One of the most mystifying Olympic events -- to most Amercians anyway -- is the game of curling. Curling in Canada is hockey's lil brother. Always there, never getting the attention it seeks - but when push comes to shove -- really fun to have around. It was invented by the Scots in the 16th or 17th century but we stole it. Truth be told, we stole it faster than it took us to return the haggis we stole the week before. We've been a world power ever since.
To say curling's popularity is like night and day between our two nations is an understatement. Just chew on these numbers if you don't believe me. Population of Canada: about 33 million. Registered curlers: more than 1.3 million. On the flip-side, population of the United States: More than 300 million. Admitted curlers: about 16,000, meh.
To hammer home this point home even further, all 16,000 of your curling community appear to be confined to one area of your country known as the "Curling Corridor" or "Beer Belt." These quasi-Canadians MUST live in either Minnesota, the Dakotas (preferably North) or Wisconsin. It is law. It should also be noted, any curler attempting to leave this area and live elsewhere and continue to curl will be beaten with brooms by Homeland Security.
So it is my intent to boost curling's image in the good ol US of A. Think of this as Curling for Dummies. If successful, I totally expect free stuff from the United States Curling Association or Curling USA. Or is it the American Contingent of Dedicated Curlers? If it's the latter, this may explain the paltry, participation. People probably confuse The AC/DC with either an Aussie rock band or bisexuals. Which would clear up why no one can decide one way or the other if they wanna play.
I must add, the free stuff I'm pandering for CANNOT include any fashion from Norway's curling team! Those red, white & blue, diamond-print polyester pant-like-things have reportedly caused seizures throughout BC's lower mainland. They are currently under review by the IOC for they-must-be-on-drugs-if-they-wear-those doping violations. I personally want to protest. Here I am trying to convince people to come on over to the curling side and the Norwegians screw it all up by dressing in Jesper Parnavik's hand-me-downs. But I digress. ...
It's all in the beer
They say curling is like chess on ice. I say, gimme a break. Where I come from, ya don't see chess players downing copious amounts of lager while planning their next move. I think it's comparable to shuffleboard -- not the old-folks version they play on cruise ships -- but the one you play in bars. Or perhaps even Bocci, for our Italian-American friends. But remember, no wine. Just beer.
Curling is played in a foursome. Now that I have your attention, I will further tell you they throw rocks or stones from a hack to a house about 150 feet away. This house is clearly marked by big, colorful rings that has a button in the middle. It is in your best interest to be closest to the button. Each of the foursome gets to throw two rocks each. Each rock must go past the hog-line to remain in play. To manipulate the path your rock takes, you either turn your wrist inward or outward when throwing. The technical curling terms are in-turns or out-turns. This makes the rock curl.
The rocks are closely monitored down the pebbled-ice by sweepers using brushes. Back in the day, they used corn brooms to do this but the constant thumpity-thumpity-thump was too annoying. So now they quietly brush their stones. The quiet brushing is the only thing quiet about curling. If you can't yell HURRY! HARD! HUR-RY! HAAARD! at the top of your lungs, then maybe curling isn't for you. HURRY! HARD! is a curler's mating call.
Curling stones are way cool! For the longest time they were quarried from a granite mine off the Ayrshire coast of Scotland. Apparently, Ailsite granite is low in water absorption and high in density. They can cost damn near $1,500 a rock! I don't really know how important any of that is but it was big news when the Scottish government closed the mine and turned it into a bird sanctuary. For Puffins, no less!
The Canadian Curling Association demanded our government declare war on Scotland. Fortunately for the Scots, our submarine was leaking and our helicopter was needed at the Grey Cup. We use our helicopter much the same you guys use the Goodyear Blimp at football games. International incident averted!
Between you and me though, I just think our DOD was just a little afraid of Puffins.
To further see the genius involved in the making of a curling stone, please view the video below. There through the sheer brilliance of the Canadian TV show "How It's Made," you will learn, um, how it's made. We Canadians like to know these things. I mean you wouldn't just stick a Q-Tip in your ear without actually knowing how it's made, would you? This also proves we do produce our own TV shows, besides Hockey Night in Canada. So now, we've got HNIC, How It's Made and of course, Little Mosque on the Prairie. Little Mosque! Mondays on CBC!
Now back to the roar of the rings. Curlers do not play in tournaments. They play in bonspiels. Curlers do not vie for trophies. They battle for Tankards. They don't play quarters, periods or sets, they play ends. It's not a game, it's a round. Normally, a round can take 10 ends, but if the score gets too lopsided, the teams can just shake hands and go stack brooms. Stackin brooms is the very important ritual where the teams meet in the bar after a round and losers buy um, rounds. Very civilized!
Now, I've been told, it is difficult for some of you to watch hockey on the tube. You can't follow the puck, or something. OK, I don't get it and normally I'd have something to say on the subject, but I am currently muzzled on the topic of hockey due to mounting tensions between Canadian and Swiss governments. I trust everything will work out but until then I must remain neutral.
My point is, curling is made for TV. I even think Bob Costas will agree. Ratings from Salt Lake through Torino have been astronomical. You really get to see how curling is played. You get to see the intricate strategies involved. What it takes to make a raised take-out or a hit-and-roll. Why a come around can be hard. All the players are mic'd so you get to listen in to very private, behind-closed-door conversations like "I never shoulda drank that thirteenth beer."
I do have a word of warning though. When tuning into woman's curling, please have the mute button ready and Fido safely outside. The mating call of a female curler is exactly the same as the males but the pitch can make your dog's ears bleed.
So, that is Curling 101. I trust you are enlightened and eager to give it a try. I strongly urge you to hurry hard and go to the fence surrounding the curling corridor. Once there, the password today is "Beer." Oh hell, that's the password everyday. What you're gonna find are warm, friendly folks, living in communities with really clean floors. Word of warning however, once there you can never leave, unless for a bonspiel in Canada.