This is — sort of — a companion piece to something I threw together (unnecessarily graphic analogy here) over a year ago called ‘Losing‘. Ever since, though, I’ve thought that, having
barfed written something called ‘Losing’, it would, if nothing else, be a nice bookend to have something called ‘Winning’. There would be symmetry. Even though my name isn’t Zathras — or Tim (A guy at the curling club called me Tim for five years. I never corrected him because I didn’t care but he got… agitated when he found out.), symmetry is sometimes nice.
I don’t think I have anything like that but I have a small story from the same bonspiel (same ‘speil, different year) as ‘Losing.’ That’ll have to do.
As far as I can remember, we had won our first (Thursday) game. On Friday I think we lost; I spent too much time looking at the girls drinking shooters on the other side of the glass. (I’m easily distracted.) Our third game — the first ‘must-win’ game — was Saturday morning and we did; I don’t remember a whole lot about that game. After that was the semi-final for our event — another must-win game.
The first thing I noticed was that we were playing sort of an all-star team. In curling all-star teams don’t necessarily work all that well: it’s valuable to play with the same people ‘all’ the time. You learn their quirks. Their foibles. What they can and cannot do. Teams that haven’t played together don’t necessarily have that.
Unfortunately, this was their fourth game so they had played together a bit. And they were all darned good players — one of them had been to a national championship. (He didn’t win or anything, but still…)
Aw, hell — they had fans. Wives. Girlfriends. Kids. They brought their own cheering section and from their body language I could tell that they expected their husbands, boyfriends and fathers to make it to the final. We were a… stepping stone. An inconvenience. A minor impediment at best. I fled to the ice surface; it was cold but there were no little Johnnies or Janies to say to me “My daddy is going to crush you like a bug, plant boy.”
The game started out inauspiciously — they forced us to take a point in the first end.
Perhaps a word or two on curling scoring and strategy is in order. In a curling game, two teams alternate making shots. That means that, every ‘end‘, one team has the last one. (Duh.) Having ‘last rock’ is an advantage — enough of an advantage that last rock is often called ‘the hammer.’ A team with last rock has a good chance of scoring multiple points; failure to take at least two is often considered something of a failure. A team without last rock might try to score (called ‘stealing’ — it’s usually both risky and difficult) or might try to ‘force’ the team with last rock to take a single point in order to get the hammer from them — a team that scores relinquishes last rock advantage.
In this game we had last rock in the first end and they forced us to take a point. As a result, we had an insignificant lead but they had the hammer. They looked satisfied. The gallery beamed. Johnny and Janie made crushing motions. I, on the other hand, looked sullen and pouted.
In the second end they tried to take advantage of the last rock advantage. We got a little lucky and stole a point. They looked, not worried — maybe surprised that things weren’t going the way they were supposed to. We weren’t cooperating. We weren’t following the script.
We stole the third end too. Cracks started appearing in their facade — this wasn’t going according to plan AT ALL. The gallery didn’t look worried — yet — but they did look… apprehensive.
We stole the fourth end. By now the gallery looked worried and half their team looked dejected. The other half looked angry and one of them started hitting inanimate objects with his broom. (Well, better inanimate objects than me I always say.)
I was pleased. After all, we were playing well and putting pressure on them but if they were upset they’d be putting pressure on themselves. That’s always good. I started to think that we might even win. Heck, I may have stopped pouting.
Well, a little. I didn’t want to go overboard or anything.
We stole the fifth end. The gallery was eying the door. Johnny and Janie scowled at the mean horrible bullies who were beating up their daddy. More broom banging occurred. I no longer looked sullen; they did. (Apparently ‘sullen’ is a conserved quantity. I had no idea.)
In the sixth end, we forced them to take a point so we could get
the hammer back. The gallery started to flee (taking Johnny and Janie
with them so I have no idea what they might have been thinking. They
weren’t making bug-crushing motions, that’s all I knew.) The other
team? They raised the white flag.
Guess the odds weren’t as insurmountable as I had thought.