Given the decidedly grey, depressed pallor that is gripping America these days, with tongue in cheek, I thought I would offer a thought or two about the unbelievably exciting sport of Curling! In the highly unlikely event you missed it, the US just won gold in Olympic Curling. I am stunned that network television did not interrupt regular programming to bring this fast paced, inspiring competition into our living rooms. Sure we have the Super Bowl, World Series and NASCAR to contend with, but Curling….wow!
Before we can appreciate this incredibly fast paced game, we must develop some understanding of the mechanics of play. Curling is a sport (they say) that involves very carefully sliding big granite stones on a sheet of ice toward a target that is segmented into four concentric circles. It is played between two teams, each with four players, who take turns sliding these rocks toward the aforementioned circles, referred to as the “house”. Each team has eight rocks, with each player “throwing” two of these across the ice at the “house” located at the other end. Be still, my beating heart! Surely, by now you are starting to feel the euphoria that accompanies such a grand sport. As they say in the infomercials, wait there is more!
This isn’t just any old rock and there is considerable technique and athletic prowess associated with this great competition. For instance, when the rock shooter (my vision) slides the rock, two highly trained teammates carefully accompany the stone with brooms to sweep the ice in front of the stones and thus alter the direction and speed of the stone. What a magnificent display of athleticism, that I was obviously lacking when my grandmother would dispatch me to the back porch with a straw broom. If this isn’t enough to peak your excitement, the rock thrower can subtly induce a curve in the path of the stone, thus influencing it’s ultimate stopping place. As you have surely deduced by now, the score is determined by the number of stones resting closest to the center of the house. One can only imagine the strategy and playbook attendant to this exciting sport. These rocks weigh between 38-44 pounds. It is no wonder they slide them as really “throwing” them is out of the question.
Curling is thought to have originated in Scotland in the 1500’s. This is the result, presumably, of the frozen nature of water in this region, during the winter, and nothing much else to do. I am told there are plenty of rocks in this part of the world, most of which are too big to throw, so; viola, we have Curling. Football was a distant thought but there is something inherently undignified in reaching under another man’s kilt to accept a carefully snapped ball……..anyway, to the uninitiated, casual viewer, there is much that escapes the eye. As an example, you may not be aware of the incredible technology that is employed in the selection of materials for the broom. While some synthetic material is in use, true curlers rely on horse hair, hog hair or some form of fabric. Fans of Duluth Trading Company attire are familiar with a style of pant they advertise as “ball room” pants, for rather obvious reasons. Curling pants, for men, are also carefully crafted so that when the thrower crouches into the position necessary to carefully begin his throw, his movement is not accompanied by a change of several octaves in his voice! No discussion about the dynamics of curling would be complete without mentioning the beautiful crafted, teflon soled shoes, designed to facilitate a controlled slide across the ice. Oh the beauty and majesty of it all! Think about this the next time you skip a rock across a frozen pond (or unfrozen for that matter). You could be planting the seeds of this majestic sport in the minds of your children and grandchildren.
So it is. America wins gold in another thrilling upset of our Scandinavian competitors. You would think by now, these countries would know it is difficult to slide anything past a determined American athlete.
Satire aside, congratulations are in order. Excellence in anything is beautiful to watch.