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On the Sideline: Curling

No, curling is not what they do at Arby’s to get your curly fries the way you like them, or what’s done to a woman’s hair to get those luscious locks cascading in a glorious whirlpool. Curling is actually a Winter Olympic sport.

During the Winter Olympics, you just may have asked yourself while flicking through the plethora of sports being shown, “Why on earth are they pushing a flat bowling ball across the ice and then sweeping in front of it?” That was curling, a team sport played on a rectangular sheet of ice by two teams of four players.

The dominant international curlers are our neighbors, the Canadians, who know curling as their national sport. Curling joined the Olympics in 1998, becoming a medal sport for the first time at the 1998 Winter Games in Nagano, Japan.

The beginning of the game is decided by a coin flip which determines which team throws first. The team that throws second gets the advantage of throwing the last stone, called the “hammer.”

Team members go in order throwing the stones. The lead throws the first stone, then the second, the third and finally the fourth, also known as the skip or team captain. The team captain decides the strategies in the game.

The teams take turns sliding a heavy, polished granite stone down the ice towards a target area called the house, which resembles a target in a cartoon, for visual sake. Two sweepers with brooms which kind of resemble good ole kitchen brooms, accompany each stone, sweeping the ice in front of the stone which causes it to travel further.

So, how do you score? Good question. Curling games consist of either eight or ten “ends,” similar to innings in baseball. Each player throws two stones in an end which comes to a total of sixteen stones being thrown per end.

Once the end is completed, the team whose stone is closest to the target receives one point for each of its additional stones that are closer than the opponent’s closest stone. Only stones that are in the house can score points. A stone just barely in the ring, known as a biter, still counts.

Still confused? Normally, I would have suggested watching the Winter Olympics, but after finding out the next ones are in Vancouver, Canada, in 2010, plan B would be that you do some “you tubing” and watch it for yourself and then try to follow. Good luck!

Sources: Wikipedia.com and USA today. If there’s a sport you would like to see featured or if you have questions, please email jmarcus@eastern.edu.

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