Monday, January 30, 2006

Slip Sliding Away

It's crazy how popular the sport has become in this country. Go across the country and you'll find that most workplaces have some type of office pool that has high participation. Vegas thrives on all the money bet on games. The networks pay billions for television rights. Newspapers and web sites devote page after page with analysis, predictions, and coverage that makes the average player recognizable to even the most casual fan. Geeks paint their faces their team's colors and dweebs devote every last free minute trying to improve their fantasy team.

So I have to clarify what I meant when the reporter stuck his mike in my face and I uttered the now infamous line that is dogging me every place I go: "I play when I want to play."

Truth is curling isn't the most exhausting cardiovascular sport ever devised. Some times one might get winded if a rock is released way too softly from the player's hand and thus the two sweepers have to brush their brooms hard down the length of the ice. Doing that can make the shoulders flare with pain and the lungs heave for the next breath. But still much of the game is pure strategy so it isn't exactly the same as racing your cats up a steep flight of stairs. That said, it is hard to play at 100 percent rock after rock. That's way too intense so there are times when I find myself holding back during a match. That's all I meant with my quote.

Who could have known that I'd be such a natural at the game. I began playing just last year and my introduction to the rules and playing techniques came right before my first match after I had worked all Election Night and I showed up at the club and my friend Lisa tried her best to explain what was going to happen.

Our team last year did surprisingly well especially since we were all beginners. We ended up with a five hundred record. Nate, the kid, was our skip and he was clearly our best player. He had the form down and he made some really nice shots throughout the season. Bernie (who we later found out was the chief financial officer of Northwest Airlines- he had only told us his job was as A finance guy for the company) was our third and was pretty good at take out shots.

Same goes for Lisa who threw second. She's got great form and Bernie and I often marveled at how far out on the ice she would glide when she was throwing her rocks.

I was the lead, the position generally given to the weakest member of the squad. It took me half a season to figure out whether the best strategy was to try and get my rocks in the house or leave them just outside thus making all the other curlers try and get their rocks around mine.

This season Lisa and I are the only two returning members of the team. In Nate and Bernie's place we've got Gail and Jon, a married couple who curled up in Canada a few years ago. The lack of continuity has been a problem. This season has been full of ups and downs. We've either been beat badly or have won rather handily. There have been few close matches.

My own play has probably been the most consistent on the team. I've better learned how to control the weight of my throws or how far the rock ultimately ends up going. My personal goal has always been to outplay the lead on the other team and for the most part I think I've done that.

And hence this is where my somewhat regrettable quote came from. After a particularly humiliating performance where we made bad shot after bad shot I was a bit frustrated since I thought I was playing fairly well. It was demoralizing to be being beat by a team that was clearly not as talented as ours and so when the reporter asked about my effort and whether I had given up before the match was over, I was pissed to say the least. Still I'm not one to pretend. If we're getting hammered I'll just do what I can until it's over.

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