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CURLING GOES VIOLENT
It was a matter of ratings, says President of the World Curling Federation

VICTORIA, BC (TheShortStraw.com)-One of the lesser-known winter Olympic sports, curling, which until now has been a gentleman's game, has at last caught up with the times.

Mr. Roy Sinclair, President of the World Curling Federation (WCF), said the federation had little choice but to alter its rules for the first time since 1990. Not coincidently, it's in time for the 2005 men's world curling championship.

Said Mr Sinclair: "We know we're a fairly unknown game in many parts of the world. We simply had to do something to get more TV exposure and better marketing opportunities. It was my wife's idea, actually. She's a small woman, but very feisty, and she loves her fair share of violence in sports and movies, as do most people nowadays. Anyway, she was watching the (Toronto) Maple Leaves-her favorite team-and a fight broke out as it usually does, and she thought, heck, if it works for the National Hockey League, where the fans love a good fight, why can't it work for curling? It's not an original idea, mind you, but it works."

Curling, for those unfamiliar with the sport, has been played for over five hundred years. Its origins are unknown, but it is said the game was first played in Scotland. The Royal Caledonian Curling Club, formed in 1838, seemingly attests to the possibility.

Curling is played on a sheet of ice 138 ft by 14 ft (42.5 m x 4.3 m). Two teams consisting of four players-the Skip, the Lead, the Second, and the Vice--contest each other. 42 to 44-pound stones, made from shock-absorbing granite, are released on ice. As the stone slides, two players clear its path with brushes and brooms, making it go straighter and farther. The object is to finish as close as possible to the center of several circles drawn onto the ice.



In the past, curling has been a gentleman's sport; sportsmanship was king. Until recently, this was reflected in the Canadian Curling Association's Official Supplement to the Rules of the Game which read as follows:
  • I will play the game with a spirit of good sportsmanship.
  • I will conduct myself in an honourable manner both on and off the ice.
  • I will never knowingly break a rule but if I do, I will divulge the breach.
  • I will take no action which could be interpreted as an attempt to intimidate or demean my opponents, team-mates or officials.
  • I will interpret the rules in an impartial manner always keeping in mind that the purpose of the rules is to ensure that the game is played in an orderly and fair manner.
  • I will humbly accept any penalty which the governing body, at all levels of curling, deems appropriate, if I am found in violation of the Code of Ethics or Rules of the Game.
Last week, the amended supplement read:
  • I will not play the game with a spirit of good sportsmanship.
  • I will not conduct myself in an honourable manner both on and off the ice.
  • I will knowingly break a rule and when I do, I will not divulge the breach.
  • I will intimidate, demean and beat the hell out of my opponents, team-mates and officials.
  • I will not interpret the rules in an impartial manner always keeping in mind that the purpose of the rules is to attain greater TV exposure and sponsorship money
  • I will never accept any penalty without a fight which the governing body, at all levels of curling, deems appropriate, whether I am found in violation of the Code of Ethics or Rules of the Game or not.
Dr James LeForge, a historian at the Montreal Institute of Sports agrees that curling had no choice but to move with the times.

"Curling ranks right up there with other incredibly silly sports like cricket," Dr. LeForge said. "I mean, cricket--what responsible mother allows her son to wear that ridiculous outfit-with those pathetic floppy hats; hell I can't decide which one's worse, a so called 'sportsman' with a brush, or one with a floppy hat?-and be involved in matches that last five days? Those outfits make clowns look dignified. Now there's another sport-cricket--that could use a good dose of violence to spice things up. I'd just love to see the West Indians beating up on those Aussie yo-yos. Or take golf for instance. Another utterly absurd sport."

Dr. LeForge, himself a huge fan of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team, started turning red, his veins popping out, before taking a deep breath and calming down.

"I'm sorry. I mean, what is with the Brits, haven't they invented half the silly sports out there? Is there some damn Brit in a basement somewhere inventing another silly sport as we speak? It's a frightening prospect."

In the instance of curling, the first fight broke out last week between Team Bruce Korte and Team Kevin Martin.

"I was a bit sceptical at first," admitted Martin, sporting a black eye and a missing front tooth. "I mean, I chose curling over ice hockey just for that reason, that it's not a violent sport. I'm the sensitive type, in touch with my feminine side, the modern man and all that. I'm not saying I bat for the other team, not at all, you can ask my wife. Not that there's anything wrong with it, mind you. But when all hell broke loose, in the middle of the fight, wow, it was exhilarating, you know, the rush, the adrenalin pumping. I saw my Vice beating the hell out of their Second with a brush-I mean, just pounding the living daylights outta him--man, it was just really exciting."

The WCF President says he was at first sad to see the gentleness and quaint nature of the sport go out the window, but now concedes there was simply no other way.

"We had no choice. It was for commercial reasons," Sinclair said. "But let me be honest. It's also been a bit of a personal boost. Before, people used to make fun of me when they saw me walking down the street. Not anymore. Now they know-one snide remark and I will punish them with my brush."

Copyright © 2004, TheShortStraw



 


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