It is tradition. Every Sunday for the past two years, a loose-knit gaggle of bike messengers and punk rockers have ridden their two-wheeled steeds onto an abandoned Alberta Park tennis court where, armed with ski poles and scraps of lumber, they engage in furious five-point games of bike polo.

Then, on July 25, the "Axles of Evil," as they were called, got the boot, an expulsion delivered by a Portland Parks employee who said he was acting on orders of Supervisor Mark Cline.

It wasn't the first time they'd had run-ins with park patrollers. Another of their traditions was pausing any game that reached a 4-4 tie and hoisting a cold one before moving on to game point, violating park rules that bar spontaneous boozing.

"These folks have repeatedly brought alcohol into the parks," says Sara Bott, a spokeswoman for Portland Parks. "We won't continue to look the other way."

Except that, on that Sunday, everyone agrees the wire-spoked warriors had left the beer at home.

The fact that they weren't drinking doesn't matter, says Cline: "We'd had enough as a bureau."

Cyclist Bill "BillDozer" Dillon, 27, admits the fun-loving bunch have mixed suds and sport in the past. "Playing polo without alcohol hurts so much," he explains. And, he says, park staffers had let players drink under an unspoken "out of sight, out of mind" policy.

Those days are over, say parks officials, though they concede that should the group apply for an alcohol permit, they'd probably allow drinking--as long as it didn't occur during play.

So will the Axles of Evil alter their tradition and reserve libations for after the game? "We're willing to make that concession," says Dillon, "even though it sucks so much."

From "This treacherous change of heart comes just a few months after negotiations... about how to manage a compromise involving polo-ers affinity for malt beverages...."