Yesterday, I watched eight hours of curling. I didn’t get curling for a long time. And then I sat down and actually watched it. I stopped being intimidated by it. I forced myself pay attention, and that’s when I finally understood. You have to let it in, let the lingo into your brain, fake your understanding until you really get it.
There’s something about curling that is more Canadian than even hockey. There’s a lot of apologising in curling, and no fighting.
We are the best in the world, almost to the detriment of other countries. But instead of hogging the glory, we spread it around, shipping our journeymen players out into the world to coach the next generation.
We want the rest of the world to be better because we want the game to be better. We want to prove ourselves against the best. Of course we want to beat them. But we want it to be a good game.
Every curling match is bookended with a series of handshakes. Before you start, you wish your opponent good luck. After, win or lose, you tell your opponent good game. During the fifth end break, the teams sit in a circle on the floor, drinking juice and eating granola bars.
It’s still on ice, and it’s still about the team. But it’s slower, colder, and much more inscrutable. Curling is a lot closer to the true Canadian identity. The face we show to the world through our hockey players is more a fantasy than the real life of being Canadian. Most of us are more like curlers, standing around and thinking about the next move, watching the other team and trying not to slip on the ice.