Monday, November 8, 2004

How I Took Up a Winter Sport to Avoid Having a Kirby Puckett-Sized Behind

Those who know me well know that if there's one thing I wanted to get done before I turned 40 it was to learn how to be a first class curler. Thus you can imagine how happy I felt to be out on the ice of the St. Paul Curling Club last Wednesday, getting it done under the gun. I couldn't imagine a more slippery surface I would have rather have been on than that sheet of ice especially since I was coming off of a 22 hour work day. Yup there's nothing like the constant danger of falling on your ass, this time literally after months of doing it figuratively, that really gets your attention especially when you're operating on a mere two hours of sleep.

Several weeks back when Cap'n Lisa Anne Marie asked me if I was interested in being on the curling team she was putting together, I jumped at the chance. What I knew about the sport I pretty much knew from watching a few minutes on TV. But just from that little exposure I knew that any sport that involved that much crazy sweeping was for me! I didn't know what it was all about, didn't exactly understand the object of the game, but I knew if it was such a big thing in Canada then it had to be something I needed to check out.

A few weeks ago Cap'n Lisa Anne Marie invited me and our other two teammates to attend a seminar at the club. Unfortunately my work schedule has been rather busy so I missed that opportunity and I also missed the practice that Lisa arranged. Thus my first exposure at actually attempting to play the sport that I didn't know the rules, didn't know hardly anything about, was to be live at our first game (match/scrum?).

So I showed up early before our first contest and Lisa tried her best to explain the rudiments of the game to me. The game seems to be a combination of shuffleboard and bowling- the object being to get your team's biscuit as close to the basket, or is it pea nearest the wicket?, or is it rock closest to home? while denying your opponents the choice real estate on the ice. The team's skip, stands at the other side of the ice and first points to where he/she wants your rock/biscuit/pea to end up. He/she then moves a few feet over to the spot that they want you to aim at.

The pitcher, or hurler, or curler, then guides the rock/pea/biscuit down the ice using momentum caused by gliding one's body down the ice and attempts to get the thing in the home target. Two teammates then follow the object down the sheet of ice staying just in front and sweeping with brooms as the skip calls out orders. If the rock/biscuit/pea isn't going fast enough in the right direction, the skip calls out to sweep like crazy to cause it to move faster. If the rock/pea/biscuit is moving too fast the sweepers don't do a thing but pray that things slow down and straighten out.

Thankfully the other team didn't show up for our first game and I got a crash course lesson and plenty of practice time. I concentrated on tossing/pushing/guiding the rock down the ice. This part of the game reminded me a lot of bowling. The most skilled players know how to spin the rock just enough to get it to end up just where they want it to end up. One of the most important aspects in achieving this is to have a uniform form of delivery. That's what definitely is lacking in my bowling game and was clearly a weakness in my first attempts at curling. I never seemed to have the same form twice and thus my consistency was somewhat lacking.

I did make a couple of nice throws/tosses/pushes where the rock ended up in a damn good place. Yes part of me really just wanted to be curled up in a warm bed but there was something exhilarating about trying to learn something new- and it definitely gave me something to look forward to this winter.

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