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Olympic Haze All In My Brain | Manolo for the Big Girl

Olympic Haze All In My Brain

Readers, I have a confession: I am no freaking good at sports.

It’s not about fat. I was actually kind of a skinny kid. I was no good at sports then, either. I had balance issues and a fondness for not getting hit in the face with objects hurtling through the air. When the class was taught to play volleyball in the fifth grade, I clearly heard the teacher tell us that the goal was to get the ball over the net and onto the ground on the other team’s side. Twenty-nine other kids heard that the goal was to see how many times they could get the ball to hit Twistie precisely on the top of her head. I can understand the confusion. My head was, in point of fact, a much more precise target than several square feet of asphalt, and we all love a challenge. Still, it made the game Not Fun for me on an epic level.

When we were ‘taught’ baseball in sixth grade, the teacher insisted that everyone already knew all the rules, so we would move straight to the game itself. Nobody took me seriously when I said I had no idea how to play. Everyone has played baseball in the womb! Not me. Then I watched classmate after classmate get up and try to hit a ball the size of the school bully’s fist (and I knew from experience just what size it was and how it felt coming at my nose) out of the way of their faces with a stick. That thing had to be doing forty! No way was I going to let it hit my face even faster than Jeff’s fist! I dropped to the dirt.

Yeah. That went well.

I spent most of my time between the ages of twelve and fifteen with a sprained thumb, ankle, or wrist somewhere on me. I played through the pain and the gym teachers gave me D- for participation, because apparently participation is only proven through competence at the game. You try playing an entire two-week round-robin doubles badminton tournament solo on a sprained ankle and tell me how many teams you beat. Yeah. I beat zero. My partner who didn’t show up to class for those two weeks (yet miraculously arrived every day at our shared Art class) got a better participation grade than I did.

As soon as I got the chance, I ditched gym class forever. And while I have done many things that give me plenty of exercise since then (including Scottish country dance, until a series of knee injuries and a move to a place where I couldn’t find a convenient class pushed that to the side), I have never again participated in organized sports.

I walk. I sometimes just run up and down the stairs in my house because it’s convenient and works up a sweat. I do housework…including things like moving furniture. Dusting might not be a big muscle builder, but putting together that Ikea entertainment center and filling it with many of the contents of the old entertainment center two weeks ago was. Say what you will, the pieces were heavy.

The new entertainment center was to hold our new, larger television which we acquired just in time for me to go into my regularly scheduled Olympic Haze.

You see, I may not play sports. I may not even watch sports (with the exception of figure skating) in between Olympics, but every two years I spend a two week period being a walking stat sheet. Mr. Twistie tears out his hair, because even the Olympics can’t get him caring about organized sports, but he’s remarkably patient when I start spewing times, scores, artistic deductions, etc. at him.

When it all ends, life usually goes back to normal. ESPN never gets a look from me, I don’t know the names of any of the skiers or biathletes or (in the summer) Greco-Roman wrestlers anymore. I may or may not happen to remember to see any skating competitions (though I will probably tell everyone who doesn’t gnaw their own leg off to escape about the time I sold books to Scott Hamilton, who was a really nice guy).

This time, though, I’m hearing the siren call of an actual sport. Curling.

I’ve been watching, and I’m mesmerized. I’m catching on to the strategy. I’m deeply amused by the sweeping, but I’m also starting to get what it’s accomplishing. Even the fact that it’s played on ice which is cold and slippery isn’t daunting me. Even the relentlessly dull polo shirts and sensible shoes aren’t putting me off! Of course, there is that one men’s team in the harlequin diamond pants, but while they aren’t dull, they aren’t exactly the ultimate in tasteful, either. I feel sure Tim Gunn (call me, Tim!) would pronounce them ‘a lot of look.’

But I’m loving the camaraderie, the fact that teams talk about going out for a pizza after the game instead of carefully weighing every calorie vs its specific nutritional value to their sport, the way they usually look genuinely happy to shake hands with the other team at the end no matter who won or lost. I’m loving the fact that it’s a quiet game of precision rather than a hurried race to a finish line or a subjective balance of skill and artistry. I like the fact that it’s something that takes some time to understand. And of course I love the fact that it allows for a range of body types.

While I haven’t seen anyone as fat as I am on the ice for curling at the Olympics, there are plenty of players with spare tires, as well as the rail thin. Body type doesn’t matter in the game. It’s about throwing the rock at just the right angle with just the right amount of speed. It’s about sweeping harder, softer, or not at all to get the rock to curl just where it needs to go. It’s about setting up the ice so that the other team’s shot might accidentally do your team some good. Tall or short, fat or thin, it’s about strategy, and about muscle control. It’s a slippery game of chess, and I’m falling in love.

Now, if we could just do something about those shoes….

curling

16 Responses to “Olympic Haze All In My Brain”

  1. zuzu February 20, 2010 at 1:32 pm #

    Add one more body type: pregnant. The alternate for the Canadian women’s team is 5-1/2 months pregnant, though she probably won’t play barring injury to one of her teammates.

  2. the gold digger February 20, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    Ah yes. The great Wisconsin sport. It involves cold, beer, and a little extra fat to keep you warm. What’s not to like?

  3. Twistie February 20, 2010 at 2:50 pm #

    @ zuzu: D’oh! I meant to mention that. I love that there’s a pregnant athlete at the Games, especially against all the stories of women who had to choose between an entire season of competition and starting a family. I’m down with sacrificing for your Art, but sometimes it’s nice to see someone not having to make the choice. Trivia: she’s the first pregnant Olympian since a figure skater who was two or three months along at the 1920 Games.

    @ the gold digger: Cold and beer. But I can wear thermals and make my beer either root or ginger. Did I mention that ice is cold and slippery and I’m a total weenie about those things?

  4. Christine February 20, 2010 at 3:30 pm #

    As a Canadian I can assure you, curling is all you expect, and more! People are friendly. It’s like an exclusive club that has mysterious entry criteria: looks count for nothing, and friendliness, an “interesting” personality and a passion for fun are what counts.

    Not to worry about the cold! That’s what the beer is for, as for me as an adolescent, hot chocolate. And not just cheap “add warm water and stir” hot chocolate. Expensive, rich brands blended by a retired curler (usually your great grandmother) while she knits you the warmest sweater you’ll ever own.

    Go for it, Mr and Mrs. Twistie…you’ll never look back. Unless, of course, you move to a place like us, where there is no ice…and curling is as foreign to the natives as is actually showing your natural brunette colour after you hit 45.

  5. Twistie February 20, 2010 at 5:04 pm #

    @ Christine: (perks up) Good hot chocolate is worth any amount of cold and damp. As for an interesting personality, I think I might just be able to provide one. Warm sweaters also have great potential for awesome. Make mine purple!

  6. enygma February 20, 2010 at 5:25 pm #

    Sensible shoes or not, I would slip and fall out on the ice.
    On a slightly (very slight) similar note, the local news had a segment on Tanith Belbin (sp?) the ice dancer. Since 2006, her coach suggested she gain 10 more pounds, which she initially resisted. However, she complied and both she and her partner noticed that she became more graceful and athletic. Not to say that she’s a big girl since she’s 5’6″ and ~115 lbs. with the weight gain, but I just thought that that was interesting. Sometimes, being super thin is actually a detriment.

  7. Phyllis February 20, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    Oh my, it is absolutely mesmerizing, isn’t it? I’ve almost been late back to work from lunch break a couple of times this week because I was glued to the matches.

  8. Ellen February 20, 2010 at 8:24 pm #

    Oh Twistie, curling is so much fun! A couple of weeks ago my husband and I went to to “Learn to Curl” session at our local curling club and it was awesome! We were terrible at it, of course (lots of tumbles on the ice), but everyone was so nice and encouraging. There were people of all ages, shapes, and sizes there, plus if you have mobility issues there are adaptations so you can curl from a standing position or a wheelchair. Lots of curling clubs do these kinds of events–you should definitely find out if there’s one near you!

  9. zuzu February 20, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    Trivia: she’s the first pregnant Olympian since a figure skater who was two or three months along at the 1920 Games.

    Actually (and I swear I’m not a repository of pregnant-Olympian trivia, I just read an article on Yahoo! News), there was a pregnant luger who finished just out of medal contention in 2002 or thereabouts. Which is really cool, since luge is a) dangerous as hell, so take that ski-jumping authorities who think girly bits will get shaken out if women jump at the Olympics; b) luge is a big-girl-friendly sport.

  10. Twistie February 21, 2010 at 3:56 am #

    @Ellen: That’s so cool! I’m going to check into it. Even if I don’t take up the sport, I think it’s neat that there’s something so odd yet welcoming out there in the worlds of sports. Considering my history with organized sports, it does my heart good.

    @zuzu: (wibbles) You mean Bob Costas lied to me????? I’d think after all these years of covering the Olympics he would have the trivia right. Apparently, I would be wrong. Thanks for adding to the sum total of my trivial knowledge.

  11. Omnibus Driver February 21, 2010 at 9:13 am #

    Who knows? Perhaps you’ll have a second career designing stylish curling shoes as a result?

  12. Twistie February 21, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    @Omnibus Driver: You know figure skating’s outrageous bad boy Johnny Weir said this week that when he retires from skating he’s thinking of going into fashion design. He already designs all of his own skating costumes. Perhaps we could coax him into designing the stylish curling shoes. He’s got a real flare for the awesomely OTT.

  13. Katie February 22, 2010 at 12:14 am #

    I LOVE curling, and I’m thrilled when anyone else becomes a convert. If you haven’t seen it already, watch the movie “Men With Brooms.” It’s a Canadian classic: hilarious, dry, irreverent, and staring Paul Gross, who is definitely easy on the eyes. Plus, you learn a lot about curling! Trust me, you’ll love it.

  14. daisyj February 22, 2010 at 3:01 pm #

    Not only are those shoes ugly as a particularly boring sin, apparently one is smooth and one has traction, and forgetting even momentarily which one is which can result of fall that’s a lot funnier to the people watching than the person doing. On the other hand, any sport where you can become an elite athlete without adopting some cult-like diet and training regimen has to be some kind of a good thing.

  15. All Women Stalker February 23, 2010 at 2:48 am #

    I gave up team sports because it was hard to not have control over the outcome of the game. But like you, I can’t help but enjoy watching soccer, volleyball, basketball, and other organized sports out there.

  16. La BellaDonna February 23, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

    Well, there’s always martial arts, which has room for all KINDS of body types. I took them up in my late … 30s? and pursued them with single-minded intensity for 10, 12 years …until I borked too many body parts* and had too many surgeries. And it was the surgeries (not injury-related) that stopped me, eventually, not the broken bits; if my body worked at all right, I’d still be doggedly participating.

    I managed, inter alia, to have my FACE borked. Twice. And not realize it. Even though I’d never HAD a dimple in my chin before, it didn’t occur to me that it was there because the bone had been BROKEN. D’oh.