When you suit up for your weekly curling games and step out on to the ice, you join the ranks of athletes everywhere: you go out there to win.
Even in the most recreational leagues, or even when you’re just learning and have low expectations of your own skills, you probably get excited when you see the numbers going up on your side of the scoreboard. It’s human nature.
Oh sure, we all curl for the exercise. That’s a given. And we curl for the camaraderie too. We curl for the laughs and the conversation and the chance to spend a few hours on the ice with people who love the game as much as we do.
But face it: we all want to win.
When there’s something on the line, like a league championship or a bonspiel title – or even just a friendly bet and a case of beer – or whether it’s a regular league game with minimal importance, I always try to make my shots and find ways to outplay my opponent.
It doesn’t always work, and losing can be tough.
But sometimes winning can be tough, too.
Recently at my weekly club game, we played a team who had One Of Those Nights. We’ve all had them. The rock slides too far by an inch or less. A player wobbles, uncharacteristically, on her delivery and just misses the mark. There’s a tricky spot on the ice that devours rocks like the Bermuda Triangle eats airplanes. The sweeping helps – or doesn’t. No matter how the skip tries to call the shots, nothing is working. Everyone is trying her hardest to make a shot; the curling gods are laughing all the way to the lopsided scoreboard where the numbers are creeping up and up. A two-ender. A four-ender. Another steal of three. They take one back, and you follow up with another three-ender. We’re into double digits now, and the other team is starting to look whipped.
I like to win, but you know what? This is not a fun way to win, not in a game that has no prize or title attached to it. If I were playing the gold medal game at the Olympics or the final of the Brier or Scotties – or even my club championship – I might feel differently. But playing on the high end of a lopsided score in a weekly league game isn’t really something to celebrate.
Of course, lopsided scores aren’t that much fun for the losers, either. They might be in a mood to laugh it off, but maybe not. And it can get uncomfortable, especially if the players succumb to the inevitable frustration that accompanies missed shots followed by more missed shots. If there’s something on the line, you might see that frustration manifest itself in words spoken that might best be left unsaid. (Picture the Big Kids on those TV telecasts as the camera focuses up close and personal on the player who just missed a shot – perhaps one more in a line of missed shots. Frustration isn’t a strong enough word. Cue the “bleep”.)
No matter if you’re a national champion or a once-a-week club curler, lopsided scores are going to happen. Frustration with yourself or your teammates is not going to help. If you’re on the high side of the score, let the game’s innate sense of sportsmanship and respect keep you focused on your own goals: hitting the broom and making your shots.
And what if you’re on the low side of the score in one of these freak games? Don’t blame your teammates. Instead, write this game off as a fun day for those wretched curling gods, pull off the gloves early and head to the club room for a post-game drink and a few laughs with your opponents.
Put it behind you. After all, there will always be another game.