It was a process.
If Manitoba had an official winter sport, I’m sure it would be curling. You know how Lululemon pants are sort of the official legware of Vancouver? Asham curling pants are pretty much the Manitoban equivalent. Look out onto a game of curling, and there’s a sea of people in black pants with the little white Asham logo – it’s uncanny how similar this is to a scene at a Kitsilano Starbucks on any given Saturday morning!
I joined a team with my fiancé, M, and two of his cousins in October. I’d never curled in my life, but I knew it would be good for my Manitoba street cred. I begrudgingly went to all the games, but I was not having a good time. At all. It’s cold on the ice. Eight ends (two hours) is a long game. And the league plays at a club that’s 45 minutes from home – which means on nights we play at 9pm, we don’t get home until almost midnight (definitely no time for beer). And I don’t have the right pants, either: with all that bending over…bad news!
Halfway through the season, M thought I might like curling more if I had some better equipment (I’d bought a new slip-on slider but was using a hand-me-down broom). We went to Asham and although I really could have gone for the pink ultralight graphite-handled broom, I decided that I probably shouldn’t drop $150 on a game I wasn’t even sure I’d play again next year.
It wasn’t until about a month ago that I really started to think it was fun. What happened?
See, I’m not a sporty person. At all. I joined as a way to spend some time with my future family members and to keep active. M’s family is nuts about curling. In fact, between sibling, cousins, parents, aunts, uncles, and in-laws, his family makes up about a third of the league! So while I really, really wanted to like the sport, it just wasn’t coming naturally.
But by the last few weeks of the season, I’d done a fair amount of observation and philosophizing. I came to the conclusion that curling is actually fun, when you:
- Realise that it’s a lot harder than it looks and that you won’t be good at it right away (or ever!)
- Accept that despite how it appears, it’s nothing like bowling.
- Read up a bit on the game. I picked up a copy of Curling for Dummies and before long I was sharing fun morsels of trivia (“Did you know that a curling rock shrinks about an inch over its lifespan?’) and throwing around terminology like I knew what I was talking about (“Musta been the lousy pebble”). My teammates thought it was cute that I was trying to learn, and before long, were asking me what chapter I was on.
- Run with dorky team jokes
- And most importantly, make time for beer before or afterwards or during the game (or all three).
Once, I was whinging pre-game and loudly voicing how this would be my first and only season. My future sister-in-law, who has been playing for many seaons, told me that she’s been saying that for years. “Seriously,” she told me. “I hate curling more than anyone. And yet here I am, back for another season. I just can’t stay away.” And I’m finally starting to realise why.
I think curling is a great passtime because it’s one of the only sports where men and women of all ages play together. You can be as competitive or non-competitive as you like. One of the teams in our league is made up of two couples, who between them have something like eight kids. Curling night is their “date night” – the one night in the week they get out of the house and away from the kids. They really are just there to have fun. And you know what? They are the most pleasant team in the league and I’d play them any day.
I also really like that curling is non-confrontational. It’s based on the spirit of sportsmanship. There are no refs, and when a shot is called into question, the teams work it out between themselves. You’re on your honour to admit if you touch a rock by accident.
I have a long way to go. Most of my good shots are flukes, and I have yet to master the art of not dragging my knee when I slide. But last night, my team won the C-side playoffs. I’m gonna have my name on a sports trophy. Me! Who knew?
I’m totally getting a pink broom and some Asham pants for next season.