Aaron Leibowitz | The Fan
Published: Thursday, February 6, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 6, 2014 09:02
Oh, curling, how I have missed thee. Four years we’ve been apart, each day more difficult than the last. You, curling, are the most magnificent sport on G-d’s green Earth. On one Zamboni-smooth sheet of ice you give us grace, strategy, skill. Oh, curling, where hast thou been?
But seriously — isn’t curling the best? I can say with a straight face that I’ve missed it since I last watched in 2010. No, I didn’t miss it enough to seek it out on TV or on the Internet. And no, I didn’t miss it enough to actually realize I was missing it. But I did miss it enough to realize now, with the Winter Olympics in Sochi one day away, how empty my life has been without it.
When I first became enamored of curling, I figured it was merely a product of my absurd fandom. If I could obsessively watch a sport in which people push rocks across ice — slippery shuffleboard — then I would watch anything with a winner and a loser.
But it’s more than that. I fell for curling not simply because it’s a competitive sport, but because the sport has a unique, wonderful appeal.
It’s soothing. The mere sight of a freshly resurfaced sheet of ice is a thing of beauty. The throwers glide forward before gently releasing the stone. It’s slow and methodical — and no one gets hurt.
It’s simple — or at least simple enough to know what’s going on. Each match consists of 10 “ends.” In each end, the teams alternate throwing eight stones. The stones glide toward a bullseye called the “house.” If your team has the stone closest to the center, you get a point. If you have the two closest stones, you get two points — and so forth. It’s easy to catch on.
Once you start watching, there’s a steep learning curve. Over the course of two weeks, you will begin to learn the subtle strategy of the sport, the chess-like back and forth. You will also learn the vocabulary. To deliver a stone that lands in the back of the house, you must employ “back-house weight.” A shot that bumps the first stone into a second stone to knock out a third stone is a “raise takeout.” The player who holds a broom to show the thrower where to aim is the “vice-skip.”
Curling is also funny. When I first started watching, I thought it was downright hilarious. After the thrower releases the stone, two “sweepers” come to greet it. Then, heeding the frantic instructions of the “skip,” they furiously sweep the ice in front of the stone, guiding it to the right spot at the proper speed. It’s nuts. You get used to it, but it never gets old.
Plus, the outfits are sweet. Check out the Norwegian team’s uniforms this year. They are funky as hell, with matching, zig-zagging red, white and blue shirts and pants. As team member Christoffer Svae told the AP, “It doesn’t always matter if we do well or not. People still think that we win stuff because we are always in the media.”
And, best of all, anyone can do it. Sure, being an Olympic curler requires tremendous skill and years of hard work. But if Canadian Kristie Moore could compete in Vancouver, five months pregnant, then surely I could do it.
If you’ve never seen it before, give curling a shot. Come watch at my house if you want. When the competition starts Monday, I’ll be curled up on my couch, staring stone-faced at the TV, skipping class to watch what is, for two weeks, the greatest game on Earth.
Aaron Leibowitz is a senior who is majoring in American studies. He can be reached at Aaron.Leibowitz@tufts.edu.