This 1921 article said polo was gaining popularity, with 5,000 attending that year’s national championship in Philadelphia.
At 2019’s last pre-pandemic championship in Palm Beach, the crowd was a “near-sellout”… at a 1,640-seat venue.
What went wrong over the past century? According to this article by Michael Barr for Texas Escapes, tracing the history of the sport’s rise and fall in the Lone Star State, the economic crash of the 1930s changed everything:
Polo grew in popularity throughout the 1920s…. Then came the Great Depression, and polo’s popularity with the general public declined. The sport seemed pretentious and extravagant at a time when many Americans were out of work and didn’t have enough to eat. And polo’s reputation never recovered, even in the economic boom of the post-war years.
Golf has long been considered a high-class sport as well, yet the sport’s popularity boomed with the ’90s-2000s superstardom of Tiger Woods, as January’s HBO documentary Tiger so effectively documented. Perhaps if polo could mint even just one certified superstar, that could begin to change its fortunes around. Think of skateboarding transforming from an underground subculture to part of the mass culture also in the ’90s-2000s, thanks largely to Tony Hawk.
The Popularizing of Polo
Published: Sunday, September 25, 1921
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