By Phil Hecken
Well, folks — ’tis that time again. The Olympics are here. I thought about ledeing with the fashion show that took place yesterday in Sochi, but if you haven’t seen it yet — there’s plenty (I mean plenty!) of links in the Olympics section of the ticker. Instead, let’s get right into the more important stuff.
As most of you are likely aware, Uni Watch’s unofficial favorite Olympic sport is curling. Paul loves it. I love it. Hell, we all love it. Even if we suck at it (actually, Paul has gotten quite good. Me, not so much):
We can all use a refresher in the sport that most Americans (and probably everyone else in the world except denizens of Canada) see for two glorious weeks, once every four years. So, to assist us in this endeavor, I’ve tapped my good friend from Canada, Mike Styczen, to give us the rundown on curling. After you read this, you can discuss the sport with your friends and co-workers with the same gusto as you discuss the previous night’s baseball game or soccer match. You know everyone will be talking about these guys, so now you can discuss it with the best of them!
Here’s Mike with your…
Introduction to Curling
By Mike Styczen
Curling is a simple sport. Its not that different from shuffleboard. Each side fields two four-person rinks (teams). Each rink, throws (slides) 8 rocks per “end” of play (think of an “end” like you would an “inning” in baseball). Teams alternate turns, and each player throws (slides) two stones.
Each end starts with the “leads” (first players) alternating throws, followed by the “seconds,” then the “thirds” (more commonly known as “vice-skips”) and finally the “skips,” who throw last.
What makes it complicated? First, its played on ice. If you’ve ever curled, you know how slippery ice is. The first time you curl, you feel a little like a baby penguin taking its first steps. The ice isn’t like hockey ice. Instead of being smooth, its sprinkled with water between games to make a sort of “pebble” on the surface. You slide out of the footrest, called a hack, and as you throw the rock at the target set by the skip and turn it as directed by the skip, and because of the pebble it curls (hence the name) in the direction of the turn.
Curling has specialized shoes. The sliding foot (the left foot for a right handed thrower) has a Teflon sole (or a slip-on slider) and the other foot often has a grippy rubber sole. Incidentally, Asham is the leading manufacturer of curling clothing and equipment).
The game starts with a coin flip between the thirds. The winner of the flip takes the hammer first (see below), the loser picks the colour of the rocks for their team for that game.
There are a few basic shots in curling. A guard is a shot that is left in front of the house (for later rocks to be hidden behind). A takeout (as the name implies) takes out an opponent’s rock. A rock that is called to be thrown into the house is called a draw. There are a couple more complicated shots like raises (moving a guard back), angle raises (back but on an angle). The most difficult shot is the freeze, where you try to just touch another rock, making it very hard to remove later.
Curlers who aren’t throwing or skipping carry brooms. Sweeping in front of the moving stones heats the ice up and make the rock travel farther and straighter on it’s way down the sheet of ice of ice. Until recently the brooms resembled ordinary household cornbrooms. Brooms (or brushes) now have synthetic heads and are both more efficient at heating up the ice and don’t require as much work on the part of the sweeper.
As mentioned, to throw the stone, one pushes off a rubber footrest called a hack, in a motion that generally resembles that of throwing a bowling ball. To throw a good rock you have to have the weight and the line perfect — if either the weight or line is wrong, bad things happen. Its sort of like putting — you need to figure out the line to the cup and how hard to hit it, and get both right, to sink the putt. The skip and the thrower watch the line and weight carefully and call the sweepers on or off depending on what’s happening with the rock.
In the 1980s, elite curling developed into what was called a “peel” game. Teams would take turns hitting or peeling each others rocks, hoping to blank each end and win a thrilling 1-0 game with a single in the tenth end. As a result, the “free guard zone” rule was brought in – the first four rocks of an end (two from each team), if thrown as guards, cannot be taken out until the fifth rock is thrown. This resulted in an increase in the number of guards in front of the house and much more strategic curling.
Scoring is relatively simple. A team receives one point for each of their rocks that are within the house and are closer closer to the button (the eye of the bullseye) than any of the opposition’s stones. For example, one yellow. Only one team can score points in an end. In theory, it is possible to score up to eight points in an end. That however, is rarer than a hole-in-one or a 300 game in bowling. Usually, there are anywhere from no points (called a “blank end”) to one point to two or more points in an end. If two rocks are too close to call for scoring purposes, a measuring device is used to determine which is closer.
Last rock in an end is a huge advantage – known as the hammer and usually shown on the scoreboard. You want to get two points in that end. Getting only one point when you have the hammer (or “last rock”) is a failure, and frequently a team with the hammer will blank the end to avoid taking only a single point. If the end is blanked, then the same team retains last rock in the succeeding end. A full game consists of ten ends and the team with the most points at the end of the game is the winner!
One of the hallmarks of curling is sportsmanship. Players shake hands before and after the game, players call fouls on themselves, congratulate each other on good shots, and are expected to conceded a game that has gotten out of hand without playing the full ten ends.
Curling has been played in North America for at least 200 years, but has only been in the Olympics since 1998.
The Olympic tournament (or bonspiel) is set up like most bonspiels. Ten teams play a full round robin, the top 4 teams then advance to single-knockout playoffs. There’s a separate mens’ and womens’ bonspiel. The Canadian men and the Swedish women are defending gold medalists.
The sport took off in Vancouver. Its an exciting, strategic game, its easy to learn and follow. And maybe more than any Olympic sport, it looks like something you or I could do. Not to minimize the training the Olympic curlers do (they work out and practice as much as any other Olympians), but the athletes look more like you and I than most of the other Olympic athletes. And you get to see some incredible shots.
The bonspiel runs throughout the Olympics. The gold medal games are on February 20 (womens’) on February 21 (mens’). Both games are at 8:30 a.m. ET, though I’m sure they’ll be on during prime time on tape delay. All the action will take place at the Sochi Ice Cube.
Up next week: a look at the teams in this year’s Olympic bonspiel and their uniforms, especially the notorious Norwegian men’s team.
Thanks, Mike! Great job, as always. Looking forward to your report on the uniforms of curling!
The Curling officially gets underway Monday, and the first match of the bonspeil takes place at 12:00 am (Eastern time). There’s an entire section of NBC’s website devoted just to Olympic curling, and you can read facts, figures, stats and more there. If you punch in your zip code (at least for US residents), that’ll give you TV times.
Paul’s Latest ESPN Column
In case you missed it, yesterday Paul had a new ESPN column grading all of the Olympic Hockey uniforms for the Sochi Olympics.
It’s a great piece, so make sure you give it a read!
Opening Ceremonies Quick Uni Critiquie
There is plenty (Plenty!) of information on the opening ceremonies down in the ticker, but I wanted to point out six of the nations whose unis warranted a bit of attention.
You can click on any image to enlarge.
Ireland: Not exactly a powerhouse (in Winter or Summer games), but I thought the green outfits were kind of a cool touch. Unfortunately, it’s a bit “drab” — they should have gone with a more “emerald” green. I mean, they are the Emerald Isle, no? Too bad Lithuania already had that green. Hmmm. that look reminds me of something…
Germany: OK, we knew long before the opening ceremonies that this is what Germany would be wearing. And yeah, it was pretty much of a giant middle-finger to Russia and their anti-gay laws. But putting the politics aside, these are sweet unis! No, you probably wouldn’t wear this anywhere (unless your name is Jim Vilk), but still — these were my favorite costumes of the whole bunch. You know what, I take that back. I’d wear those.
Bermuda: Not much to these unis, right? Of course not — and what would you expect the Bermuda contingent to wear except Bermuda Shorts. Awesome! Ballsiest (no pun intended, right?) costumes of the Olympics.
Canada: O Canada, eh? I have to admit I was not expecting Canada to go full Mountie. I mean, you never go full Mountie, right? Wrong. Loved it! (What’s that you say, this is the full Mountie? Meh. Close enough.)
Jamaica: OK. This one is pretty bland, and the entire team is basically Cool Runnings. But I, for one, cannot wait to watch the bobsled team do their thing. They may not win gold (or even medal), but they had one hell of a time just getting to the Olympics. They’ll be a crowd favorite for sure. I know I’ll be rooting for them.
USA: There’s just no way else but to put it: These pretty much suck. I didn’t like them when they were unveiled, and seeing them live didn’t change that opinion. At least this time they were actually made in the USA. So they got that going for them. Which is nice.
U.W.F.F.L. Week 23
By Rob Holecko
Short update this week… This is the week of our three minor league Conference Championship games. These three winners will be promoted into the UWFFL in the fall of 2014. All six of these teams are very deserving, but there are only three spots and this weeks winners will get them:
Eastern Association Championship
Central League Championship
Pacific Coast Conference Championship
You can also go to our website at http://www.uwfantasyfootballleague.com and also vote on four Bowl games and three international matchups, and we’ll be back next week with our UWFFL BCS National Championship Game between the Florida Geckos and the Anchorage Orcas, and the winner of that game will also be promoted into the UWFFL for next year.
Uni Watch News Ticker:
Olympic News: Nice article from Think Progress on the Top 10 Stories to Watch at the Sochi Olympics. … Here’s 64 superb vintage pictures of Winter Olympics’ past (from Chris LaHaye). … In today’s Uni Watch ’Olympic News’ Paul shared a link to an article showing a history of USA uniforms. Ted Arnold writes, “Interestingly, the first photo for the 1952 Oslo Olympics shows a photo of the Edmonton Mercurys who represented Canada at those Olympics.” … We’ve seen some of these before, but it bears repeating: Skeleton has some of the coolest helmets in the Olympics. … Oops. There was a screw up with the olympic rings during the opening ceremony yesterday in Sochi (thanks, Paul). … Tennis Star Maria Sharapova ran with the torch during the Opening Ceremonies. … Greece wore rainbow gloves for yesterday’s opening ceremonies, and the Germans wore their rainbow uniforms. … You can see what other nations’ wore here. And a look at the opening ceremonies here. More Olympic uni coverage and opinion here, here, here, here, and here. … Also, apparently, Communism really is dead, at least according to the National Post. … More controversy: It seems the Russian torchbearer who lit the flame may have had an unfortunate twitter moment. … If you haven’t gotten sick of Olympic unis yet, here are some classic ones.
Baseball News: The Boston Red Sox are getting a new road jersey for next season (h/t Paul Woods). More here and here. And here is a better look at the jersey specs (h/t Dan Kardon. … Speaking of the Sawks, are they also getting a new home alt? (Similar to the Boston Strong/Marathon jersey worn last year). Dicks is selling one (from Richard Subrizio, also sent in by Jimmy Olsen). … We get one of our first looks at the new A’s green alt (on a person), with thanks to Joey Boyd. … The A’s also released a Vine of the green jersey (via Richard Paloma). … Nice article detailing an upcoming Travel Channel episode on William Arthur “Candy” Cummings, a 19th pitcher. Should have loads of equipment & memorabilia (good find by Jason Hillyer). … Thursday’s passing of Ralph Kiner has spurred all kinds of tributes and photo essays, including this one from Sports Illustrated (nice spot by John Annino), and this one from the archives of the PG (posted in yesterday’s comments by Chris Hilf). … “Nats Curly-W taken off interstate sign because science,” writes John Muir. “Apparently, adding a visual mark to a word mark on a sign means longer processing time.” … If you go to the SABR web site, you will see Marc Okkonen profiled as one of the four winners of this year’s Henry Chadwick award given to baseball researchers for his seminal work in uniform history (thanks to Phil Bergen). … Looks like Kent State has new jerseys (h/t Dennis Abrams). … Here’s some information on the Red Sox Truck Day and all it will carry (thanks, Tom Mulgrew).
NFL News: I’m not sure if this particular “NFL Logos takeoff” set has been posted on Uni Watch before, so my apologies in advance if it has. But check out these NFL logos reimagined in ‘metal’ style. That sound you heard was THE Jeff rushing for the AstroGlide. … Nice article on, and gallery of photos by Walter Iooss Jr., who shot the Super Bowl I cover for Sports Illustrated, and also got the cover for SB XLVIII. … Looks like Panthers WR Steve Smith will be going with Smith Sr. next year (thanks to Ethan Hagen). Of course, that really should be Steve, Sr.
College Football News: Farily rote (but still interesting) article (with video) on how Under Armour helps the University of Maryland with recruiting. Key line from coach Randy Edsall: “You know, one of the first questions I get from the young men is, ‘Coach, what new uniforms are we going to have next year’?” … It was jersey fitting day at MTSU (h/t Sully @Pal3327) – Love the sizing on the shirts!
Hockey News: There probably won’t be too much hockey news over the next two weeks, with the NHL on Olympic hiatus, but Jeff Barak asks, “What’s this? We thought they were *always* the Arizona Coyotes.” … Apparently someone tried to hijack a plane to Sochi yesterday. He was wearing a Habs sweater.
Soccer News: Reader Nile Smith runs/started/got the ball rolling on the Liverpool Supporters club here in the fine city of Indianapolis. Says Nile, “We aren’t ‘officially’ recognized yet from LFC but hopefully soon. Well one of our supporters made a pretty sweet crest for us. As you can see, it has the Liverbird logo on top of our Soldiers and Sailors Monument that we have downtown on the Circle(Lady Victory is traditionally there) It also incorporates the State Flag of Indiana with the stars in the background, So it melds together the City of Indy, the state and also the Liverpool crest.” … David Haberman has some updates on the US World Cup kits: 1) Not sure if you have posted this, but a couple weeks ago renders of the home kit leaked; 2) Accoridng to that same website, the away kit will be “Captain America meets WC94.” These are the 1994 kits the site is referring to; 3) As of yesterday, a poster on a sportslogos.net forum is claiming that the leaked render was only an early model, and the final one has all the blue removed, including a red monochrome crest. He asks, “I wonder if Nike and US Soccer heard the outroar over the switch from navy to royal?” … “Here is the supposed new Union jersey,” writes Joe Schmidt. “I like the pin-striping on the back. But, I am still waiting on them to make Wawa their main sponsor.”
Grab Bag: “Not even sure how I came across this site,” writes Scott Moody. “But this guy has taken the idea of a fantasy football team to an entire new level.” … Check out the new LIU Post softball jerseys. … “Fun Fact” from Stephen Oney: Paul’s post yesterday about ASU’s old logo reminded him of a fun fact he noticed a while ago: the old ASU sun devil logo has his arrow pointed towards the University of Arizona if you put the two logos on a map. Stephen asks, “It seems like this must be intentional, right? I mean why else would the pitchfork be at that angle?” … Here’s a very cool DIY hockey sweater (from Chris Sassano). “Team: “No Regretzky’s”; Location: Portland Or.; Division: Beer League; Designer: Dillon Gentry.” … New anthracite softball uniforms for LSU (via M. Quinlan Duhon. … New gray road baseball uniforms for Auburn (via Clint Richardson). … Bueller? Bueller? Leo Strawn, Jr. was “Watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and noticed the character Cameron Frye wearing a Red Wings sweater. But the logo is incorrect (look at the width of the red semi-circle on the bottom half of the tire) and also turned at a weird angle to a real Detroit jersey.” … There’s a A11FL Facebook Page, and there are now a bunch of helmets on there (thanks, Charlie Kranz).
And that will wrap it up for today. Big thanks, as always, to Mike Styczen for his Curling refersher. Now we can all watch the matches with full knowledge of what’s what — and impress everyone around us with that knowledge.
You folks have a great Saturday and I’ll be back with more stuff tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.
“Nice to see the Sawx looking like they’re from Boston again, instead of New York.”
–R. Scott Rogers