Watching Curling Again

What I understand about the game of curling would not, melted down,  fill one of those little rye bottles you used to get on airplanes. Okay, sure, I understand that you throw rocks down a pebbled sheet of ice, that the rocks don't go straight as much as they wander off line, and that the whole thing is to figure out how much weight to throw so that the rocks wobble like you want.

There's other stuff that's barely comprehensible, like the role of the sweepers. And the seemingly contradictory orders yelled out by the stone thrower (No! Way off! Whoa!) and the skip (On it! Hard! Hurry hard! Clean!)

And, then, there's some totally opaque stuff, like the way the team members talk it out as they compose the next shot.

I am writing all of this watching the 2017 Brier on TV.  This is what I just heard from Team Northern Ontario's deliberations.

"I don't think it matters, Brad."
"Either that, or do you go all the way around?"
"Whaddya like? I think we gotta split."
"You gotta try to get 'em (incomprehensible).
"...on either side of the red, right?"
"Split to, like, here."
"Gotta be back 12, eh?"
"Yeah, you gotta commit to..."
"You gotta throw enough weight."
"You don't like going around it, eh?"
"I just think if he makes that, we're done."
"This is what gives us a shot to win."
"Okay, make the split?"
"Out turn?"
"I'd rather us make the shot than hope for a miss."
"You like the out turn?
"I don't know what the in turn's gonna do."
"So, we goin' thin on this side."
"I don't think it matters, Brad."
"I don't think it matters, either."

Apparently, this provided enough consensus for the shot to be delivered by the team's third, a bald-headed athlete with a flicker of tattoo visible beneath the sleeve of his right biceps. As the skip yelled, "yep yep yep yep yep yep yep yep yep more more more," the rock glanced off a mate and they both came to rest and the crowd murmured knowingly and clapped their hands.

"I think you had to throw closer to hack."
"Yeah, closer to hack."

Double Double toil and trouble
I have no clue what just happened, or whether it was hoped for, or why the fans clapped. And because my knowledge of the game is so thin, I find myself distracted again and again by things like the logos of giant coffee cups flooded into the ice. Seriously, I can watch an entire end of curling and remark to myself a dozen times about the Tim Hortons cups that sit just outside the rings. And not remember or be able to explain what happened in the game.

And, yet, despite this feeling of being in someone else's basement while there's a party going on in a language I don't understand, I watch the Brier on TV. There are some reasons. They are good reasons. They are Canadian reasons.

First, Vic Rauter's voice. He's great. What a treasure. He makes the silence between the words crackle.

Second, the radical slowness of it all. This is slow TV, eh? Slow TV is the name given to broadcasts of super ordinary events shown in their entirety. Like a ship sailing the Norwegian coast. Or a grandmother knitting a sweater. Or the fire log. It's a great tonic to CNN and Fox.

Third, the real venues. It seems to me that in most of the curling arenas of the nation, spectators pay more for a better view of the action. That makes sense to me. They don't pay more for a better experience. They don't matter more. I don't think the curling fans closer to the action care if a server takes their order or delivers their Caesars in tall glasses.

And, finally, curling skips right over the violence. Nobody punches anyone else in the face and calls it part of the game.

It is so boring that I can't stop watching. I love it.

Brad Gushue has just won his first Brier. In a post-match interview with Bryan Mudryk, Gushue said he didn't quite believe his teammates' assessment of how hard he had to throw his last rock to make the 8 foot white ring for the win. The frost that had been burned off and all, of course. Then Gushue thanked his sweepers for working their asses off. Then he apologized for saying a bad word on TV. But he was so happy, he said. And we saw it.  The game draws the beauts. I understand that much.


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