Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Of Curling and Quinoa

The funny thing is that curling, even with money at stake, is formidably immune to most of the ugliness that modernity imposes on sport—the frantic marketing, the soul-killing training, the illicit performance-enhancers, the odiousness of billionaire ownership. Curling is unruinable. It will never be invaded by monsters with overdeveloped right arms. It will never suffer the equivalent of a dunk contest. It will never feature a bench-clearing brawl. Cities will never throw tax dollars at unsightly mega-curling clubs crammed with gift shops and restaurants . . . probably.
That is why metropolitan hipsters are now attracted to curling as a semi-ironic amusement, enjoyed in the incomplete, detached way one consumes quinoa. Curling stones have an attractive clank of rustic authenticity. But to actual rustics like me who grew up with curling, as an Andean peasant grows up with quinoa, it is disconcerting to see an element of one’s Canadianness turned into an affectation.
We have a triad of distinctively Canadian sports: Canadian football, hockey and curling. Football, from its origins to the present, has remained a collegiate game, a game of the ruling class. College kids invented gridiron football; McGill undergrads taught Americans what a “touchdown” was. Today, football is, notoriously, the shortest path to becoming a partner in a law firm, with golf a close second. Peter Lougheed and Rob Ford were football players, rich kids who, in different ways, leveraged the social connectivity of the game.
Hockey is the most popular sport in the triad because it is the game of the Canadian middle class, a game that requires a family to have something of a surplus and, ideally, to live near a town of some size. The typical sponsor for a minor hockey team has always been some kind of small business—a plumber, a restaurant, a trucking company. There are still plenty of kids in families too broke to afford hockey. In Canada, it is the first way one might learn that one is poor.
This is where curling fits in: It is a farmer’s game, a peasant tradition. There are still many villages in the West that cannot afford hockey rinks, but that faithfully lay down two curling sheets in a long, narrow shack every fall. In those towns, an agriculture society’s community investment in two sets of stones will serve all for decades. Where hockey requires every child to have skates and pads and sticks, the traditional equipment for curling amounts to two ordinary household brooms for every four players.
If you cannot use the term "Bonspiel thaw" correctly in a sentence, you're a hipster Johnny-come-lately.

I wonder whether there'd be sufficient interest for a Kiwi Bloggers' Bonspiel down in Nasby sometime this winter. They have 4 sheets and do hire the place out for corporate events. It would likely make for a better blogosphere. Only downside is that they have their own bar, with no BYO. If you can't bring your own whisky...


  1. Reduced bar hours in Auckland has had one immediate effect - a resurgence of warehouse parties and underground raves, not seen in such numbers since before 24hr licenses were made available. Despite the decrees of policy wonks and wowsers, the partying continues.. only now it is unsupervised and unknown to authorities.

  2. Casswell's comments about post 2am drinking are flawed because she looked at a large group of random people who do not comprise the majority of people who go out post 2am regularly. When the normal people she looked at happen to have their late nights it's generally because it was a special event (stag do, birthday etc) so those people are NOT the typical example, they are the anomaly. They will likely be far drunker than normal as it's a "blow out" sort of night.

    Regular late night clubbers are typically not heavy drinkers, not least because it isn't consistent with being able to stay up late and still be functional. That is where her conclusions show the gap between studies of random large groups and looking at the actual people who are involved.

  3. The first paragraph is exactly the kind of argument I had in mind when writing up my reply. You're also right about the additional cohort effect where the regular late-night clubbers are a smaller proportion of the total number of late-night clubbers on any given evening.