Welcome back, Tom — it’s damn good to see you again!
And this, in essence, is the attraction of curling. If folks stop snickering about the sport and pay attention, you start to see the complexity and technique involved. It’s a game that can be played by 45 year old fat guys with a beer (happily), but to play it well isn’t easy. In that way, it’s somewhat like billiards or bowling, except that the ice is never (ever) the same, and you’re constantly trying to adjust to changing conditions, and in bowling or billiards, if you understand the shot and have practiced enough, you’ll make the shot. So in many ways, curling’s tougher than both — but it’s still a sport you can play well into middle age (and beyond) if you want, and it’s a sport you can play socially. So there are many aspects to attraction. I don’t expect curling rinks to sprout up in southern states, but I do hope to see the interest and growth continue down in the states — it has a definite place in the recreational sports universe, if people pay attention.
To be honest, the curling in the olympics wasn’t that interesting to me, because substandard ice led to sub-standard curling. But they did the best they could, and the bronze medal in the men can only help visibility.
I was having this discussion at work this week, and someone said they felt it didn’t deserve to be in the olympics because there’s no endurance aspect to it. Not all sports are endurance tests or attacks on your VO2Max — if you look at things like baseball, it’s more skill and timing, or archery is technique and the ability to manage stress. So is target shooting. Yachting and many of the sailing sports are the ability to judge and manage the elements as much as anything — none of them really require a 6 minute mile, much less a four minute one.
Curling ratings went up this Olympics in the states, which I find encouraging — according to one report, CNBC saw ratings 700% higher than their NORMAL programming. Since this olympics didn’t have the “newness” of it being the surprise cinderella sport like it did last olympics, it indicates people were tuning in because they were curious and interested, not just because it was this new, weird thing. Here’s hoping we can keep moving it forward and make curling more visible in the states….
Having a ReplayTV meant that all of that sweet, sweet curling action was just waiting for me to get home from the hospital and plow through it. And I have to admit: up to now, my appreciation for the sport has been a bit of a goof. But after watching hours of it, I’ve realized that yes, it really is a sport, and that it’s a surprisingly interesting, strategic, and cerebral sport, at that.
update: Tom Benjamin talks about the same subject, defining sport in terms of ability to control muscle memory. An interesting concept that may well be on the right track….