February 25, 2010

"Chess on ice"

That's a quote from…oh, I don't know who exactly. But it was used in a BQT question once upon a time:

Due to the complex nature of stone placement and shot selection, what sport is sometimes referred to as “chess on ice”?

The answer, naturally, is the hot, hot, hot sport du jour, curling. Yipee!

I can pinpoint the first time I ever heard of curling: September 1990. I'd just moved from New Jersey to Montreal, Canada; just migrated from a world of multicultural public school theater geeks to the land of jacket-and-tie, all-boys private-school sports meatheads. (Not a long story, but a rather sad one.) One of the first days of school, a rather nasty fellow (I remember the name but will not share it) took note of my slight build and lack of obvious athletic acumen and asked, "Are you going to join the curling team?"

What? "Curling"? Never heard of it. I imagined an intramural activity of fancifying ribbons on birthday presents. More realistically, I imagined that "joining the curling team" was some kind of Quebecois slang for being a homo dork.

Anyway, no, curling was (is) an actual activity and/or sport, my school did indeed have a curling team, populated by the geeks and weirdos. And while I would become a proud member of the weirdo/geek class, I never did join the curling team. Never curled, and didn't think about the sport much after high school.

Until recently. Curling was officially named an Olympic sport in 1998, and the history of this activity is mildly interesting, but too weird to go into here; I'm more interested in the crazy blip in popularity that the game seems to be enjoying at the moment. I mean, it's always weird how the Olympics seem to get Americans interested in sports that they couldn't give a monkey's ass about the other 206 weeks of the quadrennial, but curling is really throwing me for a loop this time. In the past week, I've been to no fewer than three public venues where the frozen shuffleboard has been playing on multiple TVs, with more than a few patrons watching with at least moderate interest. Huh. I don't recall anyone noticing curling in '06 or '02, but now, it is all the rage.

An apt observation about curling is that it looks neither fun nor athletic, and I mostly agree: It certainly takes skill, and while I'd rather eat carpet tacks than curl, I can see how some people might find it amusingly distracting. But it's still weird, and weird that New Yorkers suddenly care. Curlers wear specialized curling pants and shoes, and sometimes utilize a device called a "delivery stick." And of course, they use brooms, which might be unique in sports, unless you count quidditch.
Check out this glossary of curling, and understand what an involved world those wacky curlers have created for themselves. Good for them.

But here's the funniest thing: While curling was officially declared an Olympic sport in 1998, it had been intermittently played as a "demonstration event." But in '06, for Lordy knows what reason, the Olympic Committee retroactively decided that the 1924 curling competition was a "real" Olympic competition, that a bunch of guys who'd probably been dead for 20 years were suddenly Olympic medalists.

What is the point of this? Give medals to dead guys who throw rocks on sweep the ice around them? Who does this benefit? Come to think of it, what's the real point of the Olympics anyway? Whom does it actually benefit? Why do we spend so much money on it? And why do we care about it? Furthermore, what's the point of this whole world? What's the point of life?

I am a seeker.


the kevin scurry blog said...

The real question, like you brought up, is why do New Yorkers care about obscure Manitoban ice sports once every four years? My theory is that those same sportmeatheads will watch any bullshit you throw in front of them, be it golf, baseball, women's softball, and/or curling.

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Ecole Privee Reine Marie said...

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