The primary time I watched an Olympic curling match on tv, I entertained a thought that’s absolutely shared by everybody who sees the game for the primary time: What the hell am I ?

It was in the course of the 2002 Video games in Salt Lake Metropolis, Utah, and I tuned in to the dwell feed on the very starting of a girls’s medal match. I used to be intrigued by the grace of the gamers and the way they may effortlessly slide these enormous, bulb-like stones down the ice. However every part else about it was complicated. It seemed form of like shuffleboard, however with extra yelling. And plenty of bizarre stuff. The principles, the lingo, they manner they used brooms—brooms!—to make the stones slide round. And it simply appeared so boring. How may anybody endure watching a sport with such an absence of apparent athleticism, such inscrutable gameplay, and such a torpid tempo?

By the 2 hour mark, I used to be riveted. I nonetheless did not perceive what the brooms have been for, however I used to be starting to determine the principles. The lingo was starting to make sense. And I used to be completely consumed by the drama. When the match ended, I shortly set my DVR to document each curling broadcast for the remainder of the Olympics, together with reruns. I used to be hooked. What had began as an opportunity encounter with an esoteric sport had resulted in an insatiable thirst for extra, instantly.

Curl You Know It is True

Curling is completely one of the best sport to look at on tv, significantly for viewers on the lookout for an escape from the frantic “extra, sooner, larger, larger” grind of most televised video games. Watching basketball or hockey can get you so overestimated, you are feeling like ingesting a Pink Bull and doing leaping jacks. Watching curling makes you wish to drink a glass of purple wine and lie down on the shag carpet. Curling is deliberate. Considerate, even. The video games transfer very slowly. The gamers spend a variety of time speaking technique. There are nods and quiet phrases of encouragement; not often are there disagreements. When it comes time for a staff member to play their flip by sliding a stone down the ice, the strikes are elegant. There is a wind up, a push-off, a slide, and a mild launch. Such poise and finesse!

Earlier than my phrases dissolve right into a string of breathless sighs, let me inform you in regards to the recreation itself. Curling does certainly resemble shuffleboard (additionally bocce or petanque), the place the item is to get as a lot of your recreation items as shut as you may to the marker on the different finish of the sector of play. Groups are made up of 4 gamers every. One participant slides the stone down the ice whereas two of the opposite gamers sweep the ice in entrance of the stone with brooms to attempt to management the stone’s pace and path of journey.

Then there’s all that humorous lingo. The stone is usually referred to as a “rock.” The sector of play is a “sheet.” The purpose marker on the different finish of the sheet known as the “home.” There’s some humorous gear too: particular sneakers, these brooms, and the rocks themselves. The graceful, 44-pound items of granite make cool clunking sounds after they knock into one another. (There is a rock emoji, natch.) The stones slide otherwise relying on the sheet, going straight or curving naturally, and sweeping can management these elements. The staff captain is, merely, “skip.” The skip does many of the yelling, often called “line calling.” These are instructions for the sweepers that inform them how “laborious” or “straightforward” to comb.

Every spherical of play known as an “finish.” Groups throw eight rocks per finish. The extra rocks you get in the home, the extra factors you rating, although just one staff can rating per finish. You tally up the winner’s factors on the conclusion of every finish; after ten ends, the staff with probably the most factors wins the match.

The powerhouse groups come from nations you’d anticipate; the territories ringing the Arctic circle like Canada, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Russia. The US does very effectively on the worldwide circuit. Asia has made some sturdy showings recently—Korea and China specifically.

You’d assume the rivals are unathletic. In spite of everything, there isn’t any operating, leaping, or dunking. However curlers are nearly all in nice form. You possibly can inform as a result of the uniforms are form-fitting. And since their faces are unobscured by helmets, goggles, or any protecting gear, you may learn their feelings in full 4K and actually get eye-to-eye with them in your lounge. When a participant screams in anguish at dangerous throw, you are proper there subsequent to them. Curlers are crush-worthy. They develop into sympathetic characters. Typically actually; this one appears like Mario. The lengthy matches, usually stretching to 2 and half hours, provide the likelihood to develop shut bonds with explicit athletes. The groups too—I used to be rooting laborious for the Swiss girls’s staff in the course of the 2006 Video games in Turin, Italy. The remainder of the time, my allegiances belong to perennial underdogs Denmark.

My Curl Friday

The informal observer watching at residence can decide up all of the vital stuff over the course of a single recreation. Once I watched that fateful first match, I used to be biting my nails in frustration because the rocks stopped effectively wanting the home. However the technique revealed itself over time. These weren’t dangerous throws, that was one staff establishing defensive blocks so they may tuck the following throw behind a type of shielding rocks, making it tougher for the opposite staff to knock away their factors.

Although video games can get very intense in a short time, issues keep fairly relaxed more often than not. It is in these lengthy stretches of nothing the place you may discover the true pleasure of curling as a televised sport. Activate a match within the night, dim the lights, and really feel the pressures of your different life fall away into an epic, dripping slowness. Silence your cellphone, flip it the wrong way up on the espresso desk, and enter the alternate Curliverse the place you may gently slide your worries down the ice on a cushion of tranquility.

A brand new fashion of play is being examined for the primary time on the Gangneung Curling Centre in Korea: mixed doubles. This type of curling has two gamers per staff—one man, one lady—as an alternative of 4, and video games final six ends as an alternative of ten. Gameplay is a brisk 90 minutes as an alternative of the afternoon-filling two or three hours. Extra factors are scored, and it is supposedly a better occasion to look at. Actually, it sounds neat and I hope it exposes extra folks to curling.

However I will proceed to advocate for the unique model. It is longform tv at its best. I may watch hours and hours of curling on TV, and over the following three weeks, I’ll. Possibly sometime, I will really see a match performed dwell.

Olympic Fever

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