Polo is an acquired taste, and Bridgehampton Polo brings in people in all stages of acquisition—from people who’ve never seen a horse up close and are amazed at how BIG they are to people who have polo in their genes. Everyone seems to become a fan at some level, and there’s no more enthusiastic fan than the man who sits way up high over the polo field in a white beach chair. This is the man without whom Bridgehampton Polo just wouldn’t be the institution it is, possibly the best way to spend a July or August afternoon in the sun, with that salt-sprinkled breeze wafting over from south of the Highway. He is 51-year-old Alex Roldan, manager and announcer, not just for Bridgehampton Polo but for the Greenwich (Connecticut) Club as well.
If you come to the matches at Two Trees Farm, you will see him before and after the match greeting the crowd, shaking hands, hugging, kissing, always speaking with exclamation points ending his sentences.
During the match, he is perched up above the field. Last weekend Roldan wore a faded green polo shirt and khakis and, to break the regulation-polo monotony, red tennis shoes with green shoelaces, and announced the game in his staccato Argentinian accent. His vocabulary comprises English, some Espanol and lots of polo-ese. He is there for the spectators—the expert with the best view for those who are totally into the fast-paced game (a growing number, it seems, this year), but also for those who deep-down honestly don’t give a whit about the game, but who have rumbled in Jeeps, SUVs, sports cars, taxis, or you name it over the dusty path to the field just to be a member of a festive crowd.
He is the glue that keeps the disparate pieces of this rather unusual sport and crowd together. And he also gives it shape, from beginning to end. Getting it all kicked off, he grabs the mike to introduce the famous or semi-famous person who will sing “The National Anthem,” then the star who will toss out the first ball. After that, he throws out the signal to the DJ, this time, Saraj Shankar, to rock on, and the match fight song, Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” gets the players’ blood going.
Then, whether it’s 95 degrees in the sun, or overcast and threatening something that will ruin hairdos, not to mention the footing on the polo field, he climbs up to his seat, microphone in hand, and, he makes it sound like this is the most fun he’s ever had. He broadcasts the score and the maneuvers, but he also broadcasts excitement, enthusiasm and the feeling that you are in the only place you should be this Saturday afternoon.
“Look at him go!” he yells as a horse and rider race after a ball. “Flying down the field like a freight train!” At the end of the game, rounding players up for awards and photo ops, “Vamos aqui! Arriba!”
Mixing his metaphors and his languages is part of his Latin charm, and everyone understands the universal message—fun, inclusiveness for fans sitting on the bleachers, parked in tailgates, or lolling in the shade of the tent—and let’s give this obscure but worthwhile sport its due. He keeps you from feeling dumb if you don’t know diddly about the game, and he keeps you up to the minute if this is your thousandth polo match but you missed the last whack of the mallet.
Roldan divides his time between Greenwich and Southampton in the summer, but the rest of the year, he is back in his native Argentina. “I love polo, I have been riding since I was 7, playing polo since I was 11.” It is his life, and it doesn’t seem to be a bad one.
After the match, whether it was a lopsided game or a hotly contested 7-5 game like last week’s between Kazi Investment Group (the winner) and Equuleus, Roldan works the crowd, shaking hands, slapping backs, kissing the ladies, and keeps an eye on the players.
And he signs off by saying into the microphone: “And the beat goes on!” And on and on it will go, through the weekend and then it will all begin again next year.