Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Sport of Curling


It was recently pointed out to me that when I discussed non-football sports, I left out curling. I guess I left out a lot of winter sports – except for the X-Games, which has both winter and summer sports, and I addressed the under-televised X-Games. This led me to think about those winter sports – except hockey, which I clearly expressed my thoughts on that – and to address those winter sports in this post.

Let me start by saying, I actually like curling – for a sport seen on major (American) television once every four years during the Olympics. I remember the first time I saw a curling match. I don’t remember the exact year, but it had to be between 2003 and 2007. I was on a cardiac surgery rotation while in residency, and we were about to do a heart transplant. There was a delay such that the attending surgeon and myself were forced to wait for about 30 minutes in a small room in a very small hospital somewhere in the middle of Idaho. In the corner of the room, there was a tiny television (obviously, everything was small there) and the Winter Olympics were on with a Curling Qualifying Round as the highlight for the evening. Now, first of all, I didn’t even know what curling was and secondly, was shocked that this li’l known sport would be the highlight. It was fun to watch, though, and I soon found myself wanting to learn more about the sport.

The World of Curling Federation1 dates the sport back to the 1500’s, starting from Europeans throwing stones across ice as a pastime during the winter. Obviously, the current sport has a definitive form and a definitive set of rules. It first appeared in the Olympics in 1924. Basically, two teams of four face off throwing stones towards a “bull’s eye” down a lane of ice. Each player throws 2 stones, which are 19.1kg and made of a rare polished granite.2 The “Skip” is like the team captain. As the stone is thrown, two other players (primarily the “Lead” and “Second” unless they are throwing) will sweep the ice to make the stone go faster or slower and curl left or right.3 The order of throwing is Lead, Second, Vice and Skip, but it is the Skip who is giving instructions to the sweepers on how to sweep. Some excellent resources to learn more about curling can be found at the official USA website: and The Curling 101 website: . YouTube also has some good videos. Enough about curling…

Briefly, as to other sports I may have missed… Many of them just don’t get adequate mainstream coverage. Soccer, which is awesome, is starting to change some of that, but it has certainly been hurt by a deficiency of media representation in this country – unless, it’s the World Cup or Olympics. In that case, we’re all in (meaning we are watching the US Women’s Soccer team win games.) I love rugby – more on that later, though, because I have a Southern story involving a combination of rugby and an important day in American history. I also have some really hilarious anecdotes from my days as a player. Now, figure skating, speed skating, gymnastics, wrestling, boxing, martial arts, etc. – all of those take incredible dexterity, strength and endurance. I respect those athletes – but you can ditto the above statement. With the exception of professional boxing, they aren’t as often highlighted unless it’s a world championship or the Olympics. We could also talk about archery, volleyball, bobsledding, bull fighting – even bocci ball. I could get into discussing body building, scuba diving, cheerleading, cricket, darts, diving, equestrian, hand ball and log rolling. There’s kayaking, lacrosse, sailing, luge, racquetball, rock climbing and shooting. Let’s not forget surfing, weight lifting, polo, water polo and even the old fashioned tug-o-war. There are so many sports, and I intermittently follow many of them. I certainly respect these dedicated and self-sacrificing athletes laboring to master their chosen sport. However, I don’t avidly seek those events out or look out for every competition, news clip or update.

It’s just that…. well, those sports aren’t football, and that sport is still king of The South.


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