That Olympic sport with the funky pants, curling comes to Delaware

From the rock to the broom and the hack, the sport of curling has its own vocabulary that takes some getting used to. Since 2016, The Diamond State Curling Club has been working to bring this unique sport to more people.

Curling began in the Olympics back in 1924, but according to the World Curling Federation, this unique winter sport dates all the way back to Scotland in 1540.

Everywhere that the Scots settled, they took curling with them. And if you ask Bridget O’Grady of the Diamond State Curling Club, it’s “the most fun you can have on ice.” (Ice hockey fans may disagree.)

But what is curling? Aside from seeing it in the Olympics, most Americans don’t have much of an idea.

We visited with the Diamond State Curling Club to find out a bit more about the game. At The Pond ice-rink in Newark, there were people of all age groups. “You don’t need to have a lot of experience to succeed at it,” O’Grady said.

The game itself is a strategy game similar to shuffleboard. “You have rocks that you need to shoot into the house,” O’Grady said of the game’s main goal.

That caused some confusion. The rock? The house?  O’Grady broke it down. The house is the bull’s-eye that is painted on the ice. The rocks are the 42-pound pieces of granite that are slid across the ice. The curlers use what is called a hack to push off from the ice. Players then release the rock and slide it down the ice. The last piece of equipment is called the broom, which is used to sweep in front of the rock allowing it to travel further and straighter.

Got all of that? Good. Next up, scoring. “Basically whoever’s rock is out counting wins that end, whoever has the most points after eight ends wins the game.”

Again, more confusion. Let’s break it down. Each team consists of four players. Teams alternate who “throws” the rock to the house, and each player throws two stones. One person throws the rock while two others sweep in front of the rock to try and get it to the bull’s-eye. The “end” ends after all 16 stones have been thrown.

Only one team can score points in an end, the team with the closest rock to the center bull’s-eye scores one point for each rock that is closer to the center than the opponent’s.

Curling got a big boost in attention during the 2014 Winter Olympics mainly due to the crazy patterned pants worn by the curling team from Norway.

Norway during men’s curling competition against Denmark at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Feb. 17, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

O’Grady credits the pants and an episode of the Simpsons, where the character Marge was curling, as raising the awareness and popularity of the sport here in the U.S.

It’s a serious game, and those that play or participate take it very seriously. But at the end of the match or “Bonspiel,” the winner of the game buys the losers a drink.

“So not only do you just get to have this competitive, fun mental game, but you than get to hang out with everybody and learn about them,” O’Grady said.

“The gameplay’s fun, the people are fun, the whole thing’s a great experience.”

If you are interested in learning more or trying the sport for yourself the Diamond State Curling Club regularly holds public events and those who are interested can give it a try. If you’d rather keep your feet on dry (and unfrozen) ground, spectators are welcome, too. Just check their website for the schedule of all their events.

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