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Curling For Dummies

curling header

By Phil Hecken, with Mike Styczen

With the 2010 Olympics in full swing, it’s time to take a look at one of the least understood, and perhaps, most maligned sports, taking place in Vancouver — the sport of curling. Although, my partner for this piece, Canada’s own Mike Styczen, asks, “is curling really more maligned than ice dance?”

You’ve probably heard a curling joke or two (assuming you’ve heard of curling), ranging from “the second most boring sport on TV, after golf,” to “How do you stop bacon from curling in the pan? Easy, take away their brooms.” OK, that last one wasn’t really that funny, but you get the idea. On it’s face curling seems really stupid — a bunch of drunk Canadians pushing a polished stone down an ice lane while two more dudes use brooms to try to make the ice in front of the rock melt, therefore using magic to make the stone go farther and land in a target for points. And, while not too far from the truth, there’s far more to curling than that.

Today, I’ll give you the basics of the game, while Mike will take you through some curling from previous Olympics. Hey, if they play it in the Olympics, you better watch and understand — this way you’ll be able to astound your friends with your knowledge of this fascinating sport (or, you could just watch a movie). Don’t be surprised if, the next time you’re sitting around watching curling with your buddies, they don’t look at you differently when you can explain, in detail, the intricacies and nuances of the Canadian sport of kings.

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The easiest way to explain the sport is to picture a combination of shuffleboard and darts. Basically, it’s two four-person rinks (teams) competing against one another. Each rink, or team, throws (slides) 8 rocks per “end” of play (think of an “end” like you would an “inning” in baseball). Teams alternate turns, and each player throws (slides) two stones.

Each end starts with the “leads” (first players) alternating throws, followed by the “seconds,” then the “thirds” (more commonly known as “vice-skips”) and finally the “skips,” who throw last. The skips study how the rocks move on the ice, and shout for the other players to sweep the rock, usually with some combination of “hurry”, “hard” and “hurry hard”.

The ice isn’t like hockey ice. Instead of being smooth, its sprinkled with water between games to make a sort of “pebble” on the surface. Each player turns their rock as their throwing it, and because of the pebble the rock curls (hence the name) in the direction of the turn.

OK — simple enough so far, right? 4 guys (or gals) each throw a two rocks and try to get them to land in the “house” (that bullseye-type thing). Now, a good thrower can usually get the rock to stay in the house. But there is a reason the sport is called “curling” and that has to do with the way the rock is released and travels down the “sheet” (ice). You have probably noticed, if you have ever watched curling, that some members of the rink are carrying what look like giant squeegies or mops. These are called brooms, and are used to assist the rock on it’s journey toward the house. Sweeping in front of the moving stones can affect both the distance traveled, and the amount of curling a stone does on it’s way down the sheet of ice. Until recently the brooms resembled ordinary household cornbrooms.

To throw the stone, one pushes off a block-like device called a hack, in a motion that generally resembles that of throwing a bowling ball. Note the “perfect” form. (Note also, such Deep Freeze luminaries as Robert Marshall, Larry Kurtze, Ricko & Teebz admiring mocking the release behind the soundproof glass.) To throw a good rock you have to have the weight and the line perfect — if either the weight or line is wrong, bad things happen. Its sort of like putting — you need to figure out the line to the cup and how hard to hit it, and get both right, to sink the putt.

Scoring is relatively simple. A team receives one point for each of their rocks that are within the house and are closer to the center than any of the opposition’s stones. Only one team can score points in an end. To score, a team must have stones within the house and closer to the “button” (the eye of the bullseye) than any of its opponent’s stones. Each stone that meets these criteria is worth one point. In theory, it is possible to score up to eight points in an end. That however, is rarer than a hole-in-one or a 300 game in bowling. Usually, there are anywhere from no points (called a “blank end“) to one point to two or more points per end.

If you have last rock in an end, you want to get two points in that end. Getting only one point when you have the hammer (or “last rock”) is a failure, and frequently a team with the hammer will blank the end to avoid taking only a single point. If the end is blanked, then the same team retains last rock in the succeeding end. A full game consists of ten ends and the team with the most points at the end of the game is the winner!

One of the hallmarks of curling is sportsmanship. Players shake hands before and after the game, players call fouls on themselves, congratulate each other on good shots, and are expected to concede a game that has gotten out of hand without playing the full ten ends.

Curling has been played in North America for at least 200 years, but has only been in the Olympics since 1998.

Curling uniforms used to be far more interesting, recalling the sport’s Scottish roots. Players looked like ladies and gentlemen. Lately, though, uniforms have had more of a bland generic look — plain black pants, black shoes, and shirts or jackets in the country colors.

The Olympic tournament (or bonspiel) is set up like most bonspiels. Ten teams play a full round robin, the top 4 teams then advance to single-knockout playoffs. There’s a separate men’s and women’s bonspiel.

Simple enough, right? Sounds boring right? Well, I used to think so until I began to seriously watch and enjoy the sport during the 2006 Torino Olympics, when NBC broadcast the curling nightly on one of their “upper” channels (probably “Bravo”). Having finally gotten to try curling (albeit all of three or four throws) at the Deep Freeze, it’s given me a new appreciation for the sport, and I look forward to following it during the Games this year. Plus, every once in a while, you get to see a shot like this or something like this, and that is far from boring.

As far as the 2010 Olympics: The women’s gold medal game is February 26th at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT (live on CNBC) and the men’s gold medal game is February 27th at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT (live on CNBC). Curling will also be broadcast at various times from the Opening Round on Tuesday, February 16th, thru the finals, on USA and MSNBC.

The bonspiel is being played at the new Vancouver Olympic Centre in Hillcrest Park in Vancouver. It’s a new 6000 seat venue which will be converted to a 8 sheet rink, community centre and aquatic centre after the Olympics. Incidentally, the the venue is next to Nat Bailey Stadium, once the home of the AAA Vancouver Canadians.

Canada, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.S. are competing in the men’s bonspiel. In the women’s bonspiel, France and Norway are out, with Japan and Russia in their places.

Kevin Martin of Canada (the silver medalist in Salt Lake City) is favored on the men’s side and Cheryl Bernard of Canada is favoured on the women’s. Canada won the mens‘ and Sweden won the womens‘ gold medals in Torino in 2006.

So, are you ready for some curling? You know you are. Go here for all your 2010 Vancouver Olympic curling information, times and schedules.

JUST ADDED: One of the best “How To” videos I’ve seen. Definitely worth a watch.

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asg sneaker headerEverybody’s favorite Uni Watch Sneakerhead Matt Powers is here to give us a quick rundown of the All Star Game kicks — because, as everyone knows, the most important part of the actual game isn’t the game itself, but what the fellas are wearing on their feet. Sneaker Porn if you will. And who knows more about that than the man who owns more shoes than Imelda Marcos, MPowers1634. Here’s Matt:

The 2010 NBA All Star Extravaganza has descended upon Dallas. One of Commissioner David Stern’s biggest fears, besides witnessing Mark Cuban in an NBA uniform, is that his brainchild will become as unimportant as the NFL Pro Bowl. A man like Stern always has powerful allies, such as the folks at Nike, Adidas, Reebok, and even Under Armour.

All of these companies will be outfitting their Rookies, Sophomores, Three-Point shooters, Slam Dunkers, Skills Competitors and All Stars in Double Super Duper sneakers that will make those wearing them able to jump higher, run faster, and disable TV remotes around the world, which might even help their Nielsen ratings.

Most visible in Dallas will be Nike and their cousin Jordan Brand, who has gone so far as to create a makeshift museum in the name of the Jordan Experience which will coincide with the release of the 25th Anniversary Edition of the Air Jordan, the Air Jordan 2010.

What is most interesting about today’s game is that the kicks worn on-court will now be available for purchase by the general public at retail outlets, such as Eastbay, Foot Locker and Niketown.

Adidas will be nicely represented as well, but only Allen Iverson will be representing the Vector.

Under Armour’s lone endorsee, Brandon Jennings, AKA “Gumby 1992,” will have shown his wares in the Rookie/Sophomore challenge.

What is really interesting, is that almost every one of the Nike athletes in the Rookie/Sophomore Challenge wore a team specific version of the Nike Air Max Rise, a shoe that Al Horford and Zach Randolph will more than likely be wearing in the big boys game.

As per Mr. Stern’s hopes, there will be a virtual plethora of NBA-tastic stuff to engage our already uber-stimulated attention.

** Air Force 1 High All Star Game-White

** Air Jordan 25th Anniversary…Check out Tinker’s Top.

** Jordan Brand doin’ it up in Dallas.

Check out the following from yesterday (these are what the All Stars will be wearing in the game):

Chris Paul’s CP3, BROY Red ASG AF1, and Craig Sager is Insane, example 1

Sager Insane 2: AWESOME AIR MAX RISE

Same as Above Minus Sager add Melo M6:

Chris Bosh (Avatar character) Hyperize with McLovin

Amare’s Hyperize

DWade Jordan 2010

Horford Air Max Rise

Wallace 2010

Gasol Hyperize

Nash Hyperdunk lows

JKidd: Peak Chinese Crap/ Randolph Air Max Rise

Dirk Hyperize

Deron with AM Rise, Hyperize Durant with AJ6 Retros

David Lee AM Rise

Duncan Adidas TS SN Commander

Howard, same shoe as above

Rose Adidas TS SN Creator

Is Amare channeling Gervin or what?

I am f***ng good! Every shoe was right!

For those of you who plan on tuning in, enjoy. The rest of us will hopefully becoming the targets of Cupid’s arrows!

Thank you Mister Powers. Many of the pics here and several not posted here are in this flickr album, if you haven’t yet had your fill of sneaker porn.

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sartell hatsAnother Sartell Sabres Cap Update: In yesterday’s post, I had mentioned that Sartell Sabres Caps were available for sale — and that isn’t quite correct — but they will be. Coach Nemanich shot me a quick E-mail and said “I saw some people wanted to purchase a hat. I will have some possibly for sale after the kids get theirs. We couldn’t put them in the store yet. Hope this makes sense.”

So — it sounds like there will be a limited amount of caps available for purchase once the team has been outfitted. I don’t know if Coach plans on having additional orders placed with the supplier, but if there is interest from the Uni Watch community, perhaps he will consider it. I’m not normally a fan of caps with different color brims and crowns, but I’m really digging the white cap. In the comments below (or shoot me an E-mail if you’d prefer), if you are interested in purchasing a cap from the team store, let me/us know. OK? OK!

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scoreboardGuess The Game From The Scoreboard: Back today with a guest scoreboard sent in by reader Chris Rocco. If you saw Chris’ submission last weekend, you’ll begin to detect a pattern here. Ready? Guess The Game From The Scoreboard. Date, location and final score, please, and be sure to link to your answer. And, as always, if you enjoy the game, please send me some new scoreboards! Drop me a line. Thanks!

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uni tweaks headerBack again with more Uniform Tweaks, Concepts and Revisions today. Taking a look at all sports from here on out, so, if you have a tweak, change or concept for any sport, send them my way.

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We start off today with Coachie Ballgames, who had thought I was looking for helmet concepts for the unform tweaks contest; that’s OK, we’ll post the helmet concepts here:

Hello, hopefully I’m just beating the deadline here at 11:30. I’ve got two concepts, one for the Giants, one for the Jets.

1. For the Giants, a tongue-in-cheek play on the fact that they play in New Jersey yet are too embarrassed to carry the state’s name.

2. Going against what I just said, here’s a Jets concept using their “NY” script. I created a mish-mash incorporating a lot of the different looks they’ve rocked over the decades. The shade of green is the bright shade they used in the Joe Namath days as opposed to the current dull shade. The all-green helmet and Jets with a plane flying out of the “J” hearkens back to the late 80’s/early 90s. The oval around the wordmark recognizes the Namath/current look. I replaced the little football with their “NY” wordmark because the football always seemed redundant inside a larger football oval.

Props to sportslogos.net for the templates.

Thanks,
Coachie Ballgames

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Next up is James Comfort, who’s down with some changes for the Bengals, Browns, Cowboys, and Patriots:

Two old school and two new school today.

First up, the worst current uniform in the NFL – the Bengals. I wanted to hold on to a lighter aspect of their stripe thing, but dial it way down and simplify the rest of the uni. These are the end results. Home. Road. Alternate.

Next come the Browns, whom I kept mainly intact, except for one key feature – the helmet. Home. Road. Alternate.

For the Cowboys, the easiest tweak would be to match all their silvers and make all their blues navy. That wouldn’t take much time. So instead I went ahead and did a new school re-imagining of one of the most classic NFL uniforms. Home. Road. Alternate.

For the Patriots I also went new school, but adopted a simple, clean color scheme using an off white instead of silver. Home. Road. Alternate. Alternate Road.

That’s all for today, plenty more where that came from.

–James Comfort

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Our final tweak (actually more of a redesign) today comes from Jeffrey Lewis, who’s a bit Stars-crossed:

Phil:

I was thinking about the Dallas Stars infamous Mooterus jersey.

Conceptually, the idea is clever. If your sports team is named “Stars,” that severely constrains the possibilities for logo design. So, making use of the image inherent in a collection of stars — an asterism or a constellation — is reasonably clever way to increase those options.

If you’re a team based in Texas, then a bull is the obvious choice. (Let’s forget, for a moment, the incongruity between using a constellation and a place that bills itself as the “Lone Star State.”)

What irked me, though, is that Dallas used a made-up constellation. Why? Creating images from patterns of stars in the sky is a very old form of human creativity and has produced some great art. (e.g. this). It’s not like a designer would want for inspiration. And, to be frank, science education needs all the help it can get in Texas.

So, why not make use of a real constellation, and its inherent artistic possibilities? If kids interested in hockey learn also something, or develop an interest in astronomy as well, all the better.

So, I set myself the task of designing a Dallas Stars home alternate that makes reasonably accurate use of the Taurus constellation.

I generally tried to limit myself to working with the design parameters of the existing Dallas home jersey. I share your distaste for the pointless use of black, though black in this case is an appropriate color for a “stars in the sky” jersey. I am not an astronomy buff, but it seems that one has some latitude for creative choice in which stars to show and how those stars might depict a charging bull.

The resulting uniform is this. I was rather pleased with how it turned out, though perhaps that is the long shadow of the Mooterus.

In my fictional scenario, a father takes his daughter to a Dallas Stars game and, as Mike Modano skates by, she asks “Daddy, what’s on Modano’s left shoulder?”

“Why that’s Pleiades, sweetie. We can look for it after the game.”

Yeah, ok, maybe its too much to ask.

JL

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Heh. Great stuff there. Keep the tweaks coming. You know what to do.

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rocksAnd now…a curling quiz…

Since you all read and enjoyed today’s main article on curling, now we have a quiz to see how well you understand the scoring…everyone should get a perfect score, right? Right!

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So, for each of the following five overhead shots of the house, score the end. OK?

# 1

# 2

# 3

# 4

# 5

Good Luck. Post your guesses below.

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That’s going to do it for today. Sorry to anyone who was hoping for slam dunk contest photos — or pretty much anything else that happened in the sporting world, as I was enjoying the Olympic Coverage.

Another HUGE sporting day today, because aside from the Olympics, you’ve got some auto race deal and that basketball thingy. And I guess there’s other stuff too.

Everyone have a swell Sunday. And a Happy Valentine’s Day too.

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