Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Mama, don't let you baby grow to be a Skip

Tonight, and every night of the week, in cities all across the country, thousands of people are taking part in a dangerous sport. They don't realize what kind of harm they risk incurring, with their complete lack of safety equipment, like helmets or kneepads. Oh sure, it looks harmless enough - even guys with beer bellies can participate, so it can't be all that bad.

Recently, a friend invited me to come out for the Monday night Mixed Rec league. I jumped at the chance, having never done it before. I mean, I'm no athlete, but I've done some stuff before. I played softball, basketball, and soccer. Hell, I fenced epee for over two years, so I know wacky danger sports! I just wasn't prepared for the risks I would be taking.

Curling, people - no one ever tells you that when you step onto that ice, it's sink or swim, baby. They hand you these Teflon sliders to make it "easier" for you to glide around, but they don't tell you that putting that glider on is akin to putting butter in a hot pan - you'll glide all right. If you can stand upright for more than 5 seconds.

They give you a broom, which is supposed to be for sweeping the ice, but can also act as a crutch when you slip and break your ankles. It also becomes a deadly weapon if flailed about while falling down.

I went to a beginner's clinic on Friday night, and did okay. Once they took the glider off of me. I used Teflon tape instead, which is still slippery and allows you to glide, but isn't as bad as the glider. Eventually, I got used to being on the ice - I'd forgotten how slippery it was (which sounds like the stupidest thing anyone's ever said, but I haven't been skating in years and I forgot which muscles to flex, where to put my weight, etc).

Once I got the hang of gliding, it was on to "curling" the rock, sweeping (which was okay), scoring, and throwing the rock. Eventually, I stopped falling on my ass whenever I threw the damn thing, and when the instructor stopped laughing long enough to come up for air, I got to use a stabilizer, which acts as a "crutch" - it's perfectly legal, and is actually a good idea for anyone learning how to curl, at least until you're used to balancing.

Monday night I went out for the first game. Since Karen couldn't find anyone else to fill the last two spots on our team, we had to wait for the second round - in the end, it was just me, Karen, and Karen's dad on a team. We were up against another team of teamless newbies, and we all went down to the sheet.

(The highlight of the evening was when I almost got my rock onto an adjacent sheet. Hilarious! I didn't see it because I slipped and fell as soon as I let go of it.)

Another hazardous element of the game is the other team. Guys? If my teammate has just thrown a rock, and I'm sweeping, I'm doing all I can to stay upright and trot awkwardly down the ice and wait for someone to holler "SWEEP!" If you get in my way, or don't get out of my way fast enough, there's no way I can slow down and I will be taking you down with me when I trip and fall. I'm just sayin'.

My other moment of glory - when you're sweeping, you're focused on the rock and sweeping for all you're worth. I kept forgetting to watch for other rocks once I got passed the hog line and more than once, ended up tripping over guards or other rocks. The other skip was really good about it - once she stopped laughing, she just put them back to where they had been before I blundered through. Oy.

I think I'll stick with it for now. I have to be super careful out there because I've got enough war wounds from fencing that one wrong move on the ice and Bam! I've blown out my knee again, or pulled the trick muscle in my back. So, if you're at the curling club on Monday nights, try not to get in the way of the chick with the funky reddish-orange hat with pom-poms and cat ears. She's as much a danger to you as she is to herself.