Olympic Glory and… Curling

Masha

I love the Olympics. Winter or Summer, I find the Olympic Games and their athletes incredibly compelling. The clear majority of these individuals are there solely to compete – they’re not going to come away with a medal, no one is seeking their autographs, they have no agents, and they are not raking millions in with endorsements. They are getting up at outrageously early hours for training (when I am drooling on my pillow, happy in my ignorance of their sacrifice), working at low-paying jobs that offer flexible schedules (unless they have managed to find an athlete-friendly employer like Home Depot), spending hours in gyms and, in the case of the Winter Olympics, cold environments to practice their particular sport.

I have one favorite sport that seems to be the butt of many jokes. Curling. Yes, there, I said it. I like curling. I had never seen curling until 2002, when I had surgery several days before the start of the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Now being from Salt Lake City, I was excited to watch these particular Games, and I soon found that watching the Olympics on pain medication lends an interesting perspective to the experience. Yes, I first watched curling bombed out of my head (insert your own favorite druggie joke here… I’ll wait). And I loved it. There is a certain strategy to flinging a 40 pound piece of granite down a sheet of ice from a extremely low position to see who can get closest to a mark under the ice. Shuffleboard on ice, Icy Bocce ball, Chess on ice, Ice Bowling, I’ve heard all of these names when it comes to try to describe curling. And I think it’s compelling because it has aspects of all these games.

Give it a try – watch 30 minutes of curling after you’ve read the wiki on curling. Apart from the crazy pants that the athletes have as uniforms, you’ll soon see that it’s an athletic pursuit (I can’t just stand well on ice, much less throw anything down the ice and remain standing), the flexibility to bend down into the position to throw the rock and the rapid motion involved in the brooming (it melts the ice just enough to float the rock further down the ice – how cool is that?) makes my arms hurt just watching. It’s fun to watch, it’s strategic, and it moves quickly. So watch, on or off pain meds, it’s an intriguing event.

Canadian Curling team in Torino, 2006 Winter Olympic Games.

Canadian Curling team in Torino, 2006 Winter Olympic Games.

Pat

I have always felt myself extremely lucky that my wife is as big of a sports fan as I am. We have baseball season tickets, the MLB and NFL packages on Direct TV, and watch most of the Golf and Tennis tournaments that are on TV. We enjoy all these sports together and I love that! I also agree that the Olympics are full of athletes who are dedicated to being the best at their sport no matter what the financial gain. But curling. I’ve had more fun watching paint dry. The coverage starts at 1:00 pm today and I am leaving at 1:00 to play tennis and should get back about 30 minutes after the coverage ends. Ever heard anybody say, ‘Hey, want to go curling today?’

John Elway, after Superbowl XLVIII

“I want to say one thing. I kind of get the sense that these questions are, ‘How the hell are we going to overcome this?’ Right?… The farther you get away from this, the less you concentrate on that one game, and the more you look at the full season, and really what we did as a football team and really as an organization. And I’m very proud of that….”

February 3, 2014 press conference, after the Denver Broncos 43-8 loss to the Seattle Seahawks

Enter the Gladiator

Masha

This question has been on my mind for a while now, but with the media circus of this week’s Superbowl Media days, it seems a good time to bring up for discussion.

What do we really expect of our athletes? Do we want the Richard Sherman’s declaring their strength and skill (and the ensuing “cute” youtubes of kids emulating his “speech”) or the Marshawn Lynch/Bill Belichick one-word answer and rolled eyes? Do we want the Manning family generational stories? Are they really role models? And when you get right down to it, don’t we treat our athletes the same way the Roman masses treated the gladiators?

Gladiators, according to the histories I’ve read, were cheered in their victories, ridiculed and/or quickly forgotten in their defeats, the difference being our athletes aren’t killed, but rather toddle off to join the media or to fade into obscurity. We honor some with the label of HOFer and wear their jerseys years after they’ve stopped playing. Others we forget, even to the point of not remembering their name when they appear on a stage somewhere. Some of these athletes have given their lives for the sport; no one can argue that Junior Seau and the 11 others who have committed suicide recently didn’t sacrifice for the game.

So enter the gladiators today and may the best team win. We’ll see if the officials need to ticky-tak the game with constant flags or if the two teams can play a clean, competitive game. Because despite the arguments about role models and smack talk, I think that’s what all of us really want, a good competitive game without the flags and interference of the officials.