Thursday, January 31, 2008

Have Stone, Will Curl

In my endless quest to participate in the most bizarre and esoteric sports on the planet, I have added yet another notch on my metaphorical bow:
Yes. A sport involving brooms, giant heavy rocks, and ice. If you were not sucked in by the 2006 Olympic Curling championships on TV, then here is a YouTube video showing the Canadian Men winning with what can only be described as a perfect shot. The narration in Russian just makes it all the more entertaining. (At least, I think it's Russian.) Anyway, after almost 2 years, Indianapolis finally has its own curling club and I am THERE.

I suck at it, of course. Here are the things I've learned:
1. Many things can affect where the rock ends up stopping, including how hard you throw it, how much English you put on it, how hard your sweepers are sweeping, and how the ice is running.
2. I am completely incapable of perceiving ANY of these factors when I am actually the one throwing the rock. I'm too busy wondering if I'm about to fall over as I launch myself forward out of the hack. But I'm hoping to get the hang of it.

So if you're in Indy and you want to try curling, here is a basic primer:
The point of the game is to score points. You do this by sliding a granite boulder with a handle on top along a sheet of ice toward a target at the other end. After each team has slid 8 rocks down the sheet, you look to see who's got a rock closest to the center of the target, and that team scores. It's called curling, because the rock usually doesn't slide straight, but curls in one direction or another depending on which way it's rotating as it slides and how melty the surface of the ice is beneath it. Your teammates may attempt to affect the speed and curl of your throw by scrubbing the ice in front of the moving rock with brooms--this melts up the ice just a tiny bit and makes the rock speed up and curl less. When to sweep and how hard to sweep is one of the subtleties that will only come from experience; likewise which way to spin the rock and how hard to throw it. All my throws seem to cruise straight through the target and out the back, or else fall short and are taken out of play. But I've only done it twice. There's always room for improvement...