Is It Time To Get Rid Of Curling?

220px-Curlingstoneold220px-Curling_Canada_Torino_2006As many on this blog know, I have long been a critic of the International Olympic Committee which has long been accused of corruption, cronyism, and plain stupidity. One of the most outrageous decisions was the elimination of wrestling, one of the few original sports, in favor of events like golf with more wealthy supporters. (Wrestling was later reinstated after global outcry). My sense of confusion depended this week with the reappearance of curling — a sport viewed by 99 percent of people every four years and met with the same universal question: “why is this a sport?” I do not contest that curling is a sport, I just fail to understand why it is an Olympic sport (like shooting) when sports like wrestling were cut.

I know that I will hear from curling advocates, so let me be clear. I am happy curlers have a sport. I am happy it has a long history. However, I fail to understand why a curlers who releases a stone on an ice floor is given the same medal as the Nordic Combined which pushes athletes beyond any normal measure of human endurance. Indeed, curling is routinely listed as the least physically challenging sport in the games. It is called a sport version of chess, but the level of physicality is closer to chess than downhill skiing.

The act of sliding stones across a sheet of ice leave me wondering why shuttleboard or bocce or beanbag is not an Olympic sport. I have long felt the same way about shooting targets in the Summer Olympics.

Here is my point (yes I was getting to one): what is missing is any coherent test of what constitutes an Olympic sport in terms of physicality and difficulty. Indeed, the IOC seems primarily motivated by money. Take wrestling. It is physically and historically an Olympic sport. Yet, those athletes have been told that they are simply not Olympic material while sliding stones on ice is retained as is shooting as paper targets.

Yes, I know that the “sweeping” does include some exertion but I know people who do that all day long but barely make minimum wage, let alone an Olympic medal.

Let’s be clear. I have not stone in this competition. However, I feel a sense of gross unfairness in watching athletes collapse at finish lines only to flip over the curling competition to see stone sliding on ice. Notably, while shown on television, the stands of the curling competition appear virtually empty save for relatives. Now, if they were allowed to throw stones at IOC members, I might change my mind given the addition of greater physicality and popularity.

So I have to put it to a vote:

49 thoughts on “Is It Time To Get Rid Of Curling?”

  1. My first reaction was (as usual) to agree completely with the professor. But I decided to read about curling on Wikipedia, and I changed my mind. I particularly found the commentary on “good sportsmanship” appealing. There is a lot more to curling than I thought.

  2. Porkchop,
    I like curling, and understand the scientific aspects of it. The motor control needed, IMHO is as great or greater than the short game in golf, shooting or any number of other sports. My problem with curling is my ADD.

    One of the popular events at the Grandfather Mountain Highland Games is, believe it or not, is the Tug o’ War. I am not sure about Clan Douglas–people keep muttering about something called “ringers.” They keep winning and winning. Their team looks like an NFL offensive line in kilts.

    Auto racing is a sport too. Imagine the finesse it takes for somebody like Jeff Gordon to ease up behind Dale Earnhardt, Jr. at 190 miles an hour touching his rear bumper as gently as powdering a baby’s butt, giving him another five to ten miles per hour so he can pass a gaggle of cars. All the while the temperature inside the car is well over 100 degrees and you are pulling two or three G every few seconds in the turns. Rinse and repeat every few seconds five hundred times over a three hour period. Doing all that without killing yourself or somebody else. Or the pit crew where six guys (all that is allowed over the wall) change four tires, fill the tank with 22 gallons of gas, clean the windshield, wipe off the grille, add or remove tape from the grille, and make an adjustment to the car suspension……all in 14 seconds.

  3. First off, there is a curling club in Laurel. Before you trash talk a sport you’ve never engaged in, you should give it a try. As it happens, tomorrow (15 Feb) is an open house; come on by and I’ll show you the support.

    Second, it is not the least physically challenging sport. Your link appears to be a judgement call from another person who has never tried it. I have seen other studies that found it burned fewer calories peer ten minutes than any other winter Olympic sport, but given the length of a game, it really falls behind only the cross country, speed skating, and hockey events overall. Personally, I ski professionally and curl recreationally, and I can say a curling match is absolutely more exerting than a ski race.

    You have a great blog, but you should stock to topics you know something about. Rather than insulting curling, try learning something about it first.

  4. As a former (and not terribly good) curler, I have to disagree about the physicality of the sport.

    While hurling the stones does not take inordinate strength, it does take more than you might think, as well as a great deal of precision, finesse, and judgment. Further, sweeping is a great deal more physical than might be apparent, yielding heart rates that are entirely comparable with more traditional physical sports. Doing that through the 6-10 ends for 6 of 8 rocks adds up to quite a bit of mileage as well. Neither are the mental and strategic aspects of curling minor.

    Whether it needs to be an olympic sport, I have less of an opinion on. Figure skating seems plenty absurd to me, although the physicality and artistic difficulty of it are quite apparent.

  5. Charlton Stanley:

    I’m with you on twirling long ribbons, but I would have expected some support for curling from a Scotsman.

  6. Leave it to a Scotsman to bring a telephone pole to a javelin toss.

    All kidding aside, while I still prefer the grace and skill of curling, this caber turning stuff is exactly the kind oddball human endeavor that belongs in the Olympics. Like rugby.

    Personally, I’m going to quit watching when they include NASCAR in the Olympics

  7. I lost interest in the Olympics when twirling long ribbons on the ends of sticks was declared an Olympic event.

    I might renew my interest if turning the caber is made an Olympic sport. Flipping a telephone pole end over end so it lands at the perfect 12:00 position has all the elements required of a true sport.

  8. Curling is a game of skill similar to golf, which entails rolling a ball across across some turf with the tap of a club, in that it requires an intimate understanding of ice, the essence of winter sports.

    All the skills in curling are soft. Technique is essential requiring absolute physical control; at least in golf, taking a hard swing can make a big impression. If your idea of sports is about running fast and picking up heavy stuff, then you won’t be able to appreciate the soft skills of curling. Baseball is a game that calls for a great many soft skills that the average fan is completely unaware of, yet if a player cannot master them, it doesn’t matter how far he can hit a ball. These soft skills are deceptively difficult which the best ahtletes manage to make look easy. Try stretching out as if your throwing a stone – see how long you can hold the pose. Make sure there’s someone there to help you up.

    Curling is a game of strategy the same way baseball isn’t always about hitting the ball over the fence all the time. And as someone noted above, it’s calls for teamwork.

    One of the greatest moments in sports ever came in 2010, in Vancouver when a packed house broke out into the Canadian national anthem, “Oh, Canada”, as the Canadian men’s curling team was finishing up their match to win gold. Those moments of national pride are often more stirring to me than watching professional athletes with their sense of entitlement and phony camaraderie.

    Curling embodies the Olympic notion of the amateur athlete, toiling away in obscurity, dedicated to perfecting the craft of physical movement for the sheer joy of it.

  9. @Dredd I like the idea of adding economics and lawyering to the Olympic Games, but only if they were full contact sports. For that matter, adding a dimension of brute physicality to the sport of curling could increase its viewer appeal.

  10. Curling is the most complex strategic team sport in the games. It’s real time strategy albeit a bit ‘old’ fashion. It certainly holds my attention… of course it may be those sailing the rock down the ice.

  11. Darren Smith: I hope you will get behind javelin-catching, too. 🙂

    I actually participated in curling in my youth. It’s a lot harder than it looks.

    If one is to be critical of Olympic sports, what about luge and skeleton? I will grant that it takes strength and skill (and courage), but, seriously, these people are making an athletic career out of going fast on a sled. And somebody actually provides financial support for that activity (which is not true for curling, at least on the women’s side).

  12. Jonathan, I go somewhat farther than you. To my mind, a sport is something where the number of points or the amount of time determines the winner. Just think a minute about the number of Olympic events that are subjectively judged. And now we have Ice Dancing – WTF – they acknowledge that it is dancing and when did dancing become an Olympic sport? Plus now we have the side slope snowboard and skiing events to add to the mix. There must be some level of money to get events like these admitted to the Olympics.There have been way too many examples of bias and worse in the judging of subjectively judged events. Beyond that, I pine for the days of yore when the Olympics were a contest between amateurs. Who can forget the 1980 USA hockey’s unbelievable win! Now with few exceptions the competitors today are all professionals.

  13. As a former fencer, of which I know you are familiar with the sport, I was accused of not really being an athlete either. I know you understand how ridiculous a statement that would call any fencer, not an athlete is at its face. I point out this story because as a participant of one of the lesser known Olympic sports and one that the USA did not come close to being in the top 20 when I was competing, it sucks to have your sport punked. I am not trying to compare fencing and curling and I agree it may not take a lot of athletic prowess to a good curler, but I don’t really know. Not falling on your ass every 5 feet on the ice takes some skill. It is their sport and this is their moment, why do you want to take it away from them? I am guessing the IOC is not raking in curling lobbying money, so don’t pick on them because they cut wrestling in favor of golf. Stupid decision on one end should not be cause to pick on someone else minding their own business, playing their sport and the winners buy the first round.

  14. The Olympics is very weird about sports, and what is included or excluded. Curling is no less weird than plenty of other sports.

    Olympic status is determined, at least in part, on the popularity and number of countries that practice the sport. By that metric, how many of you watch luge outside of the Olympics? How many countries even have luge facilities? Indeed, how many countries have enough snow and altitude for many of the skiing disciplines? At least with curling you can practice indoors.

    Think of it as like ice skating for normal people who like to drink.

  15. For the summer games, I want Olympic Lawn Darts.

    It is a real sport, especially when Little Johnny throws wildly and everyone runs for cover.

  16. i’m with the get rid of the whole wasteful spectacle crowd, but I don’t want to stop there – let’s stop capitalism and industrial civilization while we’re at it!

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