Six months and thirty-seven posts ago (or so — I must confess that I didn’t count all that carefully) the curling season started. At least eight of those posts were sort of about curling — clearly I talk about it far too much. Last week the season ended and I’ve been reflecting on it (by which I really mean ‘wallowing in self-loathing’) ever since.
The season ended on a Thursday night with the final games in six different leagues. The winners got three things: they got to make overly long speeches, they got bragging rights for a period of time not to exceed one year and they got to fill their newly won trophies with intoxicating beverages.
Well, most of them.
I say ‘most’ because not all trophies are capable of holding liquids and one of the games was played between teams of juniors; it would be inappropriate for them to fill a trophy (or anything, really) with alcohol. (It’s a good thing that ‘their’ trophy doesn’t have a bowl or cup on it. Perhaps that was just a sensible design decision.) Also, one of the women’s leagues has a moderately valuable painting as a trophy and paintings are not usually known for fluid capacity. And this year, in a modest break from tradition, one team of winners filled their trophy with candy (at first — after the candy was all eaten, things… reverted).
In past years there have been other traditions: horrifying choral arrangements, comic-opera scheming (the only thing missing was the mustache twirling) to create the Perfect Team For Next Year, naked curling (except for shoes — you can’t curl in bare feet) but this year people mostly limited themselves to the speeches, bragging and drinking.
Especially the drinking.
Different trophies are, of course, filled with different… let’s call them libations for reasons that will become apparent. One trophy in particular is filled with rusty nails. (Not the kind you step on when you want to get a tetanus shot nor the kind that can’t decide if he drives a Peterbilt or a Freightliner. No, they fill it with a nasty mixture of whiskey and Drambuie.)
The winning team usually partakes first, followed by the losers, then everyone nearby and then everyone not nearby that happens to be willing or remotely willing. (Sometimes the definition of ‘willing’ can be stretched just a wee bit in the process.) One of the hazards of drinking from this particular trophy is its shape — it has a narrowish “neck” and a large lower “reservoir”. (It looks a little like this one, only moreso and with a huge, heavy wooden base — a century’s worth of recipients will do that.) Because of the size, shape and weight it’s impossible to take a sip — it’s either nothing or far, far too much and you wind up covered in rusty nail. (It’s even worse if you’ve been chased into a bathroom.) I generally don’t bother — I don’t much like drinking Scotch (even when it’s not mixed with silver polish), I like wearing it even less and… sometimes it’s not even Scotch. I know that because, well, if the trophy gets ‘close’ to empty before all the ‘willing’ ‘customers’ have ‘drunk’ their fill, then it’s refilled, sometimes with whatever happens to be handy — like half-empty and unattended glasses on nearby tables. (It’s a little like making an Around the World but with no added fratboy backwash.)
But I was talking about self-loathing.
I’ve talked about winning. I’ve talked about losing. Winning is, of course, better but sometimes losing is okay too — it all depends on how you lose or, in my case, how I play. (If I play badly I’ll be sullen for days and brood constantly. This isn’t a particularly admirable trait but in my defense I’m better than some people — I once played against a guy who, if he played badly, would start walking to Ottawa after the game. Ottawa is a two hour drive away; his team would look for him on Highway 15 after he had cooled down a bit. If I play well… one game I remember proudly was a close game we lost against the best team in the club.) Expectations also play a part — if I don’t expect to do well (or if I don’t care if I do well — one reason I enjoy sparing), then sometimes I do well. Funny how that works.
Sometimes expectations can be a bit high, though. Combine that with sub-par play and the results can be ugly. Not “I’m going to walk to Ottawa” ugly, but not pretty either.
We (one of ‘my’ teams) made it to the semi-final of the mixed league. I stupidly let myself think “We’ve come a long way. It’s the semi-final. Even though it’s against the team that’s WON THE LEAGUE two out of the last three years, we could win this.” From there it was a relatively short step to “I totally want to win this. I want to get to the big game, give an incoherent speech, fill a trophy with intoxicants that I don’t actually like and drink from it until I’m sick the next day. I’m there.”
The letdown when I sucked was… significant.
I did it again a few days later. It was my last game of the year. A final — admittedly in the ‘not really all that good at all’ division but a final nonetheless. Not having learned A THING from the previous game, though, I ratcheted up my expectations to a ridiculous level, laying the groundwork for massive disappointment and extended periods of sulking. My team probably should have locked me in my car but — to their credit — they didn’t. Not only that, they also brought wives and mothers to watch. We were doomed.
That’s kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy and I (surprise!) managed to fulfill it. I missed shots that a novice would be expected to make. I misjudged angles. I misjudged weight. I read the ice badly. It was ugly — so ugly that I could see an extended period of brooding and self-loathing on the horizon.
Despite my best [sic] efforts we were still in the game in the last end but it wasn’t a good situation: we were down one in the score without last rock. We had to ‘steal’ a point but unfortunately, nothing we tried worked and everything they tried did.
I hate it when that happens.
When I went to throw my last rock they had two rocks in scoring position (both completely hidden) and we had to score. Which meant desperation was in order. The only shot I had was a double angle raise takeout: I had to throw a rock 120 feet, hit one of our rocks in just the right place to drive it back five feet into another one of our rocks, hitting it in exactly the right place to drive it back into their stone, removing it and leaving us in scoring position. If he missed his last shot — it wouldn’t be real easy — we might score one, tie the game and go to an extra end to break the tie. But first all I had to do was make a stupidly difficult shot on a piece of ice that we didn’t really understand. No problem.
Of course, I had to make sure my expectations were appropriately low. (That’s probably the only good thing about playing badly for the entire game — they were already pretty close to being ‘appropriate.’)
And you know what? Sometimes you get lucky.
Expectations soared, moods brightened, birds sang, elves barfed. It was great. I even thought about cancelling the brooding period.
Then he had to go ruin everything by making his shot.