the San Diego Polo Club in Rancho Santa Fe needed a Web page designed, they turned to Higher Source, at the time the most exclusive Web design club in town. Before workers at Higher Source — the Web-design squad of team Heaven’s Gate — packed their bags, they found time to complete the Polo Club’s site (www.sandiegopolo.com), which greets you with the creepy exclamation, “The ultimate thrill ride!”

Horses don’t thrill me. A nasty horse once bucked me into a pile of his own shit and then tried to stamp in my head. My parents showed no concern that I might be traumatized, or even that I might be harboring deadly, microbial residue. They were anxious because I had been soiled many times before — one time, a friend caught me on the forehead with a frozen cow chip, which he had tossed Frisbee-style — which is probably why they had dished out for riding lessons for my brother and me: to tame us, to culture us. Horse whisperers we were not.

The piano lessons failed too. My brother Nicholas and I were ashamed to wear blazers and khakis in the Vermont woods, and on recital nights we would make a point of wrestling on the grass in front of our teacher’s house. My parents soon saw that we were Green Mountain boys, destined to loathe dressing up and unable to set a table properly. Though my father withdrew us from the riding and music programs, they lasted long enough for him to buy a piano and for my brother and me to develop a distrust for any activity we believed to be exclusive, like cultish religions, for instance, or polo.

Perhaps preoccupied with their imminent trip, Higher Source designed for the Polo Club a plain, insipid page, compared at least to other sites they designed, such as an animated site advertising early Madonna recordings (www.pre-madonna.com), a colorful site encouraging religious faith (www.keepthefaith.com), and a spacey site i promoting a film-production company (www.kushner-locke.com). In fairness to the deceased designers though, not much can be made of polo. Included here are the requisite images of finery — white tents, pompous buffets, wealthy spectators decked out in their Sunday best— and not much else.

But what the San Diego Polo Club site lacks in imagery and graphics, it makes up for in text. If, like me, you enjoy petty laughs at rich people’s expense, then check out this page. The promise underlying the site is that polo can elevate a spectator’s social standing — not, mind you, above a horse-owning aficionado’s, but at least higher than your average cowpoke’s. The process of social climbing at the Polo Club promises to have sensational, almost sexual rewards: “Your connection [to polo] is immediate, almost primal.... If you admire excellence, if the pursuit of perfection gives you a special tingle, polo is right up your alley.” It’s the “almost” I love. “Primal” sounds fun but is maybe a little too coarse, a touch declasse?

In a lengthy instruction titled “How to Watch a Polo Match,” the author goes to great lengths to assure us polo is not a boring sport. To justify any distraction or mind-numbing a new spectator may experience, he explains, “When the game starts, you will quickly learn there’s no such thing as the right player to watch and no one place to look. Take it all in. It’s sort of a Zen theory of polo spectating, but it’s a good place to start.... As in football, some of the best plays often are made by players who only rarely touch the ball.” And so that we can all rest assured that Prince Charles is not wasting his money, the author reminds us that polo is an “endeavor that honors the disappearing virtues of daring, risk, danger, and action.”

In trying to deal with the paradoxical goals of advertising its sport and keeping out riffraff more accustomed to boisterous games like jai alai, the Polo Club Web site makes some interesting elisions. Who, for example, is welcome at the club? And for how much money? The Club Membership page discriminates between “corporate and social memberships,” “box seating,” and coveted “corporate sponsorships,” but these vague categories don’t make it easy for the average browser to determine if they’re welcome. Anyone, in fact, is welcome to watch Sunday matches from the lawn gallery for a modest fee, but the price of general admission does not include certain of polo’s perks. The communal “divot stomp,” when fans gather during “intermission” (meaning halftime) to smooth the roughed-up field, sounds like an equalizer, but polo, the site tells us, is not about being equal: “The unique demographic profile to which polo players, spectators, and club members belong makes the sport extremely attractive to corporations who wish to reach an audience that is virtually pre-selected by income, influence, and buying power.”

Now that’s horseshit.

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