In case I didn’t make it clear, I’ll come right out and state it: curling is a sport with a very strong social component. (That’s far from unique — many sports are like that but I would make the claim that it’s more prominent in curling than many others.) Every game starts and finishes with handshakes, people can and do socialize during a game (even with the opposition) and winners buy the first round at the bar. Many (most?) places, the opposing teams sit together after a game.
It’s all very civilised.
A couple of weeks ago, ‘my’ team (more on that later) had a very close game against the team next to us in the standings. Both teams played pretty well but we had a slight edge; we were ‘coming home’ up one point with last rock. They played very well in the final end, though, and eventually had a rock sitting in position to give them the tying point. For the opposing skip’s final shot he had several options — he elected to guard his stone and play for the tie. His guard was good but not great — the rock he was trying to protect was still partially visible; I could ‘see’ a bit of it (just less than half if I remember correctly). Could I see enough to hit it, remove it from play and win the game? Maybe. I decided to try — it was a hard shot but it was probably the easiest available to me. I thought back to the events of ‘Missing‘ and hoped nobody would remind me that ‘This is for the game, eh?’
Fortunately, no one did.
So we won the game, shook hands, took drink orders and hit the locker room to change. Five minutes later we were sitting in the lounge doing the inevitable game postmortem. (“We should have thrown our last shot in six with less weight.” “I should have played the bump instead of the draw.” Stuff like that — I’ll spare you the details.) After the game had been dissected to everyone’s satisfaction, it was introductions all ’round.
Not introductions, exactly. This team has only been in our league for a couple of years. We had never played them before and no one really knew any of them. (And vice versa of course.) It was more, um, ‘Tell me your life story in two minutes or less.’ You know what it’s like when you meet someone new and you’ve exhausted the conversational possibilities of ‘the weather’ or ‘the news’ or ‘the recent sporting event.’ It was like that — only multiplied by four.
This is where I change the subject and introduce ‘my’ team. (It’s not really ‘mine’ but a common tradition in curling is to name teams after the person that skips them so on the schedule we’re listed as ‘Team Rose.’ So it’s mine, but only sort of.) Three of us have played together for something more than a decade; the fourth is new this year so I don’t know him all that well yet. Collectively they’re reliable, talented and incredibly patient with the mercurial and wildly inconsistent houseplant jumping up and down at the other end of the ice. Let’s call them B, C and D.
Mr. B is one of the hardworking grandfathers mentioned in ‘Teaming.’ In addition to ‘hardworking’, he’s consistent and incredibly knowledgeable – he’s curled for, well, a long time and has a tremendous understanding of the game. Heck, he taught Ms. Rose many of the subtleties of the game years ago — before I ever touched a rock. (A rock with a handle, anyway.) Mr. C is an expert in field-programmable gate arrays. (I told you I don’t know him all that well yet.) Mr. D Is slightly younger than I am and also significantly more consistent, more reliable and rather less, um, ‘erratic.’
So we were doing the ‘getting to know one another’ thing. We talked about the usual things people talk about. We talked about how long we had curled. We talked about what we did. We talked about how we knew one another. We talked about South Porcupine. You know, the obvious stuff.
As the evening wore on the conversation ranged farther afield and we talked about…other things. I don’t really want to go into details, but at one point I happened to start a rant about an unpleasant sort of thing that happened to me a couple of years ago.
“That’s an unfortunate sort of thing” said one of their players. “Why did it happen?”
As it happens, I have/had a theory on that subject. I’ve mentioned before that I occasionally dabble in conspiracy theories so when he asked, I… dabbled. At some length. I explained my theory. (In order to sound less irrational I did it without mentioning grassy knolls, the Illuminati or orbiting mind control lasers.) I rambled. I speculated. I went off on irrelevant tangents . (Now that I think of it, it was a lot like one of my blog postings. Only, you know, with even less editorial control.)
I can’t be sure but I think that the gentlemen of the opposition thought that I was a crank. (Possibly harmless, but definitely a crank.) I could also tell that they found my theory, if nothing else, kind of long-winded. So I added a coda (without the obligatory drum solo): “Well, that and I’m annoying.” (So they had a choice between circuitous, prolix and turgid and concise, pithy and somewhat abusive.)
You could tell that, as explanations go, this was quickly absorbed but one of the members of their team wasn’t happy. Had he found one of the many flaws in my ‘theory’? Not really, no. He had a disagreement with the coda: “You don’t seem that annoying to me.”
Mr. B took a large mouthful of his mollusk-flavoured beverage.
“Give it time” he said.
When I used the word ‘civilised’ I may have exaggerated — just a teeny bit.