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The Great Debate: Is Curling a Sport?

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In about a week, Scott Baird will become the oldest Winter Olympian ever, at age 54. Baird will represent Team USA at the curling event in Torino. (Insert funny remark here.)

It’s true. This is nothing more than comic relief. It nice to see an old Olympian but the event he competes in cannot be construed as a sport. The game he plays is nothing more than a mixture of shuffleboard and bocce on ice. I can’t see where any athletic ability whatsoever comes into play during curling.

Now I know what those pro-curling people are saying and they are probably right. I have no idea what I’m talking about when it comes to curling. I’m just a spoiled American who if put on the ice, would choose hockey over being a human zamboni. The thing is; I have this silly little rule that goes as follows:

If by 20 years old, you have never played, been asked to play, or come in contact with anyone who has ever thought about playing a so-called sport, it probably isn’t a sport.

Granted, I have a few months until I reach that age, but I highly doubt that any of my old chaps are going to ask me to take part in a riveting game or curling anytime soon.

I have also always felt that if there is a debate as to whether or not something is a sport, then odds are it’s not, but there are holes in that idea. One might ask how I can consider golf or auto racing a sport, but not curling.

Well, you see there is this crazy old woman who lives down the street from me. She is probably around 85 and one of the few true bi-polar people I have ever known. One day she was hitting us with a broom, chasing us off the street. The next, she was watching me pass a baseball with the delight of a five year old. Till this day, she still calls me “railroad arm.” Apparently, she thinks I’m Walter Johnson.

Anyway, her claim to fame is that she is the woman who tries keep the streets clean, literally. On a daily basis, she sweeps dirt off the road as though she was cleaning her kitchen floor. She is a damn good sweeper.

I feel like while she would make a pretty decent curler because of her uncanny sweeping ability, she could not come close to hitting a five iron or drive 120 MPH trying to hit turns the right way.

Rule #2: If old crazy woman who sweeps the street can still do it, there is no way that it’s a sport.

With that being said, I probably will tune into some of the curling event in Torino if for no other reason than a reason to use the words biter, bonspiel, eight-end, hogger, and spinner in same twenty minute span.

Oh, and supposedly the USA is marketing its women’s curling team as quite a bunch of lookers.

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About Dan McGowan

  • If by 20 years old, you have never played, been asked to play, or come in contact with anyone who has ever thought about playing a so-called sport, it probably isn’t a sport.

    and despite what they say about soccer, your rule would nullify soccer as a sport in this country.

  • Poor gullible Dan.

    There’s a lot of physical work in the sport. An 8-end game can take a lot out of you. And the Olympic games are 10 ends.

    In fact it embodies the facets of any sport you can think of in their purest forms: skill, endurance, balance, teamwork, strategy, sportsmanship.

    My suggestion? Find a club near you and contact ’em. They’re always looking for new members.

    –Matt Sussman
    Bowling Green State Univeresity Curling, 2002-05
    (3rd place: Great Lakes Regional Tournament, Detroit 2004)
    (4th place: Div. III, National Tournament, Chicago 2005)

  • Nobody under 20 playing football?

    Can’t imagine what strange little country that would be. Maybe the same one that has no relegation or promotion in its major sports “franchise”, making the whole thing a meaningless and sterile ritual in the very core of the land of free enterprise? Or the one that thinks playing with itself is a world series?

    Naah, couldn’t be… 😉

  • Hi Dan. Thanks for raising the question.

    This is becoming a quadrennial thing, however, and some of us are getting bored with answering the same old question.

    Yes… it’s a sport.

    George Karrys
    Team Canada Men’s Curling, Nagano 1998
    Publisher, The Curling News

  • Hey George, nice to see you lurking on Blogcritics.

    We used to play in Juniors at Thornhill CC. How’s it going? Are you heading to Torino at all?

  • Hi Deano… yes, I leave Thursday and shall be Blogging at: curlnews.blogspot.com

    Ciao bellas/fellas…

  • You should cross-post here on Blogcritics – we now have a sports section – Yes, curling is a sport!!

    Sweep you B*stards, Sweep!

  • Nobody under 20 playing football?

    Can’t imagine what strange little country that would be.

    It is funny Christopher, soccer (football) is SO common now, both my sons played it, but when I was growing up? Totally unheard of. At some point I had heard of the name ‘Pele’, and know who he was, but that was still so far removed from what was going on in the States at that time.

  • Ben

    Dan makes a good point Curing is not a sport

  • Wow Ben. You really don’t know the SPORT at ALL then. Read the comments instead of just flaming a SPORT for no reason. If you don’t consider it a SPORT, you really shouldn’t be looking around on the internet for stuff about it. Leave the SPORT alone.

  • By the way Dan, the fact that the 85 year-old woman down the street can play the sport as well as pretty much anyone else is a testament to the accessibility of the sport, if nothing else.

  • Emilie

    Curling IS A SPORT! I am 11 years old girl and have been doing it for a while and I agree it is a sport. Anyone who says curling is not a sport has never played as it is a sport that anyone can do but takes years of practice to become a good player.

  • competes in real sports

    Are you all retarded? Curling is not a sport it requires absolutely no physical exertion and is played at such a slow pace. It’s like poker, it’s a skill people, not a sport… As for the 11 year old girl, you just learned the alphabet, your opinion doesn’t count, as well as your “years of practice” Lol some people these days!

  • Bock

    It’s like people with compulsive obsessive disorder cleaning dirt no one else can see off ice, like sweeping sand off a beach, while a crab walks past.


  • Erick

    This is in regards to the #13 poster. You are incredibly ignorant. I’m watching this right now and this looks like it takes incredible endurance and balance. These matches are long, and these sweepers are flailing there arms like crazy, all the while sliding across an essentially frictionless surface. Just because it isn’t your beloved football or baseball doesn’t exclude it from being a sport. Your opinion is welcome, however next time come back with a better justification, because your ignorance is not.

  • Jayz

    This is not an f ing sport. What a joke

  • Nick

    i’ve never played curling. i dont know anyone who does. i’ve never seen it anywhere but every four years during the olympic games. but from what little i know and what ive seen, it seems like a sport. balancing on ice takes a sh*t ton of muscle and coordination. then to slide accurately while flailing those arms? holy wow. plus the strategy, skill, and knowledge of physics. and for those nay sayers, i say you can’t invalidate it as a sport until you’ve atleast PLAYED it. c’mon.

  • Bob

    I enjoy watching curling, just like I enjoy watching botchiball, and shuffleboard.

    Curling : a game in which two teams of four players each slide curling stones over a stretch of ice toward a target circle.

  • Bob

    Sport : physical activity engaged in for pleasure (2) : a particular activity (as an athletic game) so engaged in.

    So, I guess that would make botchiball, and shuffleboard sports as well.

    But then again, playing cards chess is a physical activity engaged in for pleasure. So I guess that would mak it a sport as well.

  • Bob

    Sorry about that! Meant to say:

    But then again, playing cards or chess would be a physical activity engaged in for pleasure. So I guess that would make them sports as well.

  • bill

    I do not see the point in curling, at all. I think it is funny to watch. They get so into it, you can tell by there faces, it makes me smile everytime so thank you to all who play this game. I do not believe it is a sport all they do is play with big brush things. hah.

  • jav

    i wash watching it last night it doesnt look like a sport more like chess or pool, poker?

  • cha

    curling is not a sport.

  • Josh

    The idea that an 80 year old sweeping can do it is such a ridiculous statement that it renders the entire blog pointless… if you have that little knowledge about something, why comment on it?

  • jake

    Wayne Gretzky is also a big fan of the sport. and i’m pretty sure he would know what a sport is seeing as he is considered one of the best to play one.

  • Brian

    A 80 yr old can play football but it doesnt mean they are going to play it well. A good sweeper to assist in control of the rock requires strength and endurance. I say get on the ice and try it….sport.

  • Curl Ingisgay

    Curling is NOT a sport. It is a game-just like darts, pool, poker, chess, ping pong, and air hockey.

    There is little athletic ability required, and certainly not an Olympic level amount. One of the Canadian curlers this year is PREGNANT!! How can it be a sport if you can be 5 months pregnant and compete?

    Its a game, or activity, not a sport

  • Curl Ingisgay

    And one more thing. I HAVE gone curling before. Its fun, mainly because we all sucked and were goofing around, but it is still not a sport. Its a game

  • Curl,

    Pregnancy is not a disease or a disability. Plenty of sportswomen have competed at the top level while pregnant. Paula Radcliffe continued to train up until a week before her daughter was born.

    Out of interest, how did you decide what is an ‘Olympic level’ of athletic ability?

  • Chess is a game too.

    Is it a sport?

  • From my viewpoint there really isn’t any objective benchmark for what is or isn’t a sport.

    For instance, most people would accept that figure skating is a sport, whereas ballroom dancing, which requires just as much if not more physical agility and exertion, is not generally considered to be one (it is by its participants, but not by the general public).

    As a similar paradox, darts, which requires a great deal of hand-eye coordination and skill but little physical exertion, is considered to be a sport but tiddlywinks, about which the same can be said, isn’t.

    So it seems to me that a sport is a sport if it’s generally thought of as a sport – which if it doesn’t make much sense, at least makes more sense than some of the ridiculous arguments in this article and comments thread, which would disqualify games like cricket (because most people in significant regions of the world won’t have encountered it by the time they reach adulthood), badminton (because grandpa can play it) and basketball (because pregnant women can play it) as sports.

  • Let’s get to the verb form – “to sport something” – always informative of the noun as a residual.

    I’d say it’s got to do with displaying certain panache, yes – skill combined with an attitude of recklessness.

    It’s just a stab.

  • Interesting attempt, Roger, but by that criterion John Edwards was playing a sport when he was lying about his mistress and love child. No, it won’t do.

    I’ve been trying out a few restrictions in my head:

    “If you sit down while you’re doing it, it’s not a sport” – no, because that counts out motor sports, several classes of sailing and a large chunk of the Paralympics.

    “If you can buy the stuff for it at Toys R Us, it’s not a sport” – well, so much for all those T-ball sets and mini-footballs then!

    The most promising one I’ve come up with is “If you can play it in your living room/garage, it’s not a sport”. That disqualifies chess, darts, ping-pong (which is an Olympic sport though) and air hockey. However, it allows things like beauty pageants, Supermarket Sweep, jump rope and British bulldog (an old schoolyard game which involves one team trying to stop members of the other team making it from one side of the playground to the other).

    No, I’m still not satisfied.

  • And you shouldn’t be.

    Still, the key has got to be to be able come up with an idea/concept which will somehow encompass the diversity of cases.

    Which is to say, you can’t proceed contrarily, arriving at a concept from the amalgam of activities which might or might not qualify.

    What are the criteria?

  • Are you sporting a good haircut, but the way?

  • My hair (and I do have some) does pretty much what it likes, so I have to keep it fairly short. I’m five days into my most recent haircut, so I’m managing, thanks!

  • What are the criteria?

    I thought I’d made the whole point that there really aren’t any criteria, Rog. Sport is in the eye of the beholder: as the learned Justice once said about pornography, “I know it when I see it”.

    Where do sports end and games begin? Who knows, but I think there at least need to be two things involved: an element of competition (which rules out things like rock climbing, mountaineering and scuba diving), and at least some degree of physical effort (as opposed to mental, although many sports lean heavily in that direction too).

  • Dreadful,

    You just made a sport of this whole debate.

  • LOL.

  • In about a week, Scott Baird will become the oldest Winter Olympian ever, at age 54. Baird will represent Team USA at the curling event in Torino. (Insert funny remark here.)

    INSERTION: And Wellpoint announced any injuries will not be covered due to preexisting conditiuons, i.e. playing on ice.

    I agree curling is a sport whether it be in hair salons or on the ice. They both take artful “athletes” to accomplish the game. I would like to see a cheer-leading team of older women for Team USA in 4 years. We could call them the Geriatrics Rockettes and have them sponsored by AARP and Metamucil.

  • Kevin

    “If by 20 years old, you have never played, been asked to play, or come in contact with anyone who has ever thought about playing a so-called sport, it probably isn’t a sport.”
    This simply is not true. Have you ever heard hurling? Probably not, but trust me, it’s probably one of the craziest sports out there.

    Except for that, I totally agree with you; curling is not a sport. Sports have three distinct qualities, competition, a high degree of skill, and a high degree of athleticism. The fact is that curling absolutely lacks the athleticism component. A pregnant woman is competing on Canada’s team. How can anybody possibly argue that a pregnant woman is a world class athlete? You simply cannot make a sound argument to support that. Feeling slightly or moderately fatigued after ten ends of curling does not imply a high degree of athleticism. No extraordinary physical/athletic quality is needed to participate in curling, thus it cannot be considered a sport.

  • No extraordinary physical/athletic quality is needed to participate in curling, thus it cannot be considered a sport.

    See Matt Sussman’s comment above, somewhere. I should point out that your criterion excludes sports like archery, shooting, bowling (all varieties), golf and billiards – all recognised as sports by the IOC.

  • Mathematics and physics are not a sport because, in ordinary parlance, they’re not a game. But chess is a game, a game besides which requires a great deal of physical regimen – such as getting in shape – before reaching your top form. Intellectual prowess is backed here of physical prowess.
    Or think of Bobby Fisher’s preparations. Even of World Championship Bridge matches.

    Think of Kasparov, for example, and his matches with the Big Blue.

    There seems to be an intricate connection between something being a game and it being a sport. But this relationship doesn’t carry in the other direction.

    Perhaps not every game is a sport – otherwise they’d be synonymous.

  • More food for thought –

    sport or game as opposed to hobby or a shared activity.

    Think of bingo.

    It’d seem that competition is also an intricate part of the concept.

    Is every game competitive? I would like to believe it is.

    Why then some games fall short of being a sport?

    Can you think of an example?

    Let’s think of monopoly or better yet, scrabble.

    A spelling bee contest is definitely competitive; indeed, there are even prizes. Still, it’s no sport by any stretch of the term. Neither is a cross-word-puzzle contest.

    Perhaps the idea goes back to feudal times – the idea of re-enactment, of parleying one’s skills for show, as a surrogate for the real contest.

    “El Cid” comes to mind when the conflict between nations was decided by the confrontation between their respective champions.

    Any tournament in fact comes close to representing the spirit. The idea of tournament, I should say.

  • ‘Sports’ and ‘games’ are synonymous in some aspects, Roger – hence ‘the Olympic Games’. I think the ancients didn’t really distinguish: sports were merely games which were physical.

    Kevin does have a pretty good definition up in #41: his error is in demanding a ‘high degree’ of athleticism. Apparently Kevin is the one who gets to determine what that degree is.

    The fact is that there are any number of recognised sports which do not require one to be a youthful superman to compete in at a high level. Motor sports, cue sports, golf, shooting, sailing, archery, darts, curling, bowling… the list goes on.

    And yes, the lines are blurred in numerous ways – as with your excellent example of the medieval tournament. The joust was sport in its purest form – last man standing wins – but there was also so much more to it than simply winner take all.

    I’m not sure about the theory that sport is simply a surrogate for war, but the fact is that many sports do have military roots: take the Winter Olympics biathlon, for example, which originated in the Nordic countries as an army training exercise.

    To me, curling is absolutely a sport. It does involve physical activity – albeit not as strenuous as Kevin would prefer; it does involve getting off one’s arse and going to the rink; and it does involve competition.

  • Aside from curling (apparently!) the one sport that causes the most heated debate as to its provenance is darts. The game is renowned for its heavy-drinking, chain-smoking and often morbidly obese competitors – most notably 2004 world champion Andy ‘The Viking’ Fordham, who once tipped the scales at 434 pounds and geared up for matches by drinking 18 pints of beer and half a bottle of vodka.

  • I think the re-enactment idea is more apt, a form of playacting to ascertain the winner – but not just in an all out war but any kind of (deadly?) contest – to settle a dispute.

    Hence, I see “sports” as a move from the less to more civilized form of resolving conflicts.

    What once may have been an integral part of the social network, it has become a vestige, a remnant of times long gone.

    In short, the re-enacting of the old ritual, but the original function behind the ritual is no longer a pertinent one.

  • I wonder where the ancient Roman gladiatorial contests fit into all this? They were certainly competitive and required great athleticism and skill, so however brutal, they met all of the criteria for a sport. Yet they were primarily entertainment.

    Sport-as-entertainment does have modern equivalents: most notably wrestling, which is a good, honest, down-to-earth sport but which has inspired a whole raft of ‘wrestling entertainment’ franchises the world over.

  • Curling is definitely a sport by my definition. It is competitive, repetitive, people root for a team, and the most important factor–it’s boring to watch.

  • A bit like congressional elections then!

  • Curl,

    One of the most beautiful sights in my memory is the black-belt wife of my step-sons’ karate teacher doing her katas at a competition, while she was eight months pregnant. Our local gym is owned by a couple who are body builders. She was three months pregnant during her competition. You couldn’t even tell in the photos.

  • Johan

    It is not a sport

  • Channing

    To me, curling is a sport as it meets my two requirements: there’s is physical effort involved — both by the person sliding the rock and the two trying guide it with their brooms — and you can play defense/alter your opponents’ play. It’s for that last reason that I don’t consider golf a sport.

  • dodo

    I’ve heard the non-argument here and there that “Curling takes skill, ergo it is a sport.” I would contest that by that definition, card magic is a sport. I mean, many people enjoy a neat trick; they would back that view. The best magicians train hard and will even include funny banter into their routine, making their complicated sleight-of-hand even more impressive. Surely the IOC should acknowlegde the level of thought and skill and promote this to an Olympic sport already!

  • a good curler

    i am one of those people that hate people who wach something on tv and think they can do it i chalange all of the people who think that curling is not a sport to a game of curling i will take all of you at once

  • anonymous303

    Definition of sport: “An activity involving physical exertion and skill that is governed by a set of rules or customs and often undertaken competitively.”

    First of all let’s assume we are referring to competitive curling. So…

    1) “An activity involving … skill”
    Delivering the stone – with proper technique – requires balance and flexibility. One steps into the hack aligning himself to the target (skip’s broom), making sure his feet, knees, hips and shoulders are square. Then he will squat down using only his hamstrings to support all of his bodyweight, all while remaining square to the broom. Now comes the fun part. He will elevate his hips, without changing the height of his shoulders, move his foot with the slider to behind his foot in the hack, transfer all his weight onto said foot (with slider), bring said foot back in front of his foot in the hack, transfer his weight back to the foot in the hack and push with his quad, driving out of the hack and lowering into the delivery position – still remaining square to the broom. The delivery position requires one to place his slider foot flat on the ice under his sternum, which he will use to balance his entire body weight. Zero percent of the curlers bodyweight should be on the broom, even though it is held during delivery. His arm with the rock should be extended in front of him with only a slight bend, and form a straight line with his siding foot, trailing leg and broom/target at the other end of the sheet. Now he will release the rock, turning it in the correct direction. (This is still over-simplified – there are entire books on how to deliver a curling rock.)Still not satisfied? Imagine the skill required to make the shots you see on television. The average curling rink is 146-150’ long, 126’ of which a stone will travel during a typical draw. Thus, a “simple” draw to the pin requires the curler to slide out with the precise amount of force required to make 36” in diameter piece of granite travel 126’, accounting for the amount of curl in the ice so the rock will come to a stop on a section of ice no larger than the eraser at the end of a pencil. Nevermind, the skill necessary to visualize – and then make – the shots such as runbacks, double/triple/quadruple takeouts, etc. that require much greater precision.

    2) “An activity involving physical exertion”
    Only people who have never played the game before will say there is no physical exertion involved. Each team is given 73 minutes to play all ten ends, with a typical game lasting from two and a half to three hours. Therefore stamina and endurance are essential. Sweeping – once again with proper form and technique – dramatically increases your heart rate, second only to the sport of tennis, pushing you to your anaerobic threshold. Basically, if you’re not breathing heavily after you have swept a rock, you are not doing your job. Now, times this by six rocks and end (obviously you will not sweep your own rocks) and ten ends a game – equals sweeping up and down the ice 60 times. In most major competitions one to two games are played a day (sometimes three or more, depending on the level of competitive play) with the events lasting anywhere from a weekend to a week or more. Rarely, if ever, in major curling bonspiels/tournaments will curlers get a day or two’s break between games. Thus, athletic ability and endurance is obvious.

    3) “ … that is governed by a set of rules or customs”
    There are more rules to curling than almost any other sport, not including the ‘unwritten rules’. After all, curlers pride themselves on sportsmanship and fair play.

    4) “ … and often undertaken competitively”
    Play on the ‘competitive circuit’ (where you will find Kevin Martin, Glen Howard, Jennifer Jones, Brad Gushue … competing) has become so exclusive that the ‘weekend warrior’ no longer has hope of being included. The top curlers from many Asian and European countries are paid salaries by their governments to compete in world championships – it is their job. Canada and the United States have yet to adopt such a policy even though our North American Curlers dedicate an equivalent amount of time to the sport.

    Thus, curling is a sport by definition. Only those who are ignorant or uneducated will state otherwise.

  • Ciera

    Curling IS a sport, and to all of you saying ‘there’s no physical exertion’, have you ever TRIED playing it? This is my first year, and I laughed and thought it was lame, not a sport at all until I tried it. It’s really hard, and tiring! Sliding takes tons of balance and coordination, especially if you do it right! What about sweeping? Playing a full game of curling can tire you out, just from all the sweeping you do. You have to have some strength, and it’s hard to keep up with a rock, especially at take-out weight. At the end of a real game, you can pretty much count on being tired and sore! Just because it’s boring to watch, doesn’t mean it’s not a sport. It takes lots of skill and practice.

  • Charlotte

    I’m 17 and I’ve been curling for 12 years, yes it’s a sport. It takes alot of energy even an 8 ender game tires me out. Many people have gotten serious injuries due to not being able to balance on the ice and have cracked their heads open. It also takes alot of strategy and such. Now if you say it is not a sport that is your opinion but before you get rude and start bashing it, why not give it a try even just try and slide down the sheet and back with no broom, then get back to us. 🙂

  • Curler forever

    I disagree with people that think curling isn’t a sport. The definition of sport is an athletic activity requiring skill or physical prowess and often of a competitive nature. Curling is exactly that. You have to be athletic to be a curler, you use a lot of different muscles, and you need physical ability and mental ability. For anyone that believes curling is easy or isn’t a “sport” then they should try it one day and see how hard it really is.

  • Cam

    It requires more physical activity than baseball, baseball is also not a sport then. What about “American football?” Don’t get me started on volleyball. curling is not longer a game for fat old people my friend, that was 2002.

  • Alex Morrison

    Anyone that thinks curling is not a sport should go and try it do it correctly and then go and compete in a competitive competition not a fake one. Then try to put all your wait on your broom and move your arms in a sweeping moshon as fast as you can. Then try to push off very hard pushing a 40 pound stone a peppled ice in a very stretched out position. Then due all this for about an hour to two hours how is this not a sport

  • Jay

    If a 50 year old can compete with the best it is not a sport…

  • kate

    curling is a sport and anyone who says diffrent dosent know shit.