No Writing Today, I’ve Gotta Watch Curling

I covered the sheet cake in white frosting. Squeeze tubes of red and blue icing were used to make the rings on both ends. Yellow and red gumdrops became stones, and some of my son’s Lego men posed as the curlers. I don’t recall now what we did to simulate their brooms.

The U.S. Men's Curling team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. (wikipedia commons)

The U.S. Men’s Curling team at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. (Wikimedia Commons)

The cake was a manifestation of my sudden obsession for the ancient ice sport of curling developed during the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin. After years of mocking a sport in which middle-aged men and women in black leather shoes sweep ice in front of a circular rock, I actually watched a match. I was enthralled. The sport of curling is a visual treat, but also demonstrates for the viewer a taste of strategy, skill and cunning.

So my son and I gave his cub scout troop a taste of sheet cake in the form of a curling lane. Every kid was supposed to bring an Olympics-themed cake for a contest involving several packs. My son was very much into making a derby car but had no interest in creative baking, so he said yes immediately to a curling cake for wont of a better idea. We were the only father-son curling-cake duo in the church basement, and we also did not win. But the blue and red rings on the sea of white still moved me.

I renewed my affair with curling in 2010 during the Vancouver games, and now the obsession has returned with these games in Sochi. My TiVo is set to record every curling match available. Yes, I will watch all of the matches involving the U.S. men’s and women’s teams, but I will watch other nation’s teams as well. I will watch every match that airs. And then, in two weeks, the Olympics will conclude, and I likely will go another four years before I watch curling again.

I have never played the sport myself. I have never even seen it live. But it transfixes me on screen in the same way that snooker did when I lived in England. If you have never seen a master like Ronnie O’Sullivan clear a pyramid of shiny red snooker balls from a bright green felt board, potting a red and then a black and then a red and another black before clearing through the other colors in perfect order–breaking a century in the process–then you have not lived. It pains me that, even in this magical era of on-demand online global entertainment, I am unable to watch snooker here in the U.S.

via Arria Belli (Wikimedia Commons)

via Arria Belli (Wikimedia Commons)

But every four years I have curling. Both sports involve masters of skill and strategy whose physiques we do not always immediately associate with athletes. Both are made for television, in that you get to watch colored objects dance across a contrasting solid surface. (That, I realize as I type, could also describe figure skating.) And both involve activities that are not exactly accessible to me. (There are no curling lanes, nor snooker halls, in my northern Virginia neighborhood.)

I’ve written on this blog how I get up early each morning to write. The last few months I’ve devoted some of that time to seeking publication for my memoir, or planning out what my next book will be. But for the next two weeks that time is dedicated to athletes who only make my acquaintance every four years, including women like Erika Brown, Debbie McCormick, Jessica Schultz, Ann Swisshelm, and Allison Pottinger. They sure know how to have fun; check out their spoof of “What Does the Fox Say,” complete with animal costumes:

Now my TiVo calls. My writing muse must wait. As I like to say every four years, curling rocks. (Get it?)

About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

18 Responses to “No Writing Today, I’ve Gotta Watch Curling”

  1. Patrick, I can see it all now… a cross-country trip to visit the best curlers on the continent. And write a memoir about it. Of course you’ll be spending most of your time in Canada — in Saskatchewan! — and also attend the Banff School of Fine Arts for a diploma in “Canadian Curling Poetry,” or some such thing. You’ll find that curling is really all about hanging out in one of those prairie arenas, eating kubasa sausage in the unheated lobby while you watch the curling through plexiglass, and of course discreetly slipping rye whisky into your Tim Horton’s coffee. Myself, I loathe and despise the game, but you can`t beat those prairie Saturday afternoons when it’s -30 outside but you’ve got your eye on a magnificent young woman on the ice… look! there she is now… dressed in a fox outfit! What the…?

    • I wouldn’t have pegged you as a curling fan, PJ, not enough risk of death. (Well, none really.) I like your road trip idea, including the rye whiskey in my Tim Horton’s. (I’m familiar with that chain, they took over Manhattan a few years ago.) Glad you enjoyed the video eye candy!

  2. Excellent post, Patrick. Sometimes we have to replenish our muse rather than act on it, and we have to keep an eye out for the activities, often those divergent from our daily routine (like watching curling every four years!), that help us replenish.

  3. Love this post. I think curling is calling your name. Find a way to write about it as you learn the game. And up North will make a great vacation. Please say hi to the family
    for me.

    • It is indeed calling my name. I watched both the US men and women today. Kudos to the men for beating Denmark; a heartbreaking loss on the last stone to China for the women. (Hi has been said!)

  4. Great post! Next time you’re in the Twin Cities check out the Saint Paul Curling Club on Selby Avenue.

  5. Too funny! I’ve never know anyone who was obsessed with curling as a spectator sport. I was about to suggest the St. Paul Curling Cllub on Selby for next time you’re in town on Loft business, but I see Kathy already mentioned it.

  6. Great sport and glad you highlighted it. Maybe a downhill Curling, a Luge-Curling if you will, or a Bob-Curling or even Cross Country Curling. Any of the above would be a complimentary addition to this already interesting challenge.B

    • I like downhill curling; you have to keep up with your stone! Or curl it around the slalom flags. They keep adding new sports each Olympics, why not an alpine-curling hybrid?🙂

  7. We don’t get to see much curling here in the UK, Patrick – does it work sort of like ice-hockey? (or air-hockey on ice, perhaps?) I’m thoroughly impressed with the cake though – did you take any photos of it? Can we see?🙂

    And it makes me blush to admit that I’m old enough to remember the very first 147 break ever made in snooker, by Canadian player Cliff Thorburn. My mum had a MASSIVE crush on him… I was only twelve, so I just thought he had nice shiny hair. I hope this link works for you…

    • Hi Wendy! You know, I spent some time trying to find a photo of that cake and couldn’t. I’m sure I took some, but I have no record of it unfortunately. Perhaps I’ll just have to make another one!

      Curling is like shuffleboard on ice, but instead of getting as close to the back as possible, you try to get into a bullseye (called the “house,” and the center circle is the “button”). Because it’s about getting closest to the circle, a lot of the game is getting the stone to “curl” around guards (stones in front). They send the stone forward with a slight clockwise or counterclockwise spin. As it slows it starts to go sideways; the sweepers can help keep the stone going fast or back off to let it do its thing. But it’s all about stone placement, including controlling where your stone ends if, say, you’re knocking others out. So it’s like snooker in that the real masters not only pot the ball but ensure the cue ball ends up perfectly positioned for the next shot!

      Thanks for this video! I have found great “tournament moments” for snooker like this online; I just wish they’d add snooker to the Summer Games so every four years I could watch matches in their entirety!

  8. Oh no, did I miss it? Because I have to say, curling is a favorite in our household as well (luging, speed skating, and ice dancing are our top favorites, however — albeit harder to make cakes of)… but this Olympics I’ve seen none! We got rid of cable TV and now need to figure out on Roku and our computers where to watch streaming video and we haven’t taken the time. If curling is over and done with, then at least thanks for the reminder to seek out the other favorites. Your cake sounds amazing, btw.

    • Julia, they’ve been showing the curling for the most part on cable channels such as CNBC, USA Network and MSNBC. I guess it isn’t considered a big enough deal to be shown in the evening broadcast wrap-up…

  9. Have to say I have absolutely never heard of this sport but it seems like it would be fun to watch! I hope you enjoy.

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