Winter Olympics 2018: Why I Love Watching Curling

Winter Olympics 2018: Why I Love Watching Curling
From Wired - February 11, 2018

The first time I watched an Olympic curling match on television, I entertained a thought that is surely shared by everyone who sees the sport for the first time: What the hell am I looking at?

It was during the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, and I tuned in to the live feed at the very beginning of a women's medal match. I was intrigued by the grace of the players and how they could effortlessly slide those huge, bulb-like stones down the ice. But everything else about it was confusing. It looked sort of like shuffleboard, but with more yelling. And lots of weird stuff. The rules, the lingo, they way they used broomsbrooms!to make the stones slide around. And it just seemed so boring. How could anyone endure watching a sport with such a lack of obvious athleticism, such inscrutable gameplay, and such a lethargic pace?

By the two hour mark, I was riveted. I still did not understand what the brooms were for, but I was beginning to figure out the rules. The lingo was beginning to make sense. And I was absolutely consumed by the drama. When the match ended, I quickly set my DVR to record every curling broadcast for the rest of the Olympics, including reruns. I was hooked. What had started as a chance encounter with an esoteric sport had ended in an insatiable thirst for more, immediately.

Curl You Know It's True

Curling is absolutely the best sport to watch on television, particularly for viewers looking for an escape from the frantic "more, faster, bigger, higher" grind of most televised games. Watching basketball or hockey can get you so hyped up, you feel like drinking a Red Bull and doing jumping jacks. Watching curling makes you want to drink a glass of red wine and lie down on the shag carpet. Curling is deliberate. Thoughtful, even. The games move very slowly. The players spend a lot of time talking strategy. There are nods and quiet words of encouragement; rarely are there disagreements. When it comes time for a team member to play their turn by sliding a stone down the ice, the moves are elegant. There's a wind up, a push-off, a slide, and a gentle release. Such poise and finesse!

Before my words dissolve into a string of breathless sighs, let me tell you about the game itself. Curling does indeed resemble shuffleboard (also bocce or petanque), where the object is to get as many of your game pieces as close as you can to the marker at the other end of the field of play. Teams are made up of four players each. One player slides the stone down the ice while two of the other players sweep the ice in front of the stone with brooms to try to control the stone's speed and direction of travel.

Then there's all that funny lingo. The stone is often called a "rock." The field of play is a "sheet." The goal marker at the other end of the sheet is called the "house." There's some funny equipment too: special shoes, those brooms, and the rocks themselves. The smooth, 44-pound pieces of granite make cool clunking sounds when they knock into each other. (There's a rock emoji, natch.) The stones slide differently depending on the sheet, going straight or curving naturally, and sweeping can control these factors. The team captain is, simply, "skip." The skip does most of the yelling, known as "line calling." These are commands for the sweepers that tell them how "hard" or "easy" to sweep.

Each round of play is called an "end." Teams throw eight rocks per end. The more rocks you get in the house, the more points you score, though only one team can score per end. You tally up the winner's points at the conclusion of each end; after ten ends, the team with the most points wins the match.

My Curl Friday

Olympic Fever


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