I had my Kindle with me for the flights from Seattle to Boston, with a stop in Chicago. While in Panama I discovered Thomas Perry’s crime heroine Jane Whitefield, and I’m working my way through all eight books. I love this series, right up there with Inspector Gamache and Gabriel Allon and Adam Dalgliesh and the inestimable Miss Marple.
But I turned on the Olympics via the in flight entertainment system, without earphones, so I could look up once in awhile and see what was happening. The competition du jour was curling.
It’s a funny sport. I get what the teams are doing, sort of. One team member, whose role surely has a name, sets the large flat bottom stone with handle in motion, gliding down the ice. Two other team members, wielding stiff brushes, go back and forth in front of the stone, altering speed and trajectory by creating heat on surface of the ice. The goal is to get your stone inside the target and knock the opponent’s stone out.
I’m perplexed how one might come to love curling enough to master it as a sport at any level, much less Olympic grade. Kids of my era who followed the New York Yankees of the 1950’s might have become baseball players out of a desire to be like Mickey Mantle or Whitey Ford or Roger Maris or Yogi Berra. Girls today who play pickup basketball might aspire to be the next Candace Parker. A kid at the Jersey shore might realize a talent for swimming. I never took ballet lessons but knew the name of Gelsey Kirkland, and might have wanted to be an ice dancer to do something that looked like her. New Jersey was near enough to Vermont, where people skied, that I might have wanted to master that sport.
But do you know the name of a single world class curler? Have you ever seen anyone play a pickup game of curling on the ice at a lake near your home? Do you know any colleges that give curling scholarships? I don’t.
As I said, I think it’s a funny sport. That’s not to say I doubt the skill and commitment it takes, or the enjoyment of mastery for the people who are good at it. I just wonder how you get hooked by curling in the first place when the practice of it seems, well, obscure. Does anyone out there know?