by Erin McLaughlin
OSHAWA, Ontario – Before I begin, The Editor has asked me to give a nod to all CurlingZone fans who have been donating to the cause, commenting on this blog and waiting for news of the CZ revival! Apparently, an update on this sorry affair will be posted on these pages later today, so please look for it!
And now on to the third Grand Slam event of the season... and I am here, live, at the General Motors Centre!
One of the first questions I've typically been asked when sitting in a curling audience long enough to strike up a conversation with other fans is, "Do you curl?"
The only question I get asked when I tell anyone outside of the curling community that I like curling is, "You like curling?" followed by a look that suggests I should be entering retirement at 25 and taking up knitting.
Short of a semi-exhaustive explanation about my own curling efforts, which were very exciting to me but are perhaps better conveyed in person to those whose eyes won't glaze over, I'll settle for stating that I've tried it and that, yes, I do like curling and there is nothing wrong with knitting.
You might understand the look I'm talking about and the skepticism that comes with it. I’ve heard, "Curling? C'mon. You might as well just throw marbles, how hard is that?” or “Sweeping with brooms? I do that at home!" (Awesome, feel free to come over to my house and Swiffer your heart out, pal). My favorite dig? "Curling isn't a real sport."
If that last statement makes you roll your eyes even a little, I hear you. I laugh, actually, because it's not generally considered nice to tackle people in public over disagreements, but I have to admit I've become a tad protective of this sport and its athletes and fellow fans.
For one thing, I respect the time and effort everyone, including volunteers, puts in to each event, big or small. I have read countless articles about and watched firsthand how ice makers perfect each sheet right down to the size of pebbles to create the best conditions and I think it’s fascinating. I admire that even top notch players aren't immune to the frustration of a shot gone awry and turning around and complimenting their opponents on a good one (they are human, after all, but how often do you see compliments from players in most sports?). Mostly, I understand that no matter what shots are called and who's up to deliver, curling involves everyone on the team 100% and no end, no single delivery, is the exact same.
I suppose you could tell those skeptics that there's a lot more to curling and its devoted leagues at all levels than what's on the surface (haha! …).
Okay, allow me to at least say that I love how curling takes a seemingly simple game on ice and turns it into an endless puzzle of possibilities. There are only so many historic game plans, so many set conditions for other sports, but not curling. The ice, the players, the teams, the strategy - it's ever changing, minute to minute. The constant adaptation, the constant communication; everyone's opinion on a shot matters and can mean a big difference in securing a coveted title, like being the 2011 BDO Canadian Open champion.
The most exciting part, to me, is seeing this all happen live. I've attended the World Curling Tour's Shorty Jenkins Classic in Brockville with my father, and sat by myself at the Grey Power World Cup, and had the time of my life at both kinds of events. It was a thousand times better in person than sitting at home, warm and cozy on my couch, choking on popcorn over a missed shot. Seriously. The smell of the... cold.... the sound of the rocks hitting the ice, the commentary from fellow fans about Glenn Howard throwing brooms around after a bad end – that's the kind of stuff you can’t fully appreciate in high definition, and I love it (sorry Glenn, but your enthusiasm in November was the first thing that came to mind).
When I was invited by the folks who run the Capital One Grand Slam of Curling to come to Oshawa and participate in this event, both in the stands and behind-the-scenes with a Media Accreditation pass!!... my dad’s first words were, "I guess you didn't say no." To all the skeptics out there I say, who would? If you ask me, they're missing out. Curling is the most authentic sport I have ever followed, and I'm proud to say that I like it.
Join me this weekend for some exclusive, select coverage of the BDO Canadian Open, whether you're watching at home on Saturday or Sunday or able to see some of the draws live in Oshawa over the next few days. I’ll be blogging here at The Curling News website blog, tweeting from my account and possibly from The Curling News Twitter page and I look forward to sharing the experience with all of you. Stay tuned!
Anil Mungal photo of Team Howard copyright Capital One