overlooks the ice, to get my drink, and I’m watching Dino and Jim clean the ice after our game. The ACC has three sheets. We’ve been playing on the far right sheet and are the last curlers to finish. The two men tell me they’ve been curling together for five years and that explains the repartee they had during the game. Dino’s been telling me to sweep the ice hard on Jim’s throws so that “he’ll feel better about them” not making it to the house, the scoring section of the ice sheet. Jim has explained to me where to stand during the game and how to follow the strategy. I was playing lead, the first person to deliver the rock. Part of my job was preparing the rocks for the skip, who has to travel the length of the ice to get to the hack, a kind of starting block. I came to the club during a post-Winter Olympics open house. ACC has two open houses a year. Anyone curious about the sport can register for a 30-minute slot on the ice and learn from members how to safely
working. When he was free, George would come to the club to watch. Eventually, he decided to try it. James, another married curler at the table, asks, “Why is it so much fun? My wife and I couldn’t figure it out.” Driving home from curling in their first year they made a list of all the ways curling was fun. Meeting new people topped the list. So did making your shot. In addition to married couples, there are lots of Canadians. (Perhaps Jane’s strategy isn’t so crazy.) We have at least three sitting at my table dur- ing dinner, causing one curler to launch into the old joke, “Did you hear how many Canadians it takes to form a world curling league?” His tone is light but his point is serious: Canadians dominate the world circuit. In Canada it’s possible to be a professional curler. Here in the United States, even the Olympic team is fielded by very talented amateurs. The Ardsley Club has its fair share of elite curlers and has hosted qualifying rounds
get on and off the ice, how to throw the rocks, and how to sweep. In a non-Olym- pic year the open house might attract 30 people, according to George. In the open house held after the 2014 Sochi games, 900 people showed up. About a third of those, including myself, signed up for Learn to Curl, a package of more in-depth lessons that include membership and en- rollment in a league. (The club also offers open house rentals for corporate events and private parties.) That was in the spring. In the fall I signed up for the Saturday afternoon league, which pairs new curlers with more experienced team members and includes dinner. This league demonstrates what ACC president Jeff Casper wrote to all of us new members: curlers are incredibly social. After the game the curlers retreat to the warm room for dinner. Tonight, dinner has been prepared by Jon and Judith, a married couple who have been curling for a few years. It’s a pork and cabbage dish and it’s been warming in the downstairs kitchen. Those of us who want to have
for the US Olympic trials. The near wall along the ice is lined with banners con- gratulating the club’s more accomplished members, including Bill Stopera, a U.S. men’s national champion in 2012. Dur- ing dinner people come by and tell me to watch Joyance Meechai, the 2014 US mixed doubles champion who is practic- ing on the ice while we eat. The form, the control, the focus are all exact. “They’re playing a different game,” says George of the club’s elite curlers. What he says makes curling so enjoyable is that “Almost anyone can learn to curl in an hour or so.” But this statement is greeted with rounds of disagreement. Ev- eryone acknowledges that it’s easy to pick up the basics, but mastery takes much more dedication. League organizer, Lau- ra Hill, explains that like anything else, you’ll get more out of curling with lots of practice and better fitness. But still the naysayers at the table insist, “You can be old and fat and still curl!” This is pointed to as one of the pluses of curling. And so I have to ask: do
dinner donate $6 to the pot. The members who made dinner are re- imbursed. The rest goes to the bartender. (The bar is managed by the Ardsley Country Club.) During dinner I ask my fellow league members what brought them to the sport. “I curl because I’m looking to meet a big, hot Canadian,” jokes Jane, a thirty-something woman from New Jersey. Jane, the most stylish curler in our league, has short dark hair with green streaks through it and wears Van high top sneakers she had customized into curling shoes. Armen, a middle-aged curler and film buff originally from the Bronx, says he looked up curling years ago in the Encyclopedia Brittanica. “I wanted to know, who brings brooms to a sporting event?” he laughs. Once he tried it, he was hooked. Many of the curlers joined because of their wives. This is the case for George, a retired lobbyist. George’s wife started curling when he was still
the social curlers consider curling a sport, or a game? “It’s a sport! It’s in the Olympics, so it’s a sport,” insists one member. “But what, really, is a sport?” asks another. Dino pipes up: “I got into an argument with a woman about whether curling was a sport. I told her that anything that requires physical dexter- ity and is scored is a sport. Running is not a sport. It’s an activity.” The woman was a triathlete, and she took umbrage. “So by that definition, golf is a sport?” asks one man who questions the dexterity required of golfers. “I was watching sport fishing on television the other day,” says John. “They catch the fish, measure them, then throw them back in.” “Sport fishing is de facto SPORT fishing!” The beer tastes very good.
Natalie Axton is a writer in North Salem, New York.
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