Hurry hard into curling!

It’s not like I had no respect for curling—it’s just I had very little.
I mean come on, it’s just shuffleboard on ice, right? Wrong!
After spending a lot of time at the Fort Frances Curling Club two weekends ago to cover the Northwestern Ontario ladies’ playdowns, my opinion changed in a big way as I witnessed a sport that is unique all to itself.
But I had never tried it.
Never thrown a rock. Never swept a broom (only when I was punished). And never got a chance to scream out those two fantastic words—“Hurry hard!”
So when Kevin Busch, the “iceman” at local club, offered me a chance to try it out with his Wednesday Night men’s league team, I pondered, reflected, and ultimately agreed.
But little did I know what I was in for. I mean, it’s not like I went into it totally blind, it’s just that I went into it totally stupid.
It was just a little while ago I realized the ice had “pebbles” in it that makes the “rock curl,” thus the term “curling. And it was only a while ago I started to lightly grasp the terminology.
“He should be okay, he’s got the hammer.”
“You like M.C Hammer, too? What’s your favourite song?” was something I would say.
Now, I may not be Randy Ferbey, but I’m not Ferbey the lovely but freaky children’s toy, either. I’ve ran a few miles here, and played some basketball and soccer there, so it’s not like I was out of shape.
Plus I had done some research. For instance, I read on the World Curling Federation’s website that “curling is based around a very simple idea. Slide a stone down a sheet of ice and have it stop as near the centre of a set of rings [the house].”
No problem. Piece of cake. Cheque please. Ahh, but there was more. . . .
“The problem being that your opposition will do everything tactically to stop you from achieving this goal,” the website read. “So the game contains elements of great skill, strategy, finesse exertion, and endeavour, and we promise you that the perception of a slow-paced game is just that, a perception.”
Gulp.
So I slipped on my slider, took my place at the hack (Hey, I told you guys that I’m just starting out.—No Emmanuel, that’s what it’s called), and took a slide.
Let’s just say it was about as pretty as Saddam Hussein after spending three months in a cave—it was just wrong.
But at least I didn’t fall, which is what I suspect everyone was expecting, as I stood up with some pride while trying my best not to become a part of the pebbled ice (think Lou Ferrigno trying to wear high heels).
So I took a place alongside my team—skip Jim Jackson, third Rob Sinclair, and second Guy Donaldson—as we prepared to do battle with the Larry Cousineau rink, which included Ed Cousineau, Murray Wepruk, and Wayne Woods.
My team started play without me while I took a place on an empty sheet along with Kevin, who would give me some “pointers.” After my fifth throw, he told me to stay as I was and would show me how my body should be when throwing the rock.
He put a hand on my back (Nice guy I thought), but then pulled my right leg by my foot and stretched it in a way I didn’t know it could go (Was starting to despise Kevin a little bit).
“You’ll be using muscles you never knew you had,” Kevin said.
“Gee, ya think?!”
And it was then, like the reaction from a player riding the pine the whole game, when my eyes bugged out as Jim called me on to play as they had just finished the first draw.
My team was ready for me. The only question being was I ready for them?
I sighed, and took a deep breath. I had stretched. I felt good. I was ready. . . I was toast.
I was so ugly, I was “ugilly.” I even checked behind me to make sure I didn’t have any fumes coming from my steps like Pigpen from Charlie Brown because I was “stinking up the joint.”
“You want a guard? Okay fine,” I yelled over to Jim after he told me what shot he wanted.
“Pssst, what’s a guard,” I then whispered to Rob, who was set up to sweep. I then would proceed to throw a rock with “take-out” weight, and it was about then I wished I had stayed home and rotated my tires.
But my teammates didn’t mind. They not only were gracious, but resoundingly calm when my shots went (to put things politically) Liberal to their Conservative.
They even pointed out what I was doing right (Good job staying balanced) before pointing out my flaws (He wanted an out-turn on that shot, not an in-turn) in a calm tone.
“An out-turn?” I asked, as my face squinted like I’d just swallowed a lemon.
“Just think out-turn then elbow out; in-turn then elbow in,” Rob instructed.
So you could imagine my surprise when our team won in a nail-biter by a 7-6 score.
But I learned so much. I went from “I don’t think he looks like a hog” to “Man that was a biter.” “What’s a house” to “We’re stacking the house,” and, “Do I want a take-out? No thanks, I just ate,” to “Hurry hard!”
But there’s still one key thing I’m trying to figure out after hearing Jim ask something to himself early in the game.
“We can’t seem to find the button,” he had said.
Sorry, Jim. I looked everywhere, but I just can’t seem to find the button to your shirt, either, though I’m sure it’ll turn up soon.
emoutsatsos@fortfrances.com

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