When you think of the Winter Olympics, you probably think of the big sports.
Maybe some skiing.
Maybe some hockey.
Maybe some figure skating.
Not enough people think of curling, especially not Americans, and I say this as an American.
Curling is like shuffleboard played on ice. Players throw a circular rock down the ice, and sweepers work in front of it, using a brush to sweep the ice, subtly guiding the curling rock toward a target on the other end of the ice.
It sounds simple and even dull, but watching it on TV during the Olympics is just an amazing way to spend a few hours.
Here are the top five reasons you should be watching curling today.
There's a rhythm to curling. The stone is tossed, players sweep, and the stone rotates down a sheet of ice, heading for a giant bulls eye. At first glance, every sequence is the same, but upon closer examination, every sequence is actually quite different.
One toss might have more rotation than another. Or a player might be trying to bump an opponents' stone off of the target.
Within each toss there's repetition and strategy combining to keep your eyes glued to the match. Every throw is familiar, yet new.
Part of the Olympic concept is getting people from different countries hanging out together, learning about each other and their cultures.
But the Olympics have become a production. Television networks jump from event to event, showing everything, but ultimately telling us nothing. We learn very little about other cultures watching the Olympics. Instead, we're just positioned to watch commercials.
But curling is a Canadian game (via Scotland), and every four years, we get insight into the most Canadian of sports. For Americans, watching curling allows us to broaden our world a bit and learn about another culture in a way that wouldn't be possible without the Olympics.
Curling is rare, like a shooting star. Everyone loves to watch a shooting star.
Curling is turn-based. One player tosses his stone and then the opposing player takes his (or her) turn.
Players toss their stones onto a giant target, knocking other stones off. So a curling match is a series of throws, with players trying to knock stones off of the target (called the house) and trying to get as close to the middle of the house as possible.
Because the game is so simple, just about every turn has a huge degree of excitement, because each turn has an immediate implication for the game.
There's no waiting for judges to score anything.
There's no waiting on everyone to finish for times to be set.
It's just stones and players going at it, with every turn as important as the one before it.
Olympics sports can seem kind of strange.
Scoring always feels subjective. Where in a sport like hockey a goal is a goal is a goal, in other Olympic sports with judges, like figure skating, it feels like you're constantly waiting for someone to tell you if what you saw is right.
Curling is just players tossing stones. The results are immediate. There's no one interpreting what you just saw.
Some Olympics sports also feel overly complex. Why does the biathlon combine shooting and skiing? What does one have to do with the other?
Even something seemingly simple, like mogul skiing, can be confusing to watch, as players are scored based upon both time and technique. So the excitement of the event is removed—you're always waiting for results to see who's winning and players never really get to go head-head.
Curling does away with all of that. It's just two teams playing a game.
If you've never watched a curling match before, I guarantee the first time you sit down to watch will blow your mind.
One of the pieces of equipment is a broom. Watching a match means watching someone sweep furiously.
The thing about curling is, I imagine most Americans start watching it as a goof. Like I did, they assume it's an absurd game and sit down to watch it so that they can make fun of it.
The thing is, if you think about it, it is kind of a strange game. It's a combination of sweeping and bowling and shuffleboard...it's darts on ice.
But once you get over the strangeness and craziness and actually watch a match, you'll see it's a beautiful sport, with tosses gliding with the grace of a home run and the precision of a touchdown pass.
Curling is crazy at first, but once you get past that craziness, you'll see a sport that's like no other regular season sport.
And you might even find yourself wishing you could watch it more often than every four years.