Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Curling: The olympic's slow wonder


In the pre-opening days of this Olympics there really wasn't much to watch besides Curling. The only things to see at that point were the events that there was so much of that they spilled out of the normal Olympic bounds. I did catch a little of the Women's Hockey Prelims with all their foregone conclusions, but mostly, before the Opening Ceremony, it was Curling Curling Curling.

And there's been quite a bit of it after the opening too!

I am not going to explain too much about how curling works, except to say it is an ice variation on any number of games of its type; bocce ball, shuffleboard, horseshoes, petanque. The last few times my friend Grape and I backpacked we would invent similar games to these using rocks. They were perfectly diverting.

This does not mean that Curling is not a game requiring real skill, clever strategy, and great composure.

But it does mean that it is the one event that anybody looks at in the Winter Olympics and says "I could totally do that! I could be an Olympic Curler!"

And sure, maybe you could. Good luck on that one.

Curling is very different than all the other Olympic events. It is slow and sedate and thoughtful, I mean, except for the part where you yell instructions at your teammate(s). Though its rules are complex enough that I can't be bothered to explain them here, they are simple enough that one could pick up virtually all of them after watching any random fifteen minutes of a match.

Curling looks like it's going to be very boring to watch, but it has a pleasant, strangely hypnotic quality to it. So one may start out thinking they'll be turning it off any second now and yet end up completely formed into the shape of one's couch. Just talking about it makes me want to check out how the Mixed Doubles Italian team is doing today, perhaps with a bottle of wine, and then follow that up (continuing to work on the wine) by checking in on the Canadians and Swedes. The Italians been the big surprise of the tournament so far, but anything can happen when we get to the medal rounds.

And when I say "anything can happen" I mean the same things will happen pretty much exactly as we've seen a thousand times, but with endless, slight variations. More like chess or backgammon than one might expect of an Olympic event.

My very favorite part of Olympic Curling though is the language. There is a lot of yelling in Curling as teammates have to communicate, sometimes urgently, up and down the long course of ice. And here one gets to clearly hear all the various team's languages; Chinese, Norwegian, Canadian, Swedish, Italian, and even, sometimes, Minnesotan.

Or maybe my favorite part of Olympic Curling is how it has become the bass line of the Winter Olympics for me. After the astonishing jumps, the daredevil skiing, the tireless skating; the grace and drama, it can be a strange, comforting relief that there is always some kind of slow burning, chill and cerebral, curling to fall back on.

1 comment:

  1. A timely entry. About a week ago something brought curling to my attention. I had to resort to ILL to get a book on the subject: "The Roaring Game, a sweeping saga of curling" by Doug Clark. I had no idea what the book would be like, but I've made it to page 79 (of 288) and I'm captivated. It's history, but it's so charmingly written, not at all dry, I tend to give it long turns being read than the other books in the active stack. The vocabulary is slightly familiar from miscellaneous exposure in fiction, and I can get a lot from context.
    I've seen real curling, live, just once, when I was a kid, probably a young teen. A friend and I were at the country club once (only once, and only because her family had a membership) and we ventured into a sort of observation room where people were curling. And I still get a weird feeling when I recall watching the stone come ever so slowly toward where we were sitting; it hit the boards under our feet, and the contrast between the slow stone and the heavy THUD still makes me feel funny just thinking about it.
    I wouldn't try it myself; ice...slip...fall...terror. But I'm sure I could find a place to watch. I'll let you know if I do.


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