Thursday, February 13, 2014


It's the coolest Winter Olympic sport for reasons that I still don't understand.
By Jeremy Conlin (@jeremy_conlin)

Every four years, I record every single televised curling match. Why do I do this? I don't know. I always forget the rules and how scoring works until I watch two full matches, remain hopelessly confused, and then look up the scoring rules online.

(Related aside - the Wikipedia page for Curling never actually says how to score each end, only saying "points are scored for the stones resting closest to the center of the house at the conclusion of each end," which technically isn't 100 percent accurate. It's almost like they don't want us to know the real rules)

There's something inherently fascinating about curling, and I can't quite place my finger on it. When I first got turned on to the sport, it was advertised to me as "bowling on ice." That was enough to pique my interest, as I enjoy bowling (playing, not watching - watching bowling is about as exciting as watching someone wallpaper a room), but I quickly found that the similarities between curling and bowling begin and end with a player casting a heavy object down a slick surface.

There is WAY more strategy in curling than anyone seems to realize. It's like darts or horseshoes, where you just throw the thing at the middle of the target, because even if you get it in the exact middle, the opponent can just knock your piece out of the way on his next throw. You actually have to slide stones that you know won't end up scoring points, but will sit out in front of the target for you to hide other pieces behind.

My knowledge of curling (and apparently, the physics behind it) is amateurish at best. Whenever I see one team with a bunch of stones cluttered in the house (the scoring area), my first reaction is "why doesn't the other team just throw one in as hard as they can and scatter everything?" This is apparently a dumb idea, because I've seen eight curling matches in the last week, each with ten ends, and each end with eight shots for each team (so that's roughly 1300 shots) and I've only seen it attempted like five times. And it's only worked once. But when it did work, it was AWESOME. It was the coolest thing I'd ever seen. In one shot, the Chinese team went from being on the verge of giving up three points to scoring three points of their own.

However, like all sports fans, I have the arrogance to think that I know better than all the players and coaches at all times. The downside of watching curling, however, is that there are no go-to experts to consult. With basketball and football, I can take my hair-brained ideas to Twitter or other social media and crowd-source people who are smarter than me. You can't really do that with curling, considering generous estimates of worldwide players peg the number around 1.5 million (and I've never seen a number over two million), the overwhelming majority of which are amateur or recreational players in Canada. As opposed to, say, basketball, where an estimated 8-10 million children play each year, and that's in the U.S. alone.

It's hard to learn more about a sport when you live in a major American city, one of the largest sports media markets in the country, and the closest place to go curling is 45 minutes away. That's not to say I wouldn't do it. I would do it in a heartbeat. But I can't give you any tangible reason why. It just seems indescribably cool.

It doesn't hurt that it seems to attract absolute babes. Great Britain's Eve Muirhead, Russia's Anna Sidorova and Alexandra Saitova, America's Jessica Schultz, among others are all easy on the eyes. It's part of the reason why I want to go to a curling club - maybe that's where all the attractive single women congregate. I'm aware that this entire paragraph is vaguely sexist (perhaps more than vaguely), but it's worth mentioning that curling is a spectator sport in more way than one.

So, in conclusion, curling. It's cool. Watching it without understanding it is cool. Watching it after you've figured out the rules is even cooler. Watching it at double speed in reverse is hilarious. And once again for good measure, it's cool. It's the best winter Olympic sport.

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