At full-contact trivia tonight there was a question about curling.
There isn’t actually any contact in full-contact trivia: it was first called that by someone I went to grad school with. (So you can tell that we’ve been playing it for some time.) It’s this electronic on-line-ish game played in bars and restaurants all over (I think) North America. We play under the (misspelled — apparently the correct spelling is a naughty word, unsuitable for public consumption or something) name of a hairy South American camelid; the reasons for this are long lost.
Anyway, because it’s a game that is played throughout North America, there aren’t many curling questions. What year did Ellis Island see the most traffic? Sure. When did the Catholic church begin requiring clerical celibacy? Definitely. But a question about a silly game on ice? Not so much.
The question was something like “What does the term ‘bonspiel’ refer to?” The questions are multiple choice so we scanned the list of possible answers for ‘curling’ and it wasn’t there. We looked again — still not there. On the third pass through the options we realized that the ‘correct’ answer was ‘sporting event.’ Since the available points count down over time, I don’t think we got a particularly good score on that question. We still managed to win the game, though, partly because I managed to remember that Thomas Henry was Aldous’ grandfather.
But I was talking (sort of) about bonspiels.
Bonspiels (I’ve mentioned before that they’re like tournaments) come in all shapes and sizes. There are open spiels, ones for men, for women, old guys, young kids and who knows what else. Some of them last a single day, multiple days, a weekend, and so on — in the old days my dad played in a huge one that lasted a full week. The weirdest one I ever heard of had a requirement that
every team of four had to weigh at least a thousand pounds. (It’s mentioned briefly here.)
There’s more than one way to ‘score’ a ‘spiel as well; the most common ones are probably win/loss (mentioned briefly here) and ‘points’ (a team gets ‘points’ for scoring, for taking ends and so on). In a win/loss spiel there are typically multiple ‘events’ so that, at the end, there are multiple ‘winners.’ Something similar happens in a points spiel.
These schemes serve the function of making more games meaningful to more people. It keeps people involved and interested, at least to a certain extent.
For many years there was an ‘opening’ bonspiel at our club to start the new season, introduce new faces, meet new people, yadda yadda yadda. Using the same terminology as above, it was usually a one-day points mixed (or ‘mostly’ mixed) spiel. Teams have been chosen a variety of ways but in the year that I’m thinking of they were drawn at random. That year my team was me (duh), Ms. Rose’s nephew (then twelve or so; he wasn’t mentioned in Imaging, but he was the reason we went to the curling event described there — he was competing which sort of tells you that he’s a darned good player), a retired physics professor and, well, I forget. (I could make something up — how about a stern-looking woman named Imogen in a pink plaid kilt? It’s not relevant anyway.)
I was dreadful. We lost all our games. Actually, not to put too fine a point on it, we came last. Dead last out of two dozen teams.
In the last game — the game that decided last place — we even had the wife of the opposing skip cheering for us.
It didn’t help.
Actually, placing last is an accomplishment of sorts. If I recall correctly, there were three games that day and several teams would have lost all three. But placing 24th out of 24? That required losing all three games in a big way. It required some serious ineptitude.
After the last game there was dinner. And after dinner there were prizes. And speeches. The first prize and corresponding trophy was handed out and the skip introduced his team, thanked the organizers, and probably said some stuff that was intended to be witty. Next was the runner-up and more or less the same thing happened. (One interesting-ish factoid about this bonspiel is that there is/was/are/were two trophies — one for first place and one for second. The second place trophy is more… baroque. Extravagant. Effulgent, even. It has a scantily clad female figure poised triumphantly on a globe and brandishing a plaque inscribed with the number ‘2’. It’s definitely not politically correct and I like it a lot.) After that was the team with the most points and one loss. Then the most points with two losses. With three losses. Finally, there was a prize given to the last place team (‘The team that had the most fun’) and could they come up and could the skip introduce his team?
“This is my team. This is Imogen, this is Professor D, this is my POSSLQ‘s nephew. I don’t normally blow my own horn like this, but if it wasn’t for me they wouldn’t be here.”
Probably the best speech I’ve ever given.