For a sport that’s relatively obscure in the U.S., mentions of curling elicit an unusually strong response from Americans. Everyone has an opinion on the sport, or whether it’s even a sport at all.
Curling gained traction in the U.S. during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics because everyone wanted to watch the sport no one else was watching, but there are less-hipster reasons to check it out, too. Here are five of them:
1. It’s weirdly hypnotic
Many people turn on a curling match for the first time because they’re either vaguely curious about what all the fuss is about or they want to prove to themselves that curling really is the most useless Olympic sport.
Once you tune in, though, you have a hard time looking away. It’s rhythmic and repetitive and nothing like the U.S.’ most popular sports. You may just have wanted a quick peek, but suddenly it’s three hours later and you’ve barely blinked.
2. Every move matters
Two teams of four players take turns sliding polished granite stones, called rocks, across the curling sheet toward a large target on the ice, called the house.
Points are awarded after each “end,” which consists of each team sliding eight rocks. Because it’s turn-based, every move is in direct reaction to the move immediately prior. Every turn is exciting because every turn has immediate, and sometimes huge, implications for the game.
3. It requires an incredible amount of concentration
Curling is sometimes referred to as “chess on ice,” and for good reason. A great deal of strategizing and teamwork goes into making sure the rocks go exactly where they need to.
The smallest flick of the wrist when sliding the rock or sweeping the ice just a bit too much will alter the path of the rock and could change the outcome of the game. The most skilled curlers know just how much to sweep to guide the stone close to the center of the house.
4. It embodies the spirit of the Olympics
The Olympic rings symbolize the union of five continents and the gathering of athletes from around the world to celebrate the games. Even though the Olympics are a competition between countries, at heart they are a celebration of unity.
The multiculturalism of the games allows us to learn things about other countries — including, in this case, why a sport played with brooms has taken parts of the world by storm (here’s lookin’ at you, Canada).
5. Those pants
Celebrating the Norwegian curling team’s pants has nearly become an Olympic sport in itself. There’s a Facebook page devoted to the pants with more than half a million likes. The team’s coach has said he wouldn’t be caught wearing them unless he were heading to a “bad taste party.”
Among this year’s patterns are a blinding chevron look and your grandma’s drapes, and the competition has barely started.