February 21, 2006


While short-track skating is my favorite sport at the Winter Games, I have a soft spot for curling.  I lived in upstate New York for four years, right on the Quebec border, and often woke up on Saturday mornings to curling competitions on television.  The better I got to know the sport, the more I liked it.  After a late Friday night and a hectic work week, there was something comforting about spending a morning on the couch watching people slip and slide with brooms and giant stones, yelling at each other and at the ice, all the while trying to keep it cool.

Another reason I like curling is the historian in me:  its history is foggy, but we know it’s old, likely originating sometime in 16th century Scotland.  The first match of record took place in 1540, when a Scottish monk in Paisley challenged the lay governor to a game, but it didn’t hit American shores the mid-18th century, and became popular with the first waves of Scottish immigrants in the early 19th century. 

While increasing in popularity, it remains somewhat of an odd sport to the American fan.  Its centerpiece is the curling stone, which weighs 42 pounds, and the match takes place on a patch of ice more than twice the length of a bowling alley.

Here in Torino, Italian fans are enjoying curling perhaps more than anything, with its television ratings soaring.  Those in the seats are quite racous, chanting things like “JEEPERS, CREEPERS, WHERE’D YA GET THOSE SWEEPERS” as the athletes scrub the ice furiously in an attempt to manipulate where the stones end up. 

So give it a try – it’s pretty addictive – and it is a rare thing in the Untied States to be able to watch curling at the elite level on television.   And I’ll even offer a prediction:  the American men?  Pretty good.  As in, win-a-medal good.

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m o r e

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