Let the Flag Uncurl

Welp, the Winter Olympics are a wrap. I don’t know about you, but this one was sort of weird for me. The time difference made for more human interest reporting than live action. I am fully aware now that Hoda can 1) take a most excellent selfie and 2) be besties with everyone on Team USA, related to an athlete on Team USA or cheering for Team USA. #overloadahoda

That is to be expected with a 14-hour delay in this techno world, I guess. But who could have anticipated that the most surprising gold medal would come not from speed or daring aerial feats but rather from a sport that plays out at a snail’s pace—curling.

Yes, that’s right, the event that looks like you grabbed a bunch of stuff in your parent’s garage and made a game out of it snagged a shiny gold medal. And I got hooked along the way. …

Perhaps it is the fact that this looks like a sport I could manage with a few turns around the shuffleboard and some YouTube viewing. Or that all that sweeping makes me nostalgic for my childhood favorite, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” And that the US Men’s team looks like normal guys in my neighborhood who aren’t sure how they got to South Korea wearing matching outfits in the first place.

There is so much to love … but first a little history.

Curling is only new to me, apparently. It was invented—out of boredom on a winter’s day no doubt—in 16th century Scotland. It has come a long way since then and is now played at the professional level around the globe.

It has odd terminology like team members called “Skip” and scoring rounds referred to as “Ends,” but that lends an air of mystery to it. No one really understands what the commentators are saying, I mean, it’s a visual sport. But to be honest, most of the Winter Olympics is like that. If someone says they understand things like triple salchows, double axels and backside 360s, they are lying liars who lie. The Summer Olympics is way easier with athletes swimming laps and running around a track. #bringonTokyo

Anyhoo, there is strategy to the game, which is mostly signaled by all the yelling as the “stone” (aka your mom’s teakettle) makes its way down the icy lane. Much like shuffleboard and bocce ball, knocking your opponent out of scoring position is the goal.

Initially, I thought all that sweeping in front of the stone was just a prop to give the other teammates something to do. Alas (that’s Scottish, you know), I was naive; the brushes serve a genuine purpose. They remove debris from the ice and make the stone travel further.

This is the most complicated, simple sport on the planet.

They even added a doping scandal to rev things up a bit to appeal to my baser side. It kept things exciting even if the benefits of performance enhancers are lost on me for this particular sport.

And somehow, the good old US of A beat all the really cold places where average people have more than a passing familiarity with curling to win the gold. Which makes me think that maybe these Olympics weren’t so odd after all.

We saw athletes who trained for years, stumble, fall and get right back up again. We saw average Joe’s determined to tackle a new sport and triumph. We experienced all the highs and lows over two weeks together. In the end, there is nothing that embodies America more than that.