By Jennifer Williams, Contributor, US Daily Review.
This week, the U.S. Curling Nationals are being held at IceWorks in Ashton, Pennsylvania, just outside Philadelphia. It is on Ustream – just search for USA Curling. Internet streaming with 12th End Sports Network is fairly good and they provide good commentary and explanations of the various shots. As a skip (although I through lead instead of last), I am learning a great deal from the watching some of the best curlers in the United States. Pete Fenson, arguably one of the best skips in the United States, was at the Continental Cup in Langley, British Columbia in January, along with Patti Lank and her team to represent the United States. Canada’s TSN covered the match. The coverage is day and night but TSN is Canada’s version of ESPN, complete with all the bells and whistles. But 12th End Sports Network does a good job with knowledgeable commentators and guest commentators, which is usually a curler not on the ice. Even the parents of the participants show up! It is just like visiting other curling clubs – comfortable, congenial, and laidback.
There are four draws a day – 8:00am, noon, 4:00pm, and 8:00pm. The draws last about two hours each unless they go into extra ends. They are timed – the timer starts when the thrower gets into the hack until the stone stops. If you run out of time, you automatically lose the draw. You have 75 minutes to complete 10 ends. Pete Fenson is on fire so far this week. Rojeski, his third (vice), is doing a great job. The team just feels unbeatable. Heath McCormick is playing a good game, too. The finals will be held on Sunday so if you have never watched curling, Sunday is a good to watch. You will see the best of the best of United States curling and the potential representatives to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
If you met these top notch curlers, you would get a photograph, even an autograph, and maybe be asked to sit down and have a beer. It depends on the time of day and the draw schedule. Most curling teams are not sponsored by their home country and curlers have regular jobs – business owners, lawyers, teachers, architects, and even stay-at-home moms. They still have to get out the snow blower, pay the mortgage, take their own car in for service, get groceries and drive themselves everywhere. It keeps you humble. From time to time, you get a frustrated outburst – Canada’s John Morris is famous for his. He was paired up with the able Kevin Martin to mature him and settle him down and it worked – they won the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics. John Morris (Johnny Mo) is perhaps one of the best thirds in the game. In 2011 and early 2012, Glenn Howard of Ontario has come on very strong with his new third (vice), Wayne Middaugh. Canada owns curling with the most curling clubs in the world. New clubs are popping up in the United States – Denver is getting a new club. Wausau is opening a new facility with eight sheets. Cincinnati has a club on paper and is looking for ice.
If you have a few minutes during your lunch hour this week, tune into curling. You don’t have to know anything about the sport to enjoy it. The commentators will give you a brief explanation of the rules and shots from time to time. The United States Curling Association has a list of curling club locations near you, if you find yourself wanting to participate in a two-hour “learn to curl” session. Even there is not one scheduled, many clubs will set up a private curling session if you have a few friends who would come along. You don’t need anything to start – the club will provide beginners with brush and sliders. Curlers are a social group – learn to curl, play a few ends and then head to the bar. Sit and talk about your game and listen to the great stories. It’s something different, something new. Next thing you know, you just might get bitten by the curling bug. Don’t wait until Sochi to be an armchair skip. Tune in this week.
Jennifer Williams is adjunct faculty in American History at Ashland (OH) University and the American Public University System. She is also the teaching chef for the New Day Family Resource Center in Sandusky, Ohio. Her interests are photography and curling. She lives with her family in Norwalk, Ohio.