Thursday, February 18, 2010

ROCK STARS Thanks to ESPN for this article

Updated: February 18, 2010, 4:43 PM ET
Rock StarsOn the ice learning one of Canada's favorite sportsEmail Print Share By Rick Reilly
ESPN The Magazine

Jason Smith/Getty Images
Rick didn't fare much better than these guys did -- the U.S. team lost both its opening matches.

Since curling is fast becoming the coolest Winter Olympics sport of all, I decided to take a lesson to learn --

Wait. What? Curling? The fat guys throwing stones on ice? What's cool about curling?

Well, "The Simpsons" just did an entire episode on it. And it's not just fat guys anymore. Many curlers are true athletes who are as fit as --

Please! Curling is the only sport in the Olympics you can do without putting your beer down. With a Marlboro hanging from your lip.

Not anymore. Get a load of the captain of the Canadian women's curling team, Cheryl Bernard, who looks like this. So go suck a hack.

What's a hack?

A "hack" is the starter's-block-type thing you push off of with your foot when you throw your 42-pound "rock" toward the "house," which is the big painted target 120 feet away. It works like shuffleboard: Closest "rocks" to the "button," which is the bull's-eye, get all the points. I learned all this at the Vancouver Curling Club, which is maybe three "throws" from the Olympic "venue" for curling.

Stop "quoting" things.

In fact, the VCC will move into the Olympic Centre when the Games are over. Canada is favored in both men's and women's.

Congratulations. You are the official expert on a sport nobody cares about.

But that's the thing! This sport is catching on! NBC will air it on MSNBC, CNBC and USA throughout the rest of the Games. Curling is hot as "Hec," and by "Hec," I mean the late Hec Gervais, one of the greatest curlers of all time.

There's a lot to love about curling. For instance, it's a tradition that the winners buy the losers a drink.

That's your big curling hero? He looks like Shamu's uncle.

OK, you ever heard of Babe Ruth? Besides, do you realize there are curling groupies now?

Not possible.

Yes, according to my coach, Canada's silver-medal-winning skip from the--

Skip? As in "skip" the workout?

No, "skip" as in captain of the 1998 Nagano Games team, Mike Harris, my coach. "Oh, sure," Harris says. "These guys are known all across the country. Kevin [Martin, the 2010 Canadian skip] is more famous in [his hometown] Edmonton than a lot of the Oilers."

He looks like my tax guy.

Funny you should mention that. Martin's team is sponsored by H&R Block.

You're telling me women want to sleep with accountants who mop ice?

They're not mopping. They're sweeping. The "sweepers," under the direction of the "skip," use their "brooms" to madly "melt" the ice, making the "rock" slide straighter and faster and farther, by up to 10 feet. The brooms cost upward of $149, and the handles are made of carbon.

Couldn't you just use a mop?

Probably. Still, I found the sweeping to be one of my strong suits. My coach, however, is trying to develop my counterclockwise rotation on my release.

I heard you fell on your ass.

Yes, that's true, but that's to be expected. After all, on one of my shoes was a piece of Teflon for sliding, and the other was a rubber "gripper" to give me traction. That's what all the curlers wear when throwing the rock. It's a delicate balance.

Speaking of what they wear: What's with Norwegians' pants? They look like they stole them off the back of a horse.

It's not about the pants. It's about ruling the ice, which the "ice meisters" keep cleaner than Hec's dinner plate. Any little piece of dirt or debris can send the rock in a completely different direction. One single strand of hair has changed a person's life forever.

Like my teenage daughter.

Exactly. The point is, my coach said that if I keep practicing, the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia are "not out of the question" for me.

But not as a competitor.

No, as a journalist.

Wasn't there a curling movie?

Yes, "Men with Brooms," starring Leslie Nielsen, which was a huge hit in Canada.

Do you know what they call "Women with Brooms"?


"The View."

Anyway, there's a lot to love about curling. For instance, it's a tradition that the winners buy the losers a drink upstairs at the curling bar. In fact, the American skip, John Shuster -- he was just on Leno -- tends bar at the Duluth (Minn.) Curling Club.

Quite a testament. So a bartender is the best curler in America.

Yeah, isn't that great? Shuster's "rink" won bronze in Torino in 2006. Can you imagine what Al Michaels would say if Shuster pulled off an upset in Vancouver for the gold?

"Do you believe in donuts?"

No. "Have you ever been swept away?!"

Please button it.

OK, thanks! I'll try!

No comments: