Matt Butler: Now we know just how far all that sweeping in curling can take the stone
View from the sofa: Scottish Curling Championships, BBC 2 Scotland
Sunday 23 February 2014
We’re all curling experts now, right? We all know the hammer is more than a Motörhead song or a carpenter’s implement. And we are all familiar with the fact that an end isn’t necessarily the finish, unless it is the 10th, then it is the end. Or the finish. Easy.
We didn’t know any of this before the Olympics started. And such was the drawn-out format of the curling competition in Sochi we had almost two weeks to learn these terms. By Friday afternoon we could all commentate, grimace and tut as the abrasive Canadians completely outplayed David Murdoch and his team – sorry, rink – in the gold medal match.
But before Murdoch played his way to silver and his female counterpart Eve Muirhead battled to bronze, there was even more curling on the box: one for the purists – curling hipsters, if such a thing exists. The Scottish Championships, no less. And watching the highlights on Wednesday night gave us some vital information that in turn helped us enjoy Friday’s final in Sochi.
Just as beard-stroking football uberfans had been waxing lyrical about a “false nine” years before Spain won the European Championship, those who had watched the highlights of the Scottish Curling Championships could dazzle onlookers with their knowledge of sweeping, skips and leads.
We had assistance from the commentators, Robin Copland and Bob Kelly, explaining the rules and intricacies of the game. Yes, they aren’t all that complex, but it is nice to know exactly what you are watching. There were a few other nuggets of information that were useful. That sweeping that looks like manic cleaning? Apparently, it makes the stones slide an extra seven to nine feet.
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The tournament was held in a small arena in Perth, with an audience of what we might call a traditional curling crowd, rather than the one in Sochi populated by those rowdy Canadians.
And because it was a lot more intimate than the Ice Cube, you got a chance to hear not only the tactical discussions among the players, but also the satisfying rumble of the stones sliding over the ice. It was a sound that you wanted to hear over and over – it was reminiscent of the noise that accompanies the heaving aside of a heavy stone tomb in the Indiana Jones films.
It was a shame that the Scottish Championships were held at exactly the same time as the Olympics – a quirk which precludes any of Team GB’s medallists from playing in the World Championships next month. It seemed as worthwhile as setting up a travelling funfair next to Disneyland.
But those who did tune in would have been pleased. Just as a decent ghost train off the back of a truck can scare the wits out of you with a few well-placed carny types along the ride, the final, between Team David Edwards and Team Ewen MacDonald, drew us in, even those with no connection to either quartet. With a place at the World Championships riding on the result, it was a tense affair. For the record, MacDonald’s rink dominated, winning 6-4.
And it set up the newly minted curling purists among us perfectly for the Olympic final. We could speak about the relative merits of a draw or a takeout. And we could talk about an end, even if we didn’t mean the finish. Or the end, as in the end.
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