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Heinrich: Filling the February void
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Heinrich: Filling the February void


Football is over; March Madness is still more than a month
away and this is normally the time of year where sports
fans want to slam there head in the door. Luckily this
year, as is every four years, the Olympics fill those
sports-less February days. I am here to guide you through
the ins and outs of the Winter Olympics.

They start February 12th in Vancouver, British Columbia.
While we are blessed with the first Olympiad with minimal
tape delays since Utah in 2002, you might still miss some
of the best competition while Figure Skating gets shoved
down your throat in prime time.

Don’t get me wrong it is amazing what those athletes do in
sequence on ice, but I could honestly care less. Let’s
just admit we are watching that event for two reasons.

1. We enjoy looking at the physically fit girls in skimpy
outfits.

2. We hope the scantily clad ladies catch a toe pick and
their pretty faces smack the ice.

And don’t try to tell me you do it for any other reason.
When they show the men’s long program you aren’t tuning
in; you’re flipping the channel to find Law & Order. And
you can always find Law & Order.

I am here to tell you there are more sports in Vancouver,
you might not know about, that are worth your time. They
might just be harder to find. Number one on that list is
curling. That is right curling. Ice Bowling. Olympic
Shuffleboard. Whatever you want to call it, watch it and
you will be captivated. You might not know a thing about
the sport, consider this your crash course on hurling the
rock.

Let’s start with the basic phrases you’ll need to know:

Stone
The big smooth rocks that the players throw down the ice.
They weigh 42 pounds or the same weight as Barry Bonds’
head.

House
The rings or bull’s-eye toward which play is directed and
points are scored. The outside ring is 3.66 metres in
diameter, the next ring is 2.44 meters in diameter, the
next ring is 1.22 meters in diameter, and the inside ring
(button) is 0.3 meters in diameter. This translates to
feet I’m sure, but I’ll let you do the math.

Button
This is the house’s bull’s-eye the players are aiming for;
or the one-foot diameter circular area at the center of
the house.

Eight-Ender
This is pretty much the No-Hitter of curling. When one
teams scores all eight of its stones in one End.

End
An inning of a curling game. An end is complete when all
16 rocks (eight per team, two per person) have been
delivered. The score is determined at the conclusion of
each end. Games run to ten ends. This makes for great
comedy when the announcer says things like “The Swedes
Ends have just been rock solid” and “I don’t think those
Ends could have been any harder for the Scotts.”

Hammer
The last stone delivered in each end. Key to the Curling
drinking game. (We’ll get to this later).

Scoring
A team scores one point for every stone closer to the
center (or centre in Canadian) of the house than the
opposing team’s closest stone. Only one team can score per
end.

Sheet
The Sheet of Ice. See it’s not that hard; now try
explaining the difference between a triple toe loop and a
triple Lutz.

Touched Running Stone
If the players touch a stone in play the stone that was
thrown gets removed.

There are many more things that go into the game, but
pretty much two teams take a huge piece of granite and
throw it down the ice trying to get closest to the center.
At the end of each end, that is a little redundant, one
team gets the points. At the end of all ten ends, the
team with the most points wins. Isn’t that the basic for
any quality sport? No judge’s, just whatever team scores
the most points wins.

The players are extremely skilled. I don’t know many
people that can throw a 42 pound anything and land it
within inches of its target. All the while avoiding other
giant rocks by putting just enough spin on the rock.

Now, this sport might be dominated by the Scotts and those
of the Nordic persuasion, but if there is a sport out
there in the Olympics you know the USA wants to win. The
Men’s team had a strong showing in the World Championships
in 2009 finishing the round robin stage in second place.
However they had some issues in the knockout round and
failed to medal. But a strong showing from the US isn’t
that far of a reach.

There will be a familiar face for the US team at the
Olympic sheet this year. San Francisco 49ers’ Pro Bowl Tight End
Vernon Davis was named honorary captain of the USA Curling
Olympic team
in January. Come on, if Vernon Davis
is backing the U.S. Curlers, so can you. (Apparently,
Davis picked up the game a few months ago and got
completely hooked. Am I the only one hoping to have a
video come out in March of Davis, Frank Gore, Patrick
Willis, and Nate Clements curling together during some
down time at O.T.A’s?)

If you’re not hooked yet, and how could you not be, see if
this will help. Swedish “hard rock” band Hammerfall
curling with the Swedish Women’s National
Team
.

Still not convinced? I can’t put the link on here but
lets just say there is a calendar out there of some of the
female curlers that figure skating doesn’t have.

No? Still need something else to get you to tune in?
Grab your favorite adult beverage a few friends and take a
seat. Pick a team. Every end you drink your teams
points. If your team scores with the Hammer you finish
your drink. If your team lands a stone in the button,
drink. Simple and effective.

When the Olympic flame is lit in Vancouver don’t fall into
the trap of watching the prime time sequence wars. Fill
your February with men and women with brooms and rocks.

What to Watch: Curling

The good news is Curling is on almost every day of the
Olympics. The bad news is it might be a little hard to
track down. Here is a look at the schedule and
where to find the matches.