Sunday, February 11, 2018

Curling takes stones

Once every four years I become enthralled with sports that I could care less about for the other three years:

Luge. Skeleton. Short-track speedskating. Long-track speedskating. Alpine skiing. Nordic combined. Halfpipe. Super G. Slopestyle. Figure skating. Curling.

Hold on a minute. Curling. Of all the sports that surface during the Winter Olympics, curling is the one that has captured my imagination the most. Maybe it's because of its name: Curling. Maybe it's because the only equipment you need can also be used to clean up the kitty litter (no shoulder pads required). Maybe it's because you can wear bedroom slippers to glide down a frozen bowling alley in order to position a rock in a house that looks like a bull's eye.

I don't know. I just know I'm fascinated.

To tell you the truth, I've been watching curling somewhat faithfully for the past four or five Olympics now. I still don't know much about the sport. Some of the participants have beer bellies. Some don't look like athletes at all.

A quick visit to Wikipedia told me that the first known example of curling happened in Scotland sometime in the 16th century. Scotland, of course, also gave us golf and Scotch whisky, which might tell you all you need to know about how close Scotland is to the Arctic Circle. (see here).

Clearly, it's a team sport and a strategy game, in the way baseball can be a strategy game (Curling has a house; baseball has a home). You can block an opponent's path to the house; you can knock an opponent's stone out of the house; you can even sweep the ice during an opponent's turn to get his stone out of the house.

There don't appear to be referees or umpires anywhere, although I suspect there's a protest committee somewhere to settle disputes. Somebody who looks official occasionally steps out on the ice to take measurements. There is a clock, depending on the version of the game being played, but nobody seems to get nervous at the two-minute warning.

I think I like curling because it looks like a sport anybody can do. I guess there are amateur curling leagues in Canada, Scandinavia and the UK, but I wonder if there are neighborhood lanes, like bowling alleys, for the masses? If there were (hard to imagine in North Carolina), I think I would be in a league.

There are plenty of sports I know nothing about: rugby, hockey, cricket, Australian Rules football all leave me scratching my head, looking for the logic of it. Curling is kind of like that.

It's a cool sport.

Note: There's a movie called "Men With Brooms" that came out about 15 years ago. It's a Canadian flick that nobody ever heard about starring actors that nobody knows (except maybe for a bearded Leslie Nielsen). But it's a charmingly funny movie about curling. It actually might be the only movie about curling. Maybe it'll show up somewhere in the next two weeks. It's just offbeat enough to be entertaining. Just like curling.

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