Just give curling a chance

Published 11:54 pm Saturday, February 27, 2010

Because I was in Jackson Saturday covering the Franklin County girls basketball team in the state tournament, I was going to miss seeing the gold medal finals of one of my favorite Winter Olympic sports.

When I told my wife I was setting a timer and recording it so I could watch it when I got back, she looked at me a little funny and laughed.

I don’t know why she had that reaction. I mean, didn’t everyone watch the men’s curling final between Canada and Norway.

Well, maybe not. And I assume most readers are probably giving their newspapers funny looks and laughing as they get to this point in the column.

But I’m not kidding. I’ve really gotten into curling during the last couple of weeks.

Curling is sort of the poster child for Olympic sports Americans don’t know much about, and for that reason, make fun of.

It’s the typical American attitude. “Well we didn’t come up with it and don’t play it, so it’s stupid.”

But I say, don’t make fun of it. Just give it a chance.

I’ll admit, when the Olympics first started, I had no idea the rules of curling or how anyone figured out how to play it.

I was flipping through the channels late one morning and came across a United States men’s curling match.

I watched the last 30 minutes or so of the match not knowing what the heck was going on, but intrigued nonetheless.

So I consulted the Internet and by the time the next curling match came on TV, I knew the rules and was starting to pick up on some of the strategies.

The basic rules of curling are that there are 10 ends, similar to innings in baseball.

Each team slides eight stones down the ice per end, in the attempt to get them closest to the center of three concentric circles painted on the ice.

A team scores points by having its stones closer to the center than its opponent.

So, for example, if a team has the closest stone to the center, it scores one point. If it has the two closest stones to the center, it gets two points. If it has the first three closest stones to center, it gets three points, etc.

Teams also have sweepers who will sweep the ice in front of the stone in order to make it glide farther or get it to curl.

If there was a sport that I would compare to curling that Americans would know is baseball.

Not for the athletic prowess, because obviously baseball is a more athletic sport. But like baseball, curling is a sport that takes strategy and ingenuity to in order to have success.

Teams will slide stones down the ice, called guards, in order to keep the other team from getting their stones closest to the center.

Teams will also play ricochet shots, in order to knock their opponent’s stone out of the circle.

And in a world of sports where only the tallest, biggest and strongest stand out, curling is a sport that anybody can play.

In fact, I wish I could get out there on the ice and curl some stones.

So while curling will probably never catch on in America as one of the major sports, it at least deserves respect as an Olympic mainstay.