Jared Felkins: Curling: Yet another sport where I won’t see a medal

Speed skating…nope. Bobsled…nada. Ski jumping…not in a million years. Skeleton…you’ve got to be kidding. Cross-country skiing…no way.
Feb 15, 2014

“Gold medals aren't really made of gold. They're made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts.”

— Dan Gable

Speed skating…nope. Bobsled…nada. Ski jumping…not in a million years. Skeleton…you’ve got to be kidding. Cross-country skiing…no way.

Go ahead and throw hockey, figure skating, freestyle skiing, snowboarding and biathlon in the mix, as well.

There are two distinct things all of these sports have in common. They are all featured in the XXII Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and they are all sports none of which will carry me to these or any Olympics. It’s pretty safe to lump all the Summer Olympic sports in there, too.

So far, it’s been really fun watching the Winter Olympics with my children, and a question from my 6 year old got me to thinking maybe there is place for me on the podium after all.

“Daddy, can we play sweepies?” Bryley asked me. It took me a minute to figure it out, but my conclusion was spot on…curling. She was talking about curling, apparently after seeing it on the USA Network, which has become the source for all things curling during this latest round of games.

Now let me be clear. I am in no way insinuating the men and women competing in curling are not athletes. I do, however, argue curling ranks up there with the likes of NASCAR and professional golf when it comes to physical exertion.

And when I make that comparison, I would never drive a car 200 mph nor could I break even par if my life depended on it.

There are few who would argue Tony Stewart and John Daly aren’t good at what they do, but I’m reserving last place for them if they had to ski a mile or two and take out some half-dollar-sized targets along the way with a .22 rifle.

I guess the bottom line is – before I dig an even deeper hole ­– out of all the Winter Olympic sports out there, I’m thinking maybe I have the best chance with at least being decent at curling.

But that was before my curling research. What a fascinating and surprisingly difficult game. Even the terminology is unique.

So a curling game breaks out when two teams of four players get together and slide granite stones across a sheet of ice. Akin to shuffleboard, points are scored for the rocks closest to the center of the house, or circular target, at the conclusion of each end. An end is over when both teams have thrown all eight of their stones. A game includes 10 ends.

Sounds simple enough, right? But wait, there’s more.

The curler – or rock pusher – can cause the rock to go on a curved path by slowly turning it when it’s released, which is referred to as the delivery. Two sweepers may further alter the path of the stone by changing the state of the ice in front of it.

The skip, of the team’s captain, will usually determine the required weight, turn and line of the stone. These decisions are often influenced by the tactics used by the opponents, who may take out, block or tap other rocks.

Also called “chess on ice,” curling was invented in 16th Century Scotland. It was introduced as an official sport in the 1998 Winter Olympics and includes men’s and women’s tournaments.

Curling has an estimated 1.5 million registered players. There are special shoes worn and everything. It sounds much more complicated than the folks watching on television would make it sound.

I guess the Olympics for me are out of the question. If only there was an eating competition. Even then, I don't stand a chance against athletes like Joey Chestnut or Takeru Kobayashi of Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest fame.

It sure would be fun to train for it, though. Until then, I’m holding out for recliner-style sitting or competitive sleeping. Just try to take the gold from me in those sports.

Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at jfelkins@lebanondemocrat.com or email him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.


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