Why sports are important, and I don’t mean the NFL.

Interesting evening this evening.   The 2009 Yukon Title Curling Classic (www.curlfairbanks.org) began this evening and yours truly was among the 60 or so participants.  This is one of the premier events of our season at the 104 year old Fairbanks Curling Club and is always a good time for spectator and player alike.  There are local teams, a couple from Anchorage, one from Barrow, and a few from our southern neighbors, Canada.  The major difference is this tourney has a $4000 first prize payout and it’s a little bit of a feather in the cap of Alaskan curlers to be a part of the winning team.

I get few feathers.   We got our collective asses handed to us tonight by one of the best teams from Whitehorse, Yukon Territories, Canada.   I don’t mind much; I’m in this more for the experience of playing with and against no-shit world class curlers.  These are people who can, and have, played at the Olympic level.  I’m mere hack compared to the majority.  The nice thing about it is they are the kind of folk who will  kick your ass around the ice, tell you how they did so, and then tell you how to beat them next time, all while getting the check at the bar.  If only Major League Baseball, the NFL, and the NBA were so cordial.  There are few if any curlers who play for money.  The paychecks just aren’t that big and there is no equivalent of the major leagues in this sport.   Everyone,  from the newest rookie to the guy who won the gold last time, are in it for the pure love of the game.

So the team that sent me and mine to school tonight were skipped by a guy named Pat Paslawski.  Pat’s a no kidding world class level curler and has been to the Tim Horton’s Brier (Canada’s curling version of the World Series) more times than I care to think about. For curling newcomers, the skip is the guy who calls all the shots for the team.  My playing against Pat is akin to Barack playing against Mike Jordan in a game of one-on-one.  I told him after the game I wa going to grab a video camera and steal his delivery technique.  Smooth does not do it justice.

At the end of the night, we’re sitting around the table in the bar, quaffing a few of the Moose’s Tooth Brewery’s finest, and it strikes me that the 7 other guys sitting around this table are just regular Joe’s.  Names of high visibility players are dropping like flies, not to impress, but to add to the stories being told. And the really neat thing is, most of the gang sitting there know these people. We’ve all curled with or against them and it’s really no big deal. 

There’s 140 feet of ice, sixteen 42 lb stones, and anything can happen.  Everyone has to play on the same ice and with the same rocks, . God, I love this game and I love the people I’ve met since I started 4 and a half years ago.  It’s not about win or lose, it’s about throwing that perfect stone….it’s the poetry that is a well thrown curling rock and the camraderie you feel when that rock is thrown.  Even if it means you didn’t throw it.

I truly wish life were more like this………..

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