Not that I’ve written about it here, but since last October, I’ve spent the bulk of my Friday and Sunday nights out at the Broomstones Curling Club. This past weekend, I took my new found hobby a step further and competed in the Elisabeth Childs Women’s Challenge in Norfolk, CT, a bonspiel for women with 5 or less years of curling experience (that’s me!).
Smiling is not something I do while throwing a stone
I wasn’t originally going to compete, but a team dropped out at the last minute and I got a call from Tami Gouvais, a member of Broomstones that I knew peripherally but had never curled with. She was attempting to put together a team at the last minute and someone had recommended that she call me. She had been in touch with a woman in Wilkes-Barre, PA and knew of someone else in Philadelphia who were looking for a team. And thus, our rag tag bunch that had never met before was formed.
We wound up doing better than expected — and better than two of the three Broomstones teams that had formed well in advance. (The third team won the whole thing.) We went 2-2 and reached our goal of curling on Sunday by beating a team from Schenectady on Thursday, losing to a team from Utica on Friday, beating a team from Broomstones on Saturday, and losing to another team from Broomstones on Sunday. The Saturday game that kept us alive was by far my shining moment. With the score tied up in the 8th end, I threw a rock that just touched the button and was well protected by guards up front.
The blue stone was mine!
After I threw the shot, my teammates commented that it got a lot of cheers. I looked up and realized that the entire Norfolk CC warm room and bar was watching our game. I’m glad I didn’t know that before I threw my stones — the pressure was on! But after a few more harrowing shots from the vices and skips, we held on to win and my rock remained shot.
Our prize? We had to buy a round of drinks and get up for a 7:30 AM game the next day. As for that game… well, let’s pretend the tournament ended on Saturday.
(More pictures, including the costume contest and the A event finals, aka the championship game, that was won by a Broomstones team here.)
It’s been almost two weeks since I last blogged about curling, so I figured I’d rectify that. Below are some video highlights (taken with my phone) of our second night of the mini-league. (I throw the second stone.) For whatever reason, the sound disappeared when I uploaded it to YouTube (and the video was taken with my phone, so it’s pretty low quality to begin with).
I’ve started to actually get the hang of throwing — I managed to place a guard right where the skip called it, followed by throwing a stone that curled around my own guard and went right into the house near-ish the button. Maybe Sochi 2014 isn’t so far off after all…
Tonight was the first night of the Friday night mini-league, which Karly and I managed to sign up for in the 3 1/2 minutes it took to fill up, as well as signing up Adam, Matt, and Johnny. While I brought the camera, I was too busy skipping to take any pictures. (For the uninitiated, the skip throws the last stone and controls the team strategy — kind of the team captain. Also, the skip doesn’t have to sweep. You can bet I volunteered for that position right away.)
As it was a mini-league, we started by doing some drills under the instruction of a number of club veterans, many of whom had competed at the national level. I still throw too hard, but apparently it’s good takeout weight! After we warmed up and got a better feel for how to throw, we played a mini-game of only 3 ends. (A standard game is 8 ends — 10 in the olympics.)
My randomly assigned team (which included none of the people I came with) managed to beat the other randomly assigned team (which didn’t include anyone I know either). I’d like to say it was because of the brilliant strategy I had, but really, since my strategy was tightly coupled with what the experienced instructors were telling me to do and since none of the shots were going where I placed them, it was more luck than anything else.
Still, I had a blast, and am looking forward to next week. Oh, and also tomorrow when Forrest and I go to the learn-to-curl event. Can one overload on curling? I don’t think so.
Also, as a public service announcement (mostly to the google bots that come by here more frequently than real readers), the Scottosphere has been moved to scottosphere.org from its previous URL. It seems Johnston’s old domain expired without warning and was immediately snapped up by a spammer. (I’ll not mention the old domain name in order to prevent the spammer from getting extra attention.)
Today, I took my curling obsession to the next level and actually tried out the sport at the Broomstones open house. Accompanying me was a rag tag bunch including Johnston, my coworker Callie, Jeff Roberts, Adam, my roommate Karly, and her friends Matt and Johnny. After making the drive to Wayland and parking in a nearby church, we got on a shuttle bus that drove us to the club and gave us flashbacks to elementary school. Once there, we watched a brief movie about the science of curling before splitting into two groups of four to take the ice: me, Scott, Callie, and Adam vs. Karly, Jeff, Matt, and Johnny. As Michael Scott from the office described it there were no winners or losers, only poetry.
After trying the sport, I made the following conclusions:
- It’s harder than it looks on TV (which I suspected).
- The stone was surprisingly lighter than I expected.
- I am good at throwing “warm room” shots — stones that would go past the house even off the ice (aka a warm room). I apparently need to learn to tone down my power.
- Scott and Adam do not have this problem.
- The pebbled ice has a lot more traction than I’m used to from my broomball playing days. But you can still slip.
- Yelling “HAAAAAARRRRRRD!” is fun. But with my shots, I should probably just yell “WHOA!”
- Not only do you yell “hard” when you sweep, but it is hard to do. Really, the hardest part is keeping up with the stone. Unless Johnston throws, then it moves slow enough that I can manage.
- More sports should have the rule that the winning team buys the losing team beer.
- There is a mini-league starting this Friday. I’m totally game for it.
I took more pictures here.
The US Men’s curling team lost their final game to China just now, finishing 2-7 in the round robin tournament, well out of medal contention. As skip John Shuster missed yet another shot in the 8th end, he was overheard to say “I’m sick of this stupid game.” Oh, Mr. Shuster… such good taste in baseball teams*, not such good luck on the curling sheet. The word “shustered” was even coined for his style of play. (That style would be missing the big shot in key situations, it seems. Although hey, he’s got a bronze medal from 2006 and you don’t.)
On the plus side for the sport of curling, everyone I’ve talked to who has paid the slightest bit of attention (and, okay, all but one of those people were people I introduced curling to) has joked that they’re going to learn to curl so that they too can go to the Olympics and screw it all up. After all, it can’t be that hard to beat Shuster’s team, can it? (Um, yeah, it probably can.) Even if most of those people never actually pick up a stone, some will (I will!), some of those will stick with it, and maybe even some of those will compete for the US in future Olympics and actually do well.
And so, John Shuster, while you might be sick of this game, the rest of the country is just starting to pay attention.
* If you don’t want to install silverlight, it’s a video of John Shuster talking about how he’s inspired by the Minnesota Twins. Given how the Twins of late have a habit of working hard to make it to the playoffs only to fail miserably once they get there, it’s kind of an apt inspiration.
With a hat tip to the NBC announcer, from the country who brought us ABBA and Ace of Base, the Swedish band Hammerfall featured the Swedish women’s curling team in their music video “Hearts On Fire.” It’s… bizarre.
And what obscure sport am I reporting the scores for? Why, the only one in which you get to throw rocks at houses — curling!
For some bizarre reason, curling has become my new favorite sport. I first got into it during the 2006 Torino games, mostly because I loved listening to the announcers’ Canadian accents and because the women’s team was from Minnesota. Fast forward to last summer when I bought a Wii and brought it home. Deciding to buy me a new game, my dad selected a sports game which included curling and family fun at the cabin was had. (That game is actually not so good and I’ve since bought a better curling-included game.) So while I’ve yet to throw a real stone (I’ll get to that), I know the rules and the strategy.
Now that the 2010 games are under way in Vancouver, I’ve been streaming the curling matches at work and watching coverage on CNBC. (In fact, I am currently watch the Canada-Denmark women’s match.) For those who don’t know the difference between a peel and a tick, the summary of the first few days goes like this: team Canada is generally awesome and unbeatable (particularly the men) and team USA can’t win a game, usually due missing a clutch shot in the 10th end. (End ~ inning in baseball… kind of.)
But the US’s luck turned around today — both the men and women’s teams finally won! The men’s victory is not without drama as it came after they benched their skip (skip ~ last shooter/team captain) John Shuster and replaced him with 22 year old alternate Chris Plys. Oh, the tension in the curling world! Unfortunately for the men, they’re still ranked last while the women fare only slightly better. (They’re ahead of Switzerland, who remain the last unvictorious team on the rink for either gender.) I’m cheering for Canada all the way at this point.
Today’s Olympic victories aside, I’ve decided that curling is my best shot at ever being a world class athlete, given that hockey didn’t really work out for me. And so, on March 7, I’m going to the Broomstones open house with anyone who wants to join me. (Seriously, if you’re reading this, are in Massachusetts, and want to go, a bunch of us have registered for the 3:40 slot.) I’m bringing a camera and I’m sure I will discover that hurling a 44 pound piece of granite into a precise spot on the ice is not a easy as Cheryl Bernard makes it look… but I’m also betting that it will be a ton of fun!