No, no, no. I have not just had a flashback to the old college days at Northern Illinois University. This is a new type of obsession. But not quite as excessive as my sister Marney’s current fascination with all things Gaga. As I have said in other post, I think the Olympics are just cool. I was extremely disappointed at the loss of the 2016 games to the city of Chicago, and this past week I was again reminded just what fun the Olympics can be. Shani Davis, Lindsey Vonn, and Shaun White can all be expected to make an appearance on our local Wheaties box in the near future, although I could have done without Miss Vonn’s gratuitous waterworks after her gold metal win. And although I am not a great hockey fan, that game Sunday night between the United States and Canada was by far one of the most exciting events I have seen in some time.
But for me, and many others as I have recently learned, the true sport of these games in Vancouver is Curling. If you have not had a chance to watch the extended coverage of Curling on MSNBC, you had better tune in Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Yes, the American teams, both men and women have been eliminated, but there is still plenty of Curling excitement to be had during the metal rounds. For those who have been living under a rock for the past week, let me provide a quick recap. Most trace the history of Curling back to Scotland somewhere around the 14th or 15th century, but the current Olympic Curling is mostly attributed to the efforts of the Canadians. The game itself is quite simple, which is why I think it is so appealing. A large curling stone or rock is slid down the ice at a target known as the house. The very center of the house is called the button, and points are scored by being the closest stone to the button. A team scores a single point for each stone closer to the button than the other teams closest stone. The game is played in ten “innings” known as ends, and eight stones are thrown by each team at each end. After all eight stones have been thrown, only those that still remain in the house are examined to determine points. Stones outside the house do not score points. And I haven’t even touched on the sweeping yet.
Although it may seem a little foreign at first, after just a few innings most people pick up the general idea and start to enjoy the game. Our entire office has now become obsessed with the game, and it is not uncommon to hear people who less than a week ago had no idea what Curling was, express their opinion on how a stone should be played. The game is somewhat infectious, and quickly people who were scoffing at the sport have been sucked into the action. Just this past Friday, I was sitting in a bar with some friends when a match between Denmark and Canada caught my attention. Before long, there we were engaged in conversation about the broadcast, and numerous people were weighing in on the potential outcome of the match. Watching the thrower spread out on the ice like Spider-man, sliding as they line up their shot. The sweepers brushing the ice in front of the stone as the thrower barks out orders about the amount of sweeping that needs to be done. Some of the shots are actually quite amazing, as stones bank off of each other trying to land right on the button.
Initially, I thought it might be a good idea to get a group together and try curling, and a quick check of the internet showed that there are about seven or eight active Curling Clubs in the Chicago land area. But unlike bowling or darts, curling is not a year-round activity, and the curling season is actually nearly over. As with a lot of fads, I would anticipate that there will be a heightened interest in curling once the Olympic Games have concluded, but with Spring Training already starting and then March Madness to follow, then the start of the baseball season at the beginning of April, and of course playoff basketball and hockey, I have a feeling that curling will once again become a forgotten sport.
But maybe curling is just what it should be. That strange stoned sport with the brooms that we see only once every four years. The red-headed step child of the athletic world. Like the rest of the Olympics, it will soon be pushed aside in our limited memory banks as the more important major sports occupy our time. But just when it is all but forgotten, suddenly when we least expect it, in February of 2014, curling will make a triumphant return. Only this time halfway around the world in Sochi, Russia. And I will once again become infatuated with this strange little sport.
Curling will once again be king.