Who/what is this?
Short answer: I’ve been a journalist for a few decades, with a lot of work in soccer and Olympic sports. I’ve been a curling fan since 2002. I’ve been a curling club member since 2018.
And I’ve written so many posts on curling that I felt I needed to split them out from my site, which exists mostly to tell people I’ve written a few books and a few hundred stories.
I don’t get many professional opportunities to write about curling, though I did write a piece on the sport for OZY in 2013 and another one a mere 10 years later on Jared Allen for The Guardian.
Jared Allen: from NFL bone-cruncher to Olympic curling hopeful
In 2018, retired NFL defensive end Jared Allen took up curling in the hopes that he would one day be an Olympian in the…
Those are the basics. Here are the details:
I first saw curling in 2002 in the media center at the Salt Lake City Olympics. In these pre-streaming days, the media center was one of the few places in the world in which you could see just about anything. We had five TVs in USA TODAY’s “office” — an area of a big convention center carved out by temporary walls, nestled next to every other big news organization’s temporary walls — so we were all exposed to curling. We had one TV in the “lounge” area of the “office” — basically, a subset of a subset — and many of us became intrigued with the strategy and shot-making of all these people with big rocks.
Four years later, I saw curling in person at the Torino Olympics. The crowd basically consisted of me, a college friend and a whole bunch of elementary school kids who boarded the train a couple of stops before we arrived.
Four years later, I curled for the first time at the Vancouver Olympics, the day before the Games started. USA TODAY did a rental, so my former employer is responsible for me seeing and participating in curling for the first time.
As years passed, I sought out curling on TV and the internet wherever I could. For some reason, maybe all the time I spent at home with a couple of kids, I didn’t play again until …
2016 or maybe 2017, when I went to the Saturday Morning Breakfast Extravaganza at Potomac Curling Club. I did that a few more times over two years and then finally decided to join in …
2018, when I became a daytime member, very convenient for those of us with flexible schedules who didn’t want to deal with the Beltway at rush hour to play in a league.
Since then, I have …
- commentated on many of Potomac’s webcasts, on which I seem to have become a cult figure
- organized the 2022 Embassy Row: Ukraine bonspiel
- won an internal spiel (I was on a good team)
- had my development as a player wrecked by the pandemic
- gone winless and nearly scoreless in a spiel in my old hometown of Wilmington, NC
- skipped a team in Potomac’s TGIF Early league to a mediocre but not embarrassing record
- led and volunteered for many of our rentals for corporate team-building, birthday parties, and people who just want to try curling in a big group
- overhauled Wikipedia’s list of curling clubs in the US, which I continue to maintain (but help is welcome!)
- done deep dives into the legal, financial and philosophical aspects of the Great Schism between USA Curling and the GNCC (which accounts for a lot of this publication’s content)
- become a co-coordinator of the Saturday Morning Breakfast Extravaganza, the program that introduced me to my club
So I’ve settled into a niche in my club as someone who welcomes newbies, teaches them the basics, and watches them go on to become monsters in their busy schedule of spiels. At our spiels, if I’m not on the webcast, you may find me in the kitchen or the bar. I’m more competent in the former.
And as someone who has covered Olympic sports longer than some of our members have been alive, I have a unique perspective on the Great Schism. That doesn’t mean I’m always “right,” and I strive to listen to everyone’s experiences while diving into numbers, bylaws, board minutes and other boring things. (Don’t go into journalism. If you end up doing all of these deep dives, go into a field in which you’ll at least be paid more than minimum wage.)
The best path forward is debatable. But I believe in a few fundamentals:
- A thriving sport needs at least one of three things — a strong professional league or tour, easy access to recreational play, or a strong National Governing Body (NGB). Curling isn’t likely to get the big pro tour, at least not in the US. Facilities are difficult to build and maintain. That leaves the strong NGB.
- People working at the grassroots should not be neglected. This is an issue in soccer as well.
- Misinformation is bad. And it’s run rampant in the Great Schism.
What I write here and on social media is intended to find that path forward. That might mean we have tough conversations at times. That’s OK, as long as people aren’t clinging to myths or refusing to hear other perspectives.
So I hope the sport will benefit from the research and the perspectives here.
And then I hope that the Schism is healed, and my online curling discussion will focus a bit more on whether Jennifer Jones has become the Tom Brady of curling.