Written by: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer
I originally wrote the article "Sports Week: Clearing the Ice – Curling Takes Sport Back to Its Roots" – praising the virtues of curling – for CC2K’s first ever Sports Week in April of 2009. But the Olympic Games in Vancouver currently enthralling billions of people the world over make my case for curling current again. So not only will I repost my original article about the essential appeal of curling, I will also add a few more fun reasons why curling is, well, fun.
(Scroll further down to read my original article in Italics.)
The male Norwegian curlers are wearing the awesomest pants EVER (as shown in the above picture) for this years Olympic games and already they have a huge following (the pants, not the team!). Check out the Facebook movement to support The Pants here. It's not even about wanting Norway to win, it's about wanting the Pants to win. And the best thing is that even the sportsmen themselves are laughing about the pants, saying there aren't rules against them, but after these Olympics there probably will be. If only more athletes could laugh about themselves like that.
Just because curling isn’t over hyped doesn’t mean there aren’t some serious honeys playing the game. Check them out:
Not only were the Norwegian men inventive about their leg wear, the Danish women were as well and are actually donning skirts with tights and legwarmers. Who can resist four blondes in skirts, rights?
4. The Rinks! I have to admit, as a regular viewer of curling, I was irritated to find that officials in Vancouver had decided to make the house green instead of the traditional red (apparently light green is the color scheme for the Olympics), but now I think the green is rocking. Not only because it makes both the yellow and the red stones to much easier to see and judge in their position, but also because it kinda looks like a wild acid trip green and hence complements THE PANTS!
Sports Week: Clearing the Ice – Curling Takes Sport Back to Its Roots
Whenever I mention to people that I love to watch curling on TV, I am glanced at with a mixture between astonishment and abhorrence. To the less marginalized-sports-inclined, curling is just as ridiculous as that Gravedigger resolution on Bones this season. It’s men and women cleaning a lane of ice with brooms, what could possibly be exciting about that, right?
Let me rush to curling’s defense and open your eyes to something you will become addicted to as soon as you have given it an honest chance, if you really are a “sports” fan and not just tuning in to the big games because they have become pop-culture entertainment.
I know any true sports fan will love curling because of this little incident: when the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy were on in the winter of 2006, I traveled to London to visit a friend of mine. It was Saturday night and we were planning to go out with a whole group of people. And so while everyone was getting ready, grabbing a last bite or a beer, more and more people started gathering at this friend’s house. We had been watching the Olympics all day in the background and now curling came on. The women’s half finals, to be exact, Sweden vs. Norway. I got excited and started watching intently. Soon enough the others asked about the rules of the game and what was going on and I explained it as each move progressed on screen. It only took two ends [in baseball you would call them innings] and everyone in the room was hooked. Australians, Englishmen and two Germans were all cheering for the Swedish team to win and advance to the finals (in the men’s case this may have had something to do with the hotness of Anna Svård, one of Sweden’s players). Every successful split, draw or triple takeout was enthusiastically celebrated by people who hadn’t even known about the game of curling half an hour earlier. And there’s your proof that curling is a fascinating sport without being ridiculously over hyped.
Most people I have spoken to don’t take curling seriously, they don’t regard it as a “sport” in the traditional sense of the word, i.e. requiring fitness, strength and stamina. Boy, are those people wrong. It may LOOK like all they are doing is dusting off the ice with their brooms and letting some stones slide around, but believe you me, curling is hard work. (I personally couldn’t even get the stone to slide down the entire sheet at first. It takes a lot more strength than you would think. Plus, those stones are heavy! They weigh between 38 and 44 lbs.)
See, how the sliding of the stones works is like this: on the normal coat of ice on the rink – called “sheet” in curling – specially trained people (called icemakers) with a special machine sprinkle distilled water to make a film of water droplets called “pebble”. These are basically small drops of water that are frozen on the ice before the water runs all over the place. And exactly these pebbles are made liquid again by the fervent brushing by the players. A combination of friction and pressure unfreezes these pebbles to make a coat of water on top of the ice so the stone can slide down the sheet. It’s hydroplaning for granite, so to speak.
The problem is that the ice changes during a game. Obviously if a lot of stones have been played down the middle of the sheet (which is normally the case), then there is less pebble left on the ice to help guide the stone. Hence the players can take less and less influence on the stone’s path once it’s left their hands. Similarly at the side of the sheet a stone still has a lot more resistance from the pebble and therefore may require more speed when released to reach its goal. Knowing “how the ice feels” is a constant battle curlers have to fight, and a game is often decided by which team has a “better feel” for the ice and its “behavior”.
Now the cool thing about the “hydroplaning” is that the stone can be guided with the created film of water, since it will always choose the path of least resistance (physics anyone?), but things are made all the more complicated by “the curl.” Due to the friction with the “pebble,” every curling stone has the natural tendency to, well, curl, turning clockwise or counterclockwise. This is of course used by the players, who give every stone a nudge in the desired direction of spinning when they let it go. Factoring in the speed of the stone, the rate it is spinning at, and the pebble effect, hitting the exact spot you aimed for with the stone… Let’s just say curling is a complicated game.
To make things even more complicated, eventually the released stone will hit another stone already positioned somewhere on the sheet, at which point curling turns into a bit of pool. Vectors come into play, one stone hits the other, hits the next and sometimes there is very little telling beforehand which stones will end up where.
The goal, of course, is to position your stone as close to the middle of the “house” as possible. The “house” being the colored circles at either end of the sheet. Looks a bit like a dartboard from the bird’s perspective. When an end is finished and both teams have played their eight stones, they determine whose stones are the closest to the “tee” and the score is marked on a scoreboard. Most of the time the players decide this amongst themselves, no need for a referee. Only if they can’t agree which stone might be closer is someone with a measuring device called in to determine it for sure.
I won’t go into more details about the rules, as there are many, making curling a bit like baseball, meaning a very tactical game, which can become exciting by a big play at any second, even though at times it seems it is just trudging along.
The really cool thing about curling is that it’s a gentlemen’s/gentlewomen’s game. The players accept the rules, never intentionally break them, are always polite to each other, accept the referee’s decisions and the teams discuss each play amongst each other like adults. There is none of that catty ego-play beforehand, there is no furious coaches on the sidelines, there are no players being suspended because they got a DUI, there are no glorified college kids with weird hair-do’s raking in millions of dollars for their only talent of being able to throw a ball better than someone else.
Sport has become such a commodity that it’s less and less interesting for me to watch in most cases. The salaries are outrageously high, doping is found left and right, some players are made out to be national saviors or guiding lights, while others get one injury and are left by the wayside. It’s a dirty game, sports, and so I look for the marginalized athletes who still care about their game and about having fun.
Now, curling is fairly popular in Canada, the USA, the “Scandinavias” and Scotland, and yet most of the players can’t live off being a curler. They have regular jobs, they are engineers and opticians and facility managers and it helps them to stay grounded. Of course, they need very understanding bosses, who will let them leave work whenever a big tournament is on. I find it very likely, however, that the players simply invited their bosses to come watch a game once and they were so completely fascinated by the sport within minutes – much like my friends in London – they were willing to make allowances for the talented people who can use a broom as effectively as curlers.
So, if you call yourself a “sports fan” and aren’t just a slave to the marketing of your “favorite team,” which is probably the most successful team anyway so you have lots of excuses to party and celebrate because they win all the time, then give curling an honest chance one afternoon and then let me know what you think. Unfortunately, you are gonna have to wait. Curling season is over for this winter; the men are finishing up their World Championship 2008/2009 as I type this. But the curlers will be back in September/October and you can definitely catch them at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver 2010. Look for the Canadian home teams – men and women – to blow everyone else off the ice then!
Author: Phoebe Raven, CC2K Staff Writer
Born in Germany, lived in the US, now in the UK. Always taking my love for TV and writing with me. Life participator. Blogger. Gaming enthusiast.