Archive for March, 2017

The Stone Has Been Cast

Posted: March 6, 2017 in Random Sports

Little did I know then what I would come to know as the week went along. It hasn’t stopped yet.

Through the magic of television I have been a casual-at-best, distant viewer of the sport of curling. I hadn’t heard the year-old news until this past fall that the U.S. Curling Nationals were being held in Everett for their 2017 rendition. I knew I had to go check it out. My dad was interested to see it in person, too, so on day two of the event we went to the noon Men’s draw. We didn’t know where we should get our seats and debated it for a few seconds. He and I ultimately decided that we should sit front row. As a couple of first timers we might as well get close to the action.

Walking into that arena and seeing ice is nothing new to me. I’ve witnessed hundreds of hockey games in there and have even played on the rink myself. However, to walk in and set my eyes on five separate sheets of freshly painted, perfectly prepared curling rinks was nothing short of awesome. That only helped to amp up my excitement that was already pressing the boundaries of the roof.

Dad and I took our seats along side Sheet A, just above the house of the odd ends. There were just a couple of minutes remaining in practice, which would lead into the team introductions. Little did I know then what I would come to know as the week went along.

I was about to witness my first live curling draw and it would be Team Fenson versus Team Shuster. Again, I have always been merely a casual, uninformed, television-only observer of the sport, and I could not be anymore bummed looking back now on that match-up. Even the simplest of self-education would have properly prepared me for this contest.

To me, these were just a couple of curling teams playing their professional sport. While that is true, the actual truth of the matter runs much deeper than that. I was watching a pair of skips who use to be teammates as John Shuster in the earlier parts of his career played the role of Lead for Pete Fenson. They won, by my rough calculations, no fewer than three times together at this very same competition. They competed in multiple international competitions together. Oh, and they may or may not have made some history in 2006 when they played as Team USA in the Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy. Well, you probably guessed that, yes, they did make history by becoming the first American team to ever medal in the Olympics when they were able to wear bronze medals around their necks for the trip home. But, wait – there’s more: another part of those teams was Joe Polo who is now a member of Team Shuster.

Got all of that? Don’t worry. I’m not so sure I follow it completely, either. I’ve pored over a couple of hours of research into all of this and I’m still finding all of the connections to the dots; pieces to the puzzles. Such as when tuned into the online streaming of the World Junior Championships from South Korea the week following the nationals and seeing Graem Fenson representing the red, white, and blue as a member of Team USA. He is, of course, following in his father’s footsteps, but, not so obviously, following in the footsteps of his older brother Alex who helps create the father-son tandem making up one-half of the squad bearing the family name.

Honestly, I don’t recall how the game in front of me played out. I only remember Team Shuster picking up the win for the second time on a week that would see them go an undefeated 11-0 to win another national title. With four other matches going on simultaneously there was no shortage of action to try and follow. Some games were close up until the final end, and others were conceded just past the midway point. It was an unbelievably cool two-and-a-half hours.

As Dad and I walked out of the arena I wasn’t sure I’d be able to make it back for any more of the excitement. Thankfully, things worked out and we were back for a Men’s semi-final draw later in the week. Brady Clark’s team came into the competition as defending champion and had some hometown leverage behind them. Members Philip Tilker and Colin Hufman are from Seattle, and the team’s Skip makes his residence in Lynnwood. It made for a great atmosphere inside of the building with a heavy crowd favorite, but it was not to be for the local hopefuls who would back up their 2016 championship with a third place finish.

I didn’t get to catch any of the Women’s matches all week, and wasn’t able to make it out for the two finals on Saturday. I wish I could have witnessed the Men’s finish as Shuster pulled off an incredible shot with the final stone of the final end to take the victory. There couldn’t have been a better way to cap off a great week of competition.

Though I wasn’t there physically for a majority of it, I would have the broadcast streaming on my computer at work so I could at least listen to it when I wasn’t able to be looking. I even pulled it up on my phone one day so I could listen while driving. Little did I know.

For a sport I have never tried, even I find it somewhat difficult to understand how engrossed I have become with it. Then again, maybe it’s not so difficult to understand. You only have to observe the facets of the sport to be left in awe. The immense physical ability required to simply deliver a stone properly pales in comparison to the even more incredible physical ability required to successfully sweep. Then, you have to account for the mental abilities involved with the chess game that plays out once the stones get beyond the hog line. It makes for a fascinating, exciting sport. One that I certainly hope to try.

Luckily, the Granite Curling Club of Seattle is close by. Unluckily, the curling season is winding down and the opportunity to attend an open house has past. Oh well, it’s something to look forward to next fall when the season kicks back up, or a good reason to try rounding up a group and getting out there that way. I can only imagine that it’s as addicting as it appears it would be. All because of one random week in February when the Granite Curling Club brought 18 of the nations best curling teams to town.

I started the week as a casual-at-best, distant viewer of the sport. Little did I know then what I would come to know as the week went along. It hasn’t stopped yet.