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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Okay, I’ve had it with the “curling is funny” line

You curl. I curl. Lots of people we know curl. Are you funny?  Am I?

(No, actually, I’m not.  In fact, I’m a terrible joke teller and often need punch lines explained to me.)

The point is, “curling is funny” leaves me shaking my head. Football is funny (tight pants, crazy moves).  Soccer can be pretty darn funny with all that dramatic embellishment going on. Surely it’s all in the eye of the beholder.

And some beholders seem to have goggles on when it comes to curling.  

The Curling News blog published a piece about the new CBC comedy, Men With Brooms. I don’t need to give you the drill: same people who did Corner Gas, based on Paul Gross’ affectionate but slightly off-base curling movie of the same name, etc., etc. The post includes links to the usual media outlets giving their reviews of the pilot, reviews that were pretty predictable (“the show is more about the people than it is about curling”). All good.

But then the Canadian Press piece starts: “There is something inherently funny about curling….”

Okay, hold it right there.

Which characteristic of curling makes the sport so funny,exactly?

Is it the balance, flexibility and strength required to float a rock down the ice to the button?  Or throw a take-out that gets everything moving and clears the house?

DSC_2619 Is it the judgment required to determine – using eyeball or stopwatch, doesn’t matter – when that rock is going to slow down, where it’s going to dig in, how it’s going to finish?  And with that goes the power to drive those brushes into the ice without letting up until the rock hits its target or grinds to a halt. Try it – it’s not that funny.

Is it the skips’ hollering that seems funny?  Is it the “Hurry hard! Harder!” which has drawn far too many sophomoric innuendos from uninformed non-curlers?

Curling is not “inherently funny”. Just ask Kevin Martin, pictured above at a Grand Slam event in Guelph last January. The Olympics brought curling’s appeal to the front of the sporting stage – it also showed that “funny” and “fun” are not the same thing. Curling – and curling fans – are fun, no doubt about it.

But “funny”?  Can we move on, please, people?

(Photo: Jean Mills)


  1. Great point... maybe curling for me is a pleasure to see, maybe "funny" in this side. Well, I'm brazilian and I'll see the epi only if will boardcast to us, but I'd like to see the result. If you allow, I'll translate this article to my compatriots and discuss ^^. =)

  2. Hey Ana, please do translate this article. And I think you can find "Men With Brooms" on the CBC website - you might be able to watch it there. Thanks for your comment!

  3. Curling is much different from most other team sports--and especially when it's viewed superficially. Its object/scoring system is completely different from other team sports that have two goals and one ball in play. Also, I'm sure most curling outsiders find the entire concept of using brooms/brushes (especially on ice) in a sport--even though it makes perfect sense in curling--to be ridiculous (I'm sure broomball has suffered its share of unfair sneers and giggles, too). Those are just two of many examples. Then, of course, there are the old (and sometimes stupid) curling stereotypes that just won't die.

    Of course, getting cheap laughs on such a shallow level is not evidence of one's sense of humor but rather an indictment against it. I sympathize with your comments about curling being a forthright, fun and very challenging pastime. And I'm sure that most non-curlers honestly just don't find the game appealing yet behave maturely about that if curling sneaks into their conversations.

    However, when faced with something that's alien or something that just doesn't quite fit in with social norms, people either react with fascination, derisiveness or hostility. While curling isn't inherently funny, it is inherently different, and as long as it remains so, there will always be someone ignorant around to mock or even insult it. That's why a lot of people here in the U.S. mock the game despite the game's popularity spike this year. And it's why, even in Canada of all places (where the sport is woven in your national fabric) there are plenty of people that can't resist a laugh when they hear about or see curling.

    Sure, these jokes are groan-inducing, but fortunately, many curlers seem to be blessed with both thick skin and the ability to crack their own ironic, self-deprecating jokes (that, I may add, are much more clever than what the ESPN SportsCenter writers can create). So, don't worry if you don't do jokes very well because I assume the chances are that the other three players on your team can more than make up for you (just like how my teammates bailed me out today after I missed a few take-outs and draws).
    Oh, and sorry for the long commend, but an aside: I started curling this March and I've gotten hooked on the game. Fortunately, there's a cute lil' three-sheet club just five miles away from my apartment. I'm a member of the club now (I had a great time at the season-opening bonspiel this weekend) and I really appreciate just how welcoming the club is to new curlers.

    It's nice to be part of a friendly community of curlers that are more than willing to help me find ways to learn more about the game and improve as a player. But since curling gets almost no press in the States outside of the Olympics, if I want to find some news articles/features/blogs about curling, or want to watch the best pro curlers play, I'll do myself a big favor by looking up north.

    There are several excellent blogs on the CCA website, and I recognize your name because while browsing through Bernard and Morris's posts this summer (btw it was a pleasure to watch them play in Vancouver even though they crushed our teams), I found a post you wrote about curling etiquette. You linked to an article you had published in the Globe & Mail--I must say, that's a wonderful essay. I reread it before heading to the club for my first game of the season on Friday to remind myself of what the sport is all about. As I've had my own "grassroots" moment very recently, I'm glad I stumbled across your blog and I'll be sure to check back here every now and then.

  4. Hey Jordan, thanks for this thoughtful comment. Yes, even here in Canada people laugh at curling and curlers, but I think that uninformed bias is changing. The Olympics - and seeing our best curlers on TV more often - is helping to transform the stereotype a bit. All good. Your observations are much appreciated. And may I add: Welcome to Planet Curling!