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Curling, the geek's (and anachronist's) sport
Okay, yes, I admit it: I was a weather wimp today, and am working from home. And while I wrestle with thorny data-flow problems in the UI, I have the Olympics playing in the background. Specifically, the men's curling competition.

Curling may not be the most exciting sport, but it sings to me in ways that most Olympic sports don't. In particular, I can really put myself in the player's shoes. With something like ski jumping or biathlon, cool though they may be, I can't honestly see myself doing them. But curling -- that not only looks possible, it looks like *fun*. Yes, that stone weighs a ridiculous amount, and the whole sweeping thing is kind of funky, but it's essentially a high-end version of shuffleboard. The positioning of the stones is decently strategic, and the combination shots are practically billiards.

Moreover, it's such a terribly *period* game, at least in style. The precise fiddly bits are modern, I'm sure, and the game itself might well be, but the basic concept is yet another instance of the period game category of "Throwing Things at Other Things". The game's nearly identical to bocce in most important respects, and similar to horseshoes, quoits and any number of other games. In particular, the scoring model is one that's very typical of period games -- despite the bullseye painted on the court, the *important* thing is really just who is closest to the target (the center of the court) and how many stones are closer than any of the opponent's.

So both the geek and the Laurel in me love watching the curling events in the Winter Olympics -- it's just plain my kind of game...

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I expect you saw Stephen Colbert's spot on Curling, when he "tried out" for the team?

No, actually -- I've seen some parts of that series (I remember bobsled and speed skating), but I missed the curling installment. I'll have to look that up online at some point...

I couldn't find a youtube link for Colbert -- but I *did* find one for Coulton :-)

FWIW, it *is* fun (played curling for a couple years, till the fact that my team was over an hour away became an issue).

The stone weighs 40lbs, but you don't really "lift" it much - ideally, it remains on the ice.

One of my favorite movies is Men With Brooms.

How do you watch the Olympics in the middle of the day?

Like it says, I'm working from home today...

Sorry - I didn't know they had daytime coverage. We checked on Monday, but it must have been the wrong time of day or something.

Ah - I misunderstood the question. The key is that NBC has, IIRC, six different stations covering the Olympics, some during daytime. So I was watching some on USA, some MSNBC and some network NBC.

My school bus used to pass by the St. Paul Curling Club every day. I always found the concept bizarre and intriguing.

The precise fiddly bits are modern, I'm sure, and the game itself might well be...

Wikipedia claims: "The game of curling is thought to have been invented in late medieval Scotland, with the first written reference to a contest using stones on ice coming from the records of Paisley Abbey, Renfrewshire, in February 1541. Two paintings (both dated 1565) by Pieter Bruegel the Elder depict Dutch peasants curling—Scotland and the Low Countries had strong trading and cultural links during this period, which is also evident in the history of golf.

The game of curling was already in existence in Scotland in the early 16th century, as evidenced by a curling stone inscribed with the date 1511 (uncovered along with another bearing the date 1551) when an old pond was drained at Dunblane, Scotland."

Hmm. I'm sure the Powers That Be would absolutely flip out if we tried to hold part of an event on a frozen pond, but it's definitely tempting to try some basic curling sometime. A research project for the back burner. (I probably have those Bruegel paintings in my books, if I dig around a bit...)

I wrote an article on it for my Period Games column, after the 2002 olypics. http://www-cs.canisius.edu/~salley/SCA/Articles/Games/curling.html
-- Dagonell

Ah, excellent. I'll put that on my immense list of to-do updates for the Period Games page.

(Really, I need to take the damned page and turn it into a wiki, but that's another project...)

It doesn't go back as far as SCA period, but I figured you'd want a look.


Wow -- that's actually kinda neat. If they come out with an Android version, I might have to buy it...

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