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Game plan for 2014: Curl up on couch again for the action

Sat., Feb. 27, 2010

Canada’s Cheryl Bernard reacts to a shot during the gold medal women’s curling match against Sweden at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver on Friday.  (Associated Press)
Canada’s Cheryl Bernard reacts to a shot during the gold medal women’s curling match against Sweden at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver on Friday. (Associated Press)

I’m sitting here in front of my TV, mesmerized by the red-hot curling action.

Yes, I am referring to the lamest of Olympic sports (or so I once thought), with its 1-mile-per-hour pace, its hysterical screaming (“Hard! Hard! Hard!”) and its bizarre lingo (“she needs to just barely kiss the shot rock and roll gently onto the button”).

And yet …

Well, let me put it this way. I found it very dangerous to have a week off during the Winter Olympics. I found myself spending about six hours a day glued to every end (inning) of curling matches featuring athletes who resemble, mostly, bowlers.

Did I say it was “dangerous” to have a week off? I meant to say “incredibly fortunate.” In fact, I’m already scheduling a week of vacation for February 2014, so I can devote the proper time to curling during the next Olympics.

Now, I am perfectly aware that curling lends itself to ridicule and abuse. That’s because I spent the first two matches ridiculing it.

I would sit in front of the TV and say things like:

“Wow, those are some impressive sweeping skills. They must have recruited Canada’s top housekeeping professionals.”

“This fast pace is killing me. I’m going to go make some popcorn and see if that stone has stopped when I come back.”

“Love the outfits. I’ve seen golfers wearing quieter pants.”

Yet it wasn’t long before I discovered curling’s unique draw. This is a game of pure strategy. The team that plans three moves ahead is going to win. Yes, it consists of a bunch of people sweeping, screaming and knocking rocks all over the ice, but curling is essentially an intellectual game. The goal is to get your rock closest to the target – but if that’s all you try to do, you’ll lose. I don’t understand all the strategy, but I do know that putting a rock right in the center is sometimes the dumbest thing you can do.

But is curling athletic? It hardly looks like it. Curling is essentially shuffleboard. Lawn bowling. Bocce ball. All sports played by geezers.

But then I noticed – there are no geezers on the Olympic teams. It may not require muscles, but it obviously requires young, fresh nerves. It requires finesse and precision, a lot like putting in golf – if a golfer had to putt on a sheet of ice. Placing a rock in exactly the correct spot with exactly the correct pace requires a ridiculous amount of touch – the kind that we armchair athletes could never develop.

The result is just plain hypnotizing. And the commentators are hypnotizing, too, at least most of them. They have a comforting, avuncular Canadian style, in the manner of golf commentators, but even mellower. But then there’s one commentator on the women’s side who’s just plain mean, smug and passive-aggressive.

Which makes it even more entertaining.

Speaking of golf, I see that curling was invented in Scotland. So, Scotland has given the world both golf and curling.

Scotland has a lot to answer for, some might say.

Me? I say Scotland has a lot to be proud of, especially if you add whisky to the list.

Reach Jim Kershner at (509) 459-5493 or via e-mail at

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