Tis the season... for curling!
By: Tom Fletcher, CFP®
Get ready. With the upcoming Winter Olympics in sight, fans should be prepared for yet another wild round of America’s next favorite pastime: curling. I don’t know about you, but few things in life are more enjoyable than tuning into NBC Sports on a late winter’s eve and watching a bunch of chiseled athletes slide rocks down a sheet of ice as their booming voices echo incoherently off the rink walls. But seriously, if you’ve seen it before, I’m sure you’ll agree there truly is something mysterious and captivating about curling.
As a refresher, here’s a few factoids about curling. The sport is ancient. It originated in Scotland in the 1500’s. I’d have to make an educated guess and surmise it’s one of the original drinking sports. The iconic curling stone weighs about 40 pounds and regulations require it be made of granite quarried from two sources only- an island off the Scottish coast and another location in Wales. Hence if you purchased one of these bad boys from Granite Links, most likely you’re holding a worthless 40 pound paperweight. It’s a team sport eerily similar to shuffleboard. The object of the game is to slide (curl) a number of your team’s stones across the ice towards a bulls-eye, the center of which is known as the “button”. The team with the stones closest to the vicinity of the button, wins the “end” (like a baseball inning). A game usually lasts eight to ten ends to be complete. Those guys out there sweeping the ice with their brooms like madmen (or women) in front of the moving stone are not cleaning the ice; they are actually creating a thin layer of water that reduces friction so the stone will carry farther and faster. And lastly, there’s a ton of strategy involved - not only to try to get close to the button, but also to protect your stones so that your opponent doesn’t knock them away with their stones.
I’m not sure if it’s my Scottish heritage or what, but my family has had a lengthy relationship with curling; at least a couple of generations that I know of. My grandfather was a curler, as were my uncles, my aunt, and my father. It’s too long a story for this article, but my father, my two brothers and me actually scored a major upset by winning the family bonspiel at the Chicago Curling Club one year in the 1960’s (a bonspiel is a curling tournament). Based on the fact we were just adolescents (I’m thinking I was ~8 at the time), I’ve got to assume my dad was pretty skillful. While I haven’t seen it, I’m assuming somewhere in the trophy case of the club, there is still a trophy with our names on it. If anyone is in that area, feel free to investigate and let me know!
A couple of weeks ago, the Steriti ice skating rink in Boston’s North End hosted a learn to curl session. Just for the heck of it, I dragged my wife and a few friends along to check it out. While it’s obvious that I didn’t inherit any of my Dad’s skills, we wound up having a great time. And the technology hasn’t changed much in the last 50 years either. It’s unlikely I’ll be joining any curling clubs soon, but I will have a greater appreciation for the sport when I tune into the Olympics in February.