Curling remains a mysterious sport to the vast majority of Americans. In Canada, of course, curling is third in popularly behind only hockey and making fun of Americans who fight so hard to keep the current healthcare system in place that takes money out of their pockets and into the hands of zillionaire CEOs in the insurance and pharmaceutical industries. It is much easier to understand the sport of curling than why millions of Americans would rather hand their money over to insurance and pharmaceutical companies in exchange for overpriced drugs and the ability to have your insurance cut out from under you without notice. So here goes.
The Sheet and the House
When you hear Olympics curling analysts and commentators referring to the “sheet” they are referring to the sheet of ice that makes up the curling “court.” That circular spot is called the “house.” You will notice that the house is made up of concentric circles. The larger blue circle has a diameter of 12 feet and the smallest red circle has a diameter of 12 inches. That little inside circle is also known as the tee or button. The team that has the curling rock closest to the tee or button at the end wins the end.
The end is the equivalent of an inning in baseball. A single game of curling consists of ten ends and each player delivers two rocks for a total of 16 rocks per end. Each team has a lead who throws the rock first, a second who throws the rock, yep, second, a vice-skip who throws third and the team captain—or skip—who throws last and also is in charge of management throughout the end.
The rock ain’t just another bad Michael Bay flick. That piece of granite with the handle is know as the rock and can weigh up to 44 pounds. You may have noticed if you have watched curling that the player doesn’t actually push the rock. The proper way to get the rock sliding is to thrust yourself forward with one leg trailing behind you and release the rock. The speed with which the rock is released will determine its trajectory and the player continues to slide behind the rock after it has been released.
The broom is actually a very versatile piece of sporting equipment. It is used by the players to indicate where the stone should head. The broom can also help keep the curler balanced during the throw. The most common use of the broom to the casual viewer is the common sweeping motion site of the two sweepers. What they seek to do is to melt the ice with friction to create a very thin layer of water over the ice that acts as a lubricant to get the curling rock to travel farther and straighter. A common misconception is that sweeping gets the rock to go faster. This is not the case.
Why is it called Curling?
Before the game begins the sheet is sprayed with water and the droplets freeze into what are termed pebbles. The friction between the stones and the pebbles causes the curling of the stone that gives the game its name. If you did not have all that sweeping going on, the stones would curl significantly off course. Even with the sweepers in place, you may witness a stone curl as much as six feet from its original trajectory. It is that sweeping that causes the melting of the pebbles that gets the stone to go where the players want. On occasion.
The two teams alternate throws in each end with each player delivering two rocks until all 16 have slide down the sheet. The team that ends up with the rock nearest the tee is the winner of that end. One point is scored for each rock that is closer to the tee than their opponent’s rocks.