Perhaps its the fact that curling is seemingly the only sport in which average-looking people compete, as opposed to the perfectly-sculpted physiques and years and years of dedicated physical training required for other disciplines. Now, I'm sure that the Olympic curlers spend years honing their craft, but they also happen to look like they spend their off-hours slumped in a La-Z-Boy drinking beer. At this point in my life, curling is the only sport that keeps the spark of my childhood Olympic aspirations alive.
I cultivated my initial interest in curling back during the 2002 Salt Lake City Games when I was in high school. Even then I was a deeply ingrained night-owl, and I spent many nights working into the wee hours of the morning on papers, projects, and other miscellaneous homework. That was where I first encountered curling, relegated to the 3:00am programming block on television. The first time I saw it, the game made absolutely no sense, but there was something hypnotic about the Midwestern-looking competitors sliding heavy rocks upon a plane of ice, easing their path with a team of broom-wielding sweepers. I couldn't believe this insanity qualified as a sport.
Curling remained my trusty late-night companion during the 2006 Torino Games, when I was up working on an intensive research project for a Vietnam War seminar in which I was enrolled. I would Tivo the matches I wasn't still up to watch, and my roommates thought I was crazy, but I soon won them over. I even created a curling-related Facebook group that I got them to join. (Hey, it was 2006. Facebook was young; we created groups for anything and everything back then, the more ironic the better. Drew and I were the admins of the "Lawrence Welk Appreciation Society" too, but that's a story for another time.)
I'm not sure how I'm going to feed my curling addiction this year. I've gotten rid of my Tivo because I don't have the space for it anymore, and I have a 9-5 job, so all-nighters in the name of curling are out of the question. My best hope is finding re-aired footage of the matches on the Universal Sports Network. Never has there been a channel that has been a greater friend to the obscure sport fanatic niche audience. During Olympic off-years, it plays host to a number of sport competitions that bore most normal people. Ski jumping, bobsledding, and yes, curling -- Universal Sports has been running them for months already. So, fingers crossed, I'll be able to find curling at a convenient time.
I'm predicting Canadian dominance this year. They are a traditional curling powerhouse (indeed, the sport enjoys its greatest popularity there), along with the Nordic states like Sweden, Norway, and Finland that are consistently strong in the Winter Games, but with the home court advantage of competing in Vancouver, I think they'll be untouchable. I'll still be rooting for Team USA when competition starts on Tuesday, and for now, I'll just have to content myself with the opening ceremonies tomorrow, and the cornucopia of other winter sporting events taking place over the long weekend...