Curling is nothing like life.
One of them involves desolate expanses of ice littered with obstacles where you try to annihilate anyone that gets in your way and the other is a winter sport played by…
You get the idea. Nothing at all alike. (Except that alcohol sometimes makes both easier.)
Sparing, though, is different. In one fairly tenuous way, it is a little like life. (More on that later.)
I’ve mentioned before that a curling team consists of four people. If one of them can’t make it, you get a spare because playing with three is often suboptimal. (Although we played a team of three the other night in the semi-final of the ‘not really that good at all’ division and they came within 2.54 centimetres of kicking our posteriors. Suboptimal indeed.)
I like sparing.
For one thing, you get to play different positions. On your own team, you usually play the same position every game; sometimes it’s nice to stretch a little and try something else. For another, there’s usually not a whole lot of pressure: when a team asks you to spare they’re usually satisfied if you show up more or less on time (I usually come through the door about three minutes before the start of a game), get along reasonably well with everyone on the team and don’t embarrass yourself too badly. (If you can hear the skip grinding his teeth when you throw a stone you should probably work on your game a little if you expect to be asked again.)
Despite my chronic near-lateness, incredibly inconsistent play and unnecessarily abrasive personality I get a fair number of calls, often from the Senior‘s league. (It’s not that old guys like long-haired neurotics wearing tie-dye that much, it’s just that two of the ‘not just old guys’ leagues conflict with hockey so mostly people in those leagues don’t bother calling.)
So I got a fair number of calls this season — enough that over the year I played every position, played for lots of different teams and ate a lot of lunch. (On Mondays there’s a pretty good lunch. Homemade pulled pork for the price of a cold beverage is a darned good reward for spending two hours in an ice shed. Besides, a full tummy helps the rest of the team forget the time I ‘accidentally’ threw my broom at the lead. (He started it.))
Late in the season a very nice man who I’ve never seen wear a fez (not Gordon Sumner — the guy I threw my broom at) went somewhere warm for a few weeks and asked me to be him while he was gone. Just as he was about to come back, though, one of the other members of the team (an eighty-six year old French-Canadian with an amazing command of invective) had an accident involving a curtain rod and suffered a season-ending concussion. The skip asked if I could be him for the playoffs?
Me? Annoy someone with his blessing for several weeks? (This is where the comparison of sparing to life comes in. Or, to be more precise, marriage. Sparing is nothing like marriage, of course, but… Rita Rudner puts it pretty well.)
(Sometimes it’s not a bad thing to be annoying. Well, not too bad. Or too annoying. Sometimes.)
Anyway, he (I’ve mentioned him before — the guy with the ugly lamp) asked me to annoy him for several weeks. I was up for that — I had the time, I had the tie-dye, I had the attitude. And the refreshments.
When I curl I usually take a beverage with me — often a can of something, a can carefully chosen for its lurid packaging (usually not a mustachioed plumber, though). (This isn’t necessarily annoying, but it definitely boggles people — I’m often asked “What the hell is that?”) Most of the time, though, I just take tea in the least efficient beverage container ever invented. Last week I was standing with the skip watching the opposition discuss a shot. I was a little dry from my powerful [sic] sweeping so I grabbed my bottle of tea and started unscrewing the lid (when you’re as sloppy as I am, lids are just good thinking).
“What’s THAT?” he asked.
“I hate tea.”
“You hate everything, though.”
“I don’t hate everything. I don’t hate [long pause] whiskey.”
It sure took a while to think of something he didn’t hate. I changed
the subject a little: “Uh huh. I bet you hate this shirt.”
He frowned. “I don’t hate that shirt.” Pause. “What is that, cabbage?”
Not quite the reaction I had expected.