Irony-Free Friday: Curling

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Irony-Free Friday: Curling

Every once in a while, we here at Paste are going to try to slough off the lens of irony through which so much modern entertainment is viewed. We’re going to give the so-bad-it’s-goods their sincere due and take an earnest look at the things you might think can only be enjoyed ironically.

Quadrennial Rock-Sliding Edition

In 2010, the Winter Olympics stopped being something that I was vaguely aware of and started being something I enjoyed to watch…for the most part. I was in college then, and because everyone was watching the same thing, everyone had to figure out a way to watch that thing uniquely. Curling became the ultimate sport to get ironically gung-ho about, and the unassuming sliding of bits of smooth stone became a way to allow yourself to get really excited without any of the embarrassment of being seen taking something seriously.

...That seems harsh.

There are obviously people who love the sport and take it seriously, as they should. That’s kind of the point, here. We could call this the You-Should-Love-Things-And-Take-Them-Seriously Friday,” but that isn’t quite as catchy.

So what about curling appeals it to me, the discerning, intelligent viewer?

I’m glad you asked.

1. It comes from Scotland, and Scottish things are good.

Curling was invented in medieval Scotland, and inscriptions on dredged-up stones place competitions as early as 1511. Medieval Scotland has a pretty spotless track record, giving the world both golf and the setting of a famous stage-play whose name has the ability to curse entire theaters. Also Edinburgh is purportedly the most haunted spot in the world, meaning there are probably thousands of vengeful ghosts who curled before losing their mortal coil, and demand that you show it respect. There’s also Scotch itself, the world’s finest liquid. The point being that Scotland rarely does us wrong. You need to have a little more faith in Scotland.

2. Intense, intense strategy.

For people who like curling ironically, a huge part of its appeal is SLIDING ROCKS DUH HUUUH, and getting super-psyched about sliding rocks because who could really get excited about sliding rocks? This is an unfair assessment. Curling requires comprehensive strategy that includes everything from the slightest angle of the stone’s initial slide (called the delivery) to the slider’s (or skip’s) ability to generate delicate momentum from his or her legs rather than their arms. It can be the difference between defeat and sweet sweet victory. If you need your stone to be in a certain place at the end of its slide, you’d better hope that you put the right amount of spin on it and that your manic sweepers are as hyper-competent as they need to be.

3. Perhaps you’ve seen this GIF, which is delightful:


4. Canada is amazing at it, America is not

Canada is in the Gold Final this year in both men’s and women’s categories. Meanwhile Team America’s best finish in men’s was a bronze in 2006, and the women’s team has never medaled. It’s good to know your weaknesses.

5. Anyone can do it. Even you.

This is one of the few sports that anyone can become good at with enough practice. There is no advantage that freakish natural strength or speed or jumping ability can give you in curling. Those curlers are just like you are me, and isn’t that inspirational?

Sounds promising, but surely there are some negatives.

1. Anyone can do it, even you, and you’re not doing it you lazy, shiftless bastard!

It’s one thing to watch, say slopestyle skiing or the half-pipe, and think about how crazy these ridiculously athletic mutants are to watch. Shaun White is so good at snowboarding partially because he is one of a handful of humans whose bodies are physically capable of flipping himself 10 feet in the air out of a snowy tube ramp. On the other hand, members of the U.S. Curling teams have day jobs and families, and they still find time to qualify for a global athletic competition for dominance between all of the planet’s settled countries. On the other hand, I successfully bought beans today and it felt like an accomplishment. Watching curling might make you feel like you’re wasting your life.

2. No flips

Or anything else visually exciting. It’s tense, sure. But especially if you only have basic cable, and are relying on NBC itself for all of your Winter Olympics coverage, you’re probably going to see curling right after the luge, or ski moguls, or a hockey match between two Scandinavian teams made up of fellows who all would have been Vikings a millennium ago. It’s hard to go from bone-crushing hits or even ice dancing, which seems to take place outside of conventional gravity and friction, to curling without a little bit of mental whiplash. Case in point: sprint 100 yards and then immediately start reading the poetry of Tennyson. They’re both good for you, but you’ll see what I mean.

Alright, guy, land the plane.

On the Sporting Pyramid of Moral Rightness, which has the moment in D2: The Mighty Ducks when the titular team switch to their classic uniforms as its tippy tip-top and anything involving the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as its amoral base, curling ranks properly in the quadrant reserved for sports you should actually love and take seriously. It is a ridiculous combination of skill, finesse, marksmanship, balance and sweeping, all distilled down into sliding stones. It is wholly unique, and downright wonderful. Think about it this way: when curler Sandra Schmirler died, 15,000 residents of Saskatchewan attended her funeral. 15,000 Canadians can’t be wrong…All right, maybe they can, but you should still watch curling, anyway.

The Olympic Curling finals wrapped up earlier today, with Canada defeating Great Britain for the gold and Sweden defeating China for the bronze. Yesterday Canada’s women curlers took home the gold, as well.