So, curling. That other, shameful Canadian winter sport. The one that is not talked about in front of outsiders; the one played behind closed doors in private, nigh-Masonic clubs in every small town in the Frozen North. The game with the sweeping. That one.
It turns out there's a club in Wayland. I joined up and have been playing again this year, for the first time since high school. I'd forgotten how much fun it is -- for me, it's about the perfect combination of whole-body skill, balance, bursts of frenetic activity, team coordination, analytical tactics, and beer (I am not aware of a curling club in the world that does not have its own bar in the building). It's a social activity; it offers hardly any meaningful advantages to gender -- nobody bothers to count how many women are on a coed team -- and it's a sport with traditions of gentlemanly conduct regarded as having equal standing with the rules of the game.
The structure of the game is comparable to bocce or boules -- you score by throwing closer to the button than your opponents, but in this case you're sliding 45-lb polished granite stones across 120' of ice. Delivery of a stone is a graceful, whole-body sliding motion that, done well, can easily cover 30 feet before you release the rock, and after that your teammates will follow the rock up the ice. By polishing the ice in front of the sliding rock -- this is where the brooms and the teamwork come in -- good sweeping can carry an imperfect throw as much as 10 feet farther than it would otherwise have travelled.
You wear a slider made of actual teflon under one foot, to skim faster over the ice.
It's surprisingly addictive.
This brings me to: it's coming up on midseason, and registration is open again for the second half. Before that, the club is having an open house on Sunday (yes, New Year's Day). There will be lots of friendly people and probably hot chocolate and fresh cookies and complimentary beer (I'm not kidding). But frankly, that's not the way you want to try the game -- if the fall open house is anything to go by, you'll get hardly any ice time, and almost no opportunity to actually throw rocks. I suggest you come with me. There's open ice tomorrow afternoon and Sunday evening and Monday.
Anyone interested in giving it a try?