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Curling Up with the Olympics
Like many of you, I’ve been transfixed by the exciting Winter Olympics.
OK, that’s a lie. I’ve given it at most a few hours, and most of those have been here and there, not continuous viewing.
It’s not that I don’t like to watch winter sports. After all, you never know when you’re going to see one of those Agony Of Defeat guys fly out of his skis and go pinwheeling down the side of a mountain, and I’m always rooting for one of those tippy-toe skaters to do a face plant. It’s just that you have to wait around for these things to happen and right now I have other, more pressing things to do, such as have a life.
The other day, though, my life went on hold for an Olympic event. Really. I spent hours – I’m not kidding, hours – on the edge of my seat, glued to the tube, watching …
Curling. Also known as “sliding big rocks on the ice.”
If you’ve never seen this sport, let me explain it to you. Some guys stand on opposite ends of a rink and slide 42-pound rocks at each other, in slow motion. While the rock travels down the ice at a blistering two feet per hour, other guys come out with brooms and sweep like crazy, allowing the rock to increase its speed to two and one-eighth miles per hour. Thus the rock has a great deal of momentum when it crashes into another rock down at the target area, and sends them both off the ice, which can be either a good thing or a bad thing. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.
This goes on for about 12 days, at which point, someone is declared the winner and everyone goes for refreshments.
Now, at first glance, it’s hard to see these folks as athletes, in the same way that it’s hard to see horseshoe pitchers or pinochle players as athletes. It’s also difficult to see them that way at second glance, and third. You don’t exactly hear the theme from “Rocky” ringing in your head while you watch a curling stone go moving – glacier-like – down the ice.
I’ll tell you what they are, though. I finally saw it after watching them for a few ends, which is curling-ese for innings.
They’re chess players and pool sharks rolled into one.
Really. It was like a veil lifting. I was sitting there making fun of them and all of a sudden I began to see how carefully they were placing the stones on the target area so as to influence the other side’s strategy two, three, four shots down the line. Blocks, caroms, curving shots – these guys are thinking all the time.
To there you go. I got hooked on curling in spite of myself. I thought I was watching iced-over shuffleboard and found something really interesting. I found the Brainiacs of the winter games. You really have to put the ol’ gray matter to work if you’re going to be a world class curling-type person.
Which, now that I think about it, may be why they chose curling to begin with. No crashes. No face-plants. Smart choice.
Really, there doesn’t seem to be much potential for injury at all, unless they drop one of those stones onto their shoes.
Then, truly, they would know the agony of the feet.
© 2010 Mike Redmond. All Rights Reserved.
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