February 18, 2010
"I am the Seventh Degree Imperial Yo-Yo Master. 'Ooh, do me, Yo-Yo Master, I want you to do me cause you're the yo-yo guy!' "I played a short session at the Meadows ATM today, and during most of my session, the TVs were tuned to the Olympic curling competition. Now, curling is the ice version of drunken bocce ball, so it really isn't all that exciting of a sport. It's interesting in that vague, "oh yeah, people play this weird game" fashion that hits every Olympics for a handful of events—equestrian, rhythmic gymnastics, synchronized swimming. But what was downright bizarre was not the competition itself, but the commentary from a surprising number of people at my table and the tables near me (not to mention a dozen or so random folks I follow on Twitter). These guys, who I'm willing to lay odds have never played nor even watched curling before this week, were commenting on strategy, shot selection, and even technique. Let's just say when a bunch of Iowa beer-bellied couch potatoes can figure out your "sport" in a day or two without ever even playing it, you're barely one step removed from a company rec league softball team.
—Andy Stitzer (Steve Carell), "The 40 Year Old Virgin"
Now, I'm not interested in the pseudo-debate over whether a particular game or activity qualifies as a "sport"—those arguments generally devolve into a definitional analysis, where those on either side of a debate over a particular game define "sport" to include/exclude the game at issue in accordance with their pre-determined position. But I think curling lacks any serious "athletic" component, a quality I feel is critical to elevating a sport to Olympic status. Say what you will about the many "niche" sports featured in the Olympics, almost all of them require some extraordinary athletic talent—speed, strength, coordination, agility, and/or endurance displayed in some manner that causes excitement and amazement. True Olympic sports at some point create a "wow" factor when a competitor does something physically amazing.
But what is the athletic component for curling? Curling is merely people sliding stones on ice, and brushing the ice to control the path of the stone. Sure, the game requires strategy, but the athletic skills necessary for the sport appear minimal—in fact, several competitors looked as if they would keel over if asked to jog a mile. What athletic skill elevates curling from a recreational game to a true Olympic-caliber sport?
If curling qualifies as an Olympic sport, let me suggest a few additional sports that should be added to the Olympics:
- Bocce ball
- Guitar Hero
- Ultimate Frisbee