Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Me and my broom

It isn't Quidditch. In fact, it's about the farthest thing from Quidditch, which is nothing if not a game of complexity: balls with their own wills flying hither and yond, gamers dashing among them, some with heavy "bludgers," while others try to make it through hoops or to spot a special tiny, golden ball.

No, it isn't Quidditch, though it does require brooms.

image via sportsillustrated.cnn.com

Of course, I'm talking about the relatively new Olympic sport of curling. Oddly enough, it's the only Olympic event I've watched at any length. (It was on at the Rec center while I was working out, ok? And, if you want to watch, here's a video clip.)

I remember the first semester I taught comp at UW-Milwaukee some years ago. First day of class, I did my routine: fill out an index card, include some interesting and unique fact about yourself. One person's fact: I'm on the curling team.

Being from Texas, I had never heard of curling. And as I gained bits of information about the sport over the years, it never made a lot of sense. They sweep the ice to get a big stone to the goal? (A heavy, quite earthbound stone.) How long does that take? Somehow I imagined it taking ages just to make a little progress. I thought watching a curling match would be something like waiting for water to boil.

I'm happy to report that it's much more fast-paced than I imagined. Which only makes sense: why did I think movement on ice would be slow? The sweeping helps to direct the stone--it moves along pretty fast after being "delivered" by the "skip."

(And, speaking of movement on ice: did you know it's only recently that physicists understood how ice scating works?)

And though it may not be Quidditch, it inspires intensity: just look at their faces. History says the sport started in Scotland. Makes sense: golfing also started in Scotland. Both are sports that focus intensely on pathways.

No big point here, my friends. Just wanted to juxtapose two sports that require brooms, even if one is imaginary. (And even if it is hard to tell that one could be real.)


Jon said...

Britain went "curling mad"--well, as much as one can be curling mad--at the last Winter Olympics, as the women's curling medal was the only gold (perhaps the only medal at all?) that we won.

So there's been lots of coverage of both men's and women's curling this year.

Plus it's been determined that it's not such a recent Olympic sport either: that the 1924 competition in Chamonix was a real event, not just a demonstration. So that's another gold to us, then, already!

None of which changes the fact that this so-called sport is simply a cross between housework and skating. Only without the skating.

Donna said...

"Curling mad." Now there's an emotional state that hadn't occurred to me.

What really intrigues me is the question of how people came up with this sport. What were they doing with large stones and brooms out at the ice pond in the first place? How did the domestic (brooms) end up out there?

Jon said...

"What were they doing with large stones and brooms out at the ice pond in the first place?"

Boredom, clearly. And just imagine how bored they must have been, to have invented curling to pass the time...

Meanwhile, both the British men and the British women have now crashed out of the medals chase. (OK, so the men might still get a gold.) So curling mania may die down a little.

But that provokes me to ponder why curling is divided along gender lines.

Though I'm sure that this is not the only question that'll keep me up tonight.

alb said...

And if we ask how bored were they to come up with curling, must we not ask how bored are we for watching?
Maybe I should only speak for myself, but as a sports nut I enjoy the curling for some reason. The olympics has this uncanny ability of making me watch sports I would never watch otherwise, and of them curling is one of my favorites.

Jon said...

"OK, so the men might still get a gold."

That should have been a bronze, of course.

Donna said...

Well, it looks likely Britain has lost that curling feeling. What mania will be next?

About the apparent boring-ness of curling: I've heard so many people (including alb here) admit to watching it that I have to believe it isn't boring but rather quite intense. Something about it...that bizarre potentiality of the stone on ice. It could go anywhere. And yet, somehow, it goes, more or less, toward that goal. Hmmm.