THE CONTRARIAN

THE ROARING GAME

It is the king of games.  More a game of complex strategy than chess – one has to plan several moves ahead, but in chess, pieces move where you want, while in the king of games, moves are not always executed exactly, so the strategy has to be re-thought every move.  It requires more self-control and discipline than golf – games are generally decided on errors of fractions of an inch, while the golf cup is 5 inches wide!  It requires as much hand-eye coordination and depth perception as tennis, or snooker, or skeets.  It requires absolute concentration, as much as the pitcher-hitter drama of baseball.  It requires the coordinated activity of each team member to the degree of synchronized swimming.  It requires the kind of team communication and reaction to split second decisions needed to win at football.  It requires a high degree of physical fitness.  And there is still an element of luck – just as the best poker player can be beaten by a very lucky neophyte, anyone can win any given match.  It is intensely cerebral, emotional, and physical.  It is curling, as played at the modern international level.

And it is emblematic of the split in Canadian society.  Curling is played and understood by the vast majority of rural (that is, those in cities under 300 000) Canadians, top players would be recognized and asked for autographs in any Tim Hortons across the land outside the big cities.  However, the big city ruling elite see it as a slightly embarrassing, simplistic activity of unsophisticated rustic types (after all, it is primarily played in the remote colonies of western Canada).  So that even though Canada utterly dominates internationally (top teams from other countries typically spend the winter playing in top tournaments in Canada), our ruling elite pretends the game does not exist, or at least is not worthy of serious comment, and certainly does not play any significant role in Canadian culture.

We see this in our national newspapers and magazines, but nothing exemplifies this attitude more than the CBC, the self-appointed guardian of Canadian values.  The network carries weeks of programming of esoteric horsemanship and swimming and figureskating and ski-ing events, with on average all of about 17 people watching across the nation.  It even stoops to a regular weekly hockey game, enduring the embarrassment of this and Don Cherry, the archpriest of anti-political correctness being their number one attraction.   But it pretty much leaves curling to the Sports Channel, even the national and international playdowns. Even tho the high drama of the international events are the top Canadian sports story of the year.

Perhaps this attitude will change, indeed, perhaps it is already changing since curling has become an Olympic sport, and since it is enjoying an upswing among young people, after all, it costs a tiny fraction as much to outfit a kid for curling as it does for hockey, and everybody can win on lucky occasions, not just the top athletes dominating all the time.    

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