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….