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It seems like only four years ago I was reading article after article about curling and its surprising popularity during the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Many of my L.A. friends asked me about the rules and strategies of the game, me being the local representative and source of information about anything taking place near or on frozen water.

I would dutifully lie my head off like I knew what I was talking about.  No, I mean, I would fill them in on the nuances of the sport, explaining that it started a way for some of the more overweight settlers to participate in a sporting event that they could do while holding a skin of mead in one hand, a sport that involved getting to yell a lot without also being punched.

And now the Canadians have won the gold medal and once again curling will have a very short, very high spike in popularity before it fades away for another four years.  It’s like the groundhog of the Olympics, getting a brief period of sun and then settling into the cold again.

What I don’t understand, really, is why it has to fade away so entirely.  Because the people I talk to about the sport, they get genuinely involved in watching it.  It’s an easy sport to grasp, and an easy sport to start playing.  I’ve played it, and it’s genuinely fun for everyone in a way that other Olympic events aren’t.  No one does smiles while doing skeleton, for example.

I think one key to its popularity is that almost anyone can picture himself (or herself—Canadian women have done extremely well the past two games) playing a round of curling, in a way that people can’t picture themselves, say, speed skating.  And the other factor is it’s a team sport, which adds to drama.

I suppose, though, that the truth is there aren’t enough places where you can actually curl.  It’s not like a hockey rink that you can just set up in any park—you really need to groom and control the ice, and few people are going to haul curling rocks around in the trunk of their car when they head to practice.

So curling’s growth (or lack of it) is more a matter of the sport itself than people’s interest in it.  Which is a shame, but also kind of good, because it means that I get to keep my title as “Person who Knows All Sorts of Things About Curling that Can’t Easily Be Verified” for another four years.



 
 

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Overheard

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“Live a good life. If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones.”

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“I play with variables constantly.”

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