Curling is boring.
I first caught this sport on television late one night in 2002 during the Salt Lake City Winter Olympic Games. Those were the twilight years of “channel surfing,” where you’d sit on a couch and passively flip from channel to channel to channel until your eyeballs shut down. We were a one-screen, maybe two-screen, society back then.
I had no idea what I was watching: There were four normal-looking people trying to get a 44-pound stone to glide from one end of a sheet of ice to the other. The sport was slow and involved brooms, and before I knew it I’d been watching it for hours.
Curling melted me into a puddle. It was Xanax, live and in color on my decidedly not-flat, box-shaped, old-fashioned cathode-ray tube television set.
Here was a sport that was so dull it was almost hypnotic. Soothing, even. There was no brute force or breakneck speed involved. The other winter sports in the Olympics seemed deadly in comparison. Bobsled? Figure skating? Ski jumping? These events can all end in victory — but they can also end in bone-splintering crashes. Curling is a simple sport where very little happens, up until the brief moments when things do happen. And then you smile. Or, at least, I did. The original match I watched didn’t even involve the US. I think the game was between Canada and another country known for its comfy sweaters. I cheered the triumph of flesh and blood over rock and ice.
I can’t imagine anyone pumping their fist in the air to celebrate a curling win. That’s not what the sport is about. Curling is polite. The athletes aren’t superhuman showboats. No one dunks, tackles, or slides into home plate. There are no fireworks in curling. There is some yelling, but, otherwise, it’s just a lot of sliding around.
It is graceful. When your team successfully throws the stone into the bullseye, you simply nod and sip a hot beverage. Curling is a sport that rewards having patience for a fun, low-stress game clearly invented hundreds of winters ago by bored drunks.
I believe that curling is specifically from Scotland, a feisty, bekilted country so in love with the native malt whiskey that its people named it after themselves.
I happen to think everyone should watch curling during the Olympics, regardless of who is playing. And, furthermore, I think curling should become the US national sport.
America is a country currently biting its fingernails. Things are tense. Stressful. Loud noises make us wince. We don’t need anymore surges of adrenaline right now, thank you. We need to organize our society and economy around a humble sport like curling.
Here’s how curling is played: It starts with a friendly handshake and a coin toss to see who goes first.
Next, two teams of four take turns throwing eight stones down 150 feet of ice toward a bullseye, which is called the “house.” I’m assuming, long ago, the early inventors of curling threw a rock at a house and everyone cheered.
Whoever has the most stones closest to the center of the “house” wins the round, or “end.” After six or eight ends, a winner is declared.
Curlers wear flamboyant pants because that’s fun. They also wear special shoes with teflon on the soles that let them glide on the ice along with the stone.
Every solid granite stone has a handle on top. A player can use the handle when they throw the stone in order to make it spin. This can control the stone’s trajectory, making it “curl,” or bend, toward the bullseye. Oh, hey, now you know why it’s called “curling.”
I almost forgot about the brooms!
My favorite part is the players who use curling “brooms” to sweep and smooth the ice in front of the stone as it travels. The frantic and strategic sweeping can slow down, speed up, or redirect the stone. The team captain, called a “skip,” is usually seen yelling —in some case shrieking—mostly supportive orders at the team to, for instance, direct the sweepers to glide a stone into an opposing team’s stone. And when that happens, I can tell you, it is very exciting.
What doesn’t this sport have? Funny pants, slow-moving boulders, yelling. Curling combines strength and strategy and, in a way, it’s a little like hockey for smart people. If that is upsetting for hockey fans, consider that hockey can be described as sort of like curling for fist-throwing lunatics without teeth. Anyway, I don’t like hockey.
Imagine a Super Bowl that isn’t about muscle-bound man trucks crashing into each other, or a World Series that isn’t boring. Instead, imagine a world where we gather as a nation to watch two teams — let’s say the Denver Ice Broncos and the Dallas Ice Cowboys — elegantly soar across a sheet of ice, trying to outthink, and out-sweep, the opposing team as stone after stone slide into the middle of a target for hours and hours.
Then, afterwards, we can all take a nap.