The other day, a post popped up on my Facebook feed from a person who allegedly is a friend – well, a Facebook friend, whatever that means – saying that the person in question just didn’t like curling.
That is the new litmus test for Facebook friends. You can spout nonsense and post links to stories that originated in the fevered mind of Vladimir Putin and troll for comments by just being dense. But you can’t disrespect curling – which, if not the sport of kings, is a pretty good sport nonetheless. You disrespect one of the greatest sports ever invented, and you’re out of here. No debate.
How can you not like a sport that combines the strategy and skill of shuffleboard with sweeping? How can you not like a sport that requires the skill of bocce and the ability to clear your mind of any thoughts that have to do with whether you remembered to turn the oven off or let the dogs out or whatever it is Donald Trump did today? (I’m guessing he picked a fight with the Eagles’ mascot Swoop for reasons that remain unclear.) How can you not like a sport in which every action begins with a player saying, “Hey, hold my beer”?
The attraction of curling is best summed up by a tweet I saw the other day. It said, simply, “Can’t stop watching … whatever this is.”
I had been aware of curling before the 1998 Winter Olympics, the first time in the modern era it had qualified to share the big stage with skiing, skating and whatever that sport is where people ski and then shoot. I might have seen it on the old Wide World of Sports show, which was a great show that, seriously, used to feature power lifting and figure-eight auto racing and some other off-brand sports.
But it was during the ’98 games that I got hooked on curling. I just kind of stumbled upon it, and after the initial “what is this?” moment, I found it mesmerizing, even though I had no idea what it was all about.
That’s the best thing about curling. You can watch it for hours and still have no idea how it works, exactly, but you have some idea, and it’s kind of relaxing, the rhythm and pacing putting you into a kind of Zen-like trance.
And it seems like the kind of sport you could do if you felt like getting off the couch long enough and could figure out where to get those stones and were able to somehow be able to walk on ice without breaking both hips or blowing out your back. It looks kind of easy and difficult all at the same time. In your favor, though, you probably have a broom somewhere.
Unlike, say, ski jumping. Those people are nuts. As are lugers. Sure, luge looks like it’s fun and you go really, really fast, but you make one mistake and you’re spending the rest of your life getting all of your nourishment through a tube.
Forget those sports. Curling looks like the kind of sport you can play, and maybe get good at, without even spilling your beer.
But there is more to it than that. I watched the Great Britian-Canada match the other day, and at one point, I thought maybe I had had a stroke. Both teams were from English-speaking countries, but I couldn’t understand a thing they were saying.
At one point, the Canadians were discussing strategy, pointing at the rocks on the ice and trying to figure out what to do. They never seemed to speak a complete sentence.
It went like this:
“What if you, over there.”
“Yeah, but it…”
“But what if…”
“I see what you’re saying.”
“Here, that’s good.”
One of the announcers summarized the exchange with this statement: “It’s like being at a Mensa convention.”
Never having been at a Mensa convention, I have no reason to doubt that.
Later, one of the Brits yelled at another, “If we nose-nose it’s a pretty easy back.”
I wasn’t sure what he meant by that. I know what all of those words mean, but in that order, they made no sense. Then he made his shot and, well, it wasn’t good.
One of the announcers said, “Not really sure he believed in that shot.”
Again, none of it makes sense. But then, that’s life. It doesn’t make sense sometimes – and sometimes you don’t believe in your shot. But… OK, I got nothing.
A minute later, the Brits had a chance to score a point, but the announcers said it would be better if they didn’t. And they didn’t. So it was good?
Part of the problem a lot of people might have with curling is that it has its own language and it can be confusing. Personally, I don’t care. I just like watching curling.
But for those who need to understand what the players and announcers are talking about, I looked up some curling terms at the International Curling Information Network Group, icing.org. It really helped.
For instance, the site defines the term “hog” as “The first guy to the buffet table at a curling banquet.” “Hog line” is defined as “The rest of the people at the buffet table at a curling banquet.”
Then there is “house,” defined as “A dwelling a curler owns and inhabits during summer months but only visits between bonspiels in winter.”
“Bonspiels” is defined as “An excuse to get together with a bunch of guys, drink some beer, curl a few ends, drink more beer, curl a few more ends, drink more beer, smoke cigars, drink more beer…”
Then there is “sheets,” defined as “What the East Coast curler suffers after 3 jugs of crummy draft beer.”
And “broom bag,” which is “An extra large carrying case that will hold 1 curling broom, 24 cans of beer, 1 bottle of scotch, 1 large bag of ice cubes, 3 bags of pretzels and more.”
That makes a lot of sense. Only one question: Just three bags of pretzels?
Reach Mike Argento at 717-771-2046 or at [email protected]
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