Humility in Victory

By Jennifer Williams, Contributor, US Daily Review.

On April 14, 2012, one of the rarest events in the entire sporting world happened – an 8 ender. What is an 8 ender, you ask? In curling, each team throws eight rocks. There are four people on a team and each throw two rocks. This year, I participated in the All American Bonspiel, an event hosted by the United States Women’s Curling Association. Teams must consist of at least two women, one of whom must be the skip. Today, I was the skip, throwing lead rocks (a majority of skips throw last rocks). In first game of the day, in the seventh end, Team Williams piled up eight stones inside the house (the bullseye at the end of each sheet), all shot, meaning they all counted as points.

I watched it unfold in front of me in the house but wasn’t fully aware of the implications until the skip’s rocks were being thrown. We decided to play the 7th end instead of shaking hands. The vice, from Team Mazzarella, PJ Wolf, even joked about getting an 8-ender since they were down by eight points as we started that 7th end. When a team has scored an insurmountable number of points, the vices can shake hands, indicating the game is over. That did not happen. We had stolen every end, every point. My vice, Sharon Gargasz, had been throwing last rocks all morning with excellent precision. She almost couldn’t miss. Martha Mazzarella, was the other team’s skip, spent several frustrating minutes, trying to find a place to put the broom (the player in the hack ready throw the stone pushes toward the broom) to get a red stone to nestle in our pile of blue rocks at the front of the house. I was frustrated that our rocks would not set as guards, preventing their rocks from sliding in. They slid past blocking the path and into the house. It would have been a very different game had those red rocks not slid through the house or had our blue rocks sat outside the 12-foot rings as properly placed guards. No matter where they put the broom for the last four rocks, they followed the same path right down the ice and through the blue rocks piled in the house. At one point, I kneeled down to see around her and watched incredulously as PJ Wolf, her vice and a long-time curler, slid a rock down the same path and through the house after a completely different spot for the broom. He dropped his broom in frustration and disbelief. I made one of those excited utterances at that moment, like a HA!, in absolute disbelief. I’ve done it as my own team’s rocks just slid through the house or curled too soon. I would never belittle another team by reveling in their misfortune. That is simply bad sportsmanship. Martha’s first rock followed the same path as all the other red rocks – through the house. Her second rock came in and bounced off one of the rocks on the in-turn side and my teammate, Scott Helle, swept it out since it was behind the T-line. He swept just out. My rock at the back of the house was shot. We had just stolen eight points – pulled off one of the rarest moments in the sporting world. It is rarer than a no-hitter.

Left to rt - Jennifer Williams, Scott Helle, Sharon Gargasz, Tim Polesovsky - all from the Bowling Green Curling Club in Bowling Green, Ohio.

I wasn’t sure about it. I went back to the red and blue stones sitting in the 12-foot ring to look at them, as if our blue stone would move and take away some of the sting of the game from my worthy opponent. I remember the first thing I did was to ask the rocks be left in place, that I wanted a photograph, not realizing that they would be left so everyone could take a photograph. It’s amazing what you think in those moments. It took a few minutes for score to sink in, 16 – 0. We were already up by eight points in the 6th end when we managed this curling miracle in the 7th end. And that this kind of win comes at the expense of another team. It was frustrating to watch their rocks go through since I knew what that felt like. Many photographs were taken; a short article with a photograph will go to the U S Curling News and the local papers. There was some debate but the consensus is that this is the first 8-ender thrown by a team from the Bowling Green Curling Club at the club (or in any bonspiel). In the early years, from what I understand, a Canadian team came down from Ontario and scored an 8-ender. But it was hard to sit on those emotions – I’m an expressive person.  I was trying to be gracious during the game as I watched the game unfold and in this unbelievable victory (the game score and the 8-ender). I was in a bit of shock for a few minutes, shaking as I tried to hold my camera phone still. My husband took a photo of the team as we posed in front of those rocks. There was also a game still in progress on another sheet. All we did was step back to watch the conclusion of their draw and keep guard, lest one of their rocks stray onto our sheet.

I’m a second year curler and a first year skip. I am waiting to find out if any other first year skips have accomplished this feat. The only reason I am a skip this season is due to a neck disc injury that has prevented me from sweeping, an integral part of the game. I can’t even sweep rocks in the house, part of what the skips does. My teammates have to take turns to come down and sweep for me. I had a frustrating season, learning to skip. We only won one game in the front half of the season, and only lost one game in the back half of the season but after club playdowns, in which we lost, I couldn’t win. Despite good coaching from the skip of record, Scott Piroth, I had just lost the feel for reading the ice. My husband and I play on the same club team; yesterday, he was on Martha’s team. He knows my frustration at my play and calling skills. Sharon, my vice yesterday, was very patient in helping me see it again yesterday, as any vice would do. I have a lot to learn about being a skip and reading the ice. I was reminded about humility in victory and how we have to gracious in the game, no matter the outcome. I have never been good in sports and wins in curling are few and far between. Sometimes, our conduct can be misinterpreted and our excited utterances taken out of context. In my haze of realizing that we had an 8-ender, I could hardly say much as others came over to congratulate the team except “thank you”. I was shaking, tears welling up. After two frustrating years as a beginning curler, this seemed almost inconceivable. Did this really just happen?

Last April, I played in my first competition as a curler. The team was beaten badly and we ended up at the bottom of the pack. We had one team member who was very critical and that brought us all down a bit, on top of losing to a very good team from Mayfield Curling Club (Team Carcione is a wonderful example of graciousness in victory).  On top of it, someone scraped their sideview mirror into the driver’s side rear of my car and scratched and dented the rear panel. I was very upset, but tried not throw a screaming fit. I went back inside the Columbus Curling Club and left my contact information if anyone realized what had happened; that they had hit another vehicle. I remember the compound frustration of that weekend quite clearly and felt deeply for Martha’s team. Most of us will grant frustration to a team that is down – tennis players will slam their rackets off the court, golfers might throw clubs or balls in frustration, baseball players will wreck the dugout. It’s a part of human nature to be upset when you try to do everything right and it all goes wrong. But when you are winning and winning big, you must remember that it comes at the expense of a team that is having a very bad game. Be gracious and congratulate both teams on their play. Celebrate appropriately, not excessively. Even very happy people can be oppressive. The rocks just didn’t go their way, no matter the combined skill of the team. Scoring an 8-ender also takes a great amount of dumb luck. Yesterday, Team Williams had all the luck of the draw.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.

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