Editor's note: Originally published in The Eagle on Feb. 21, 2010
There's something about curling.
I can't think of a single sport that's quite like the bizarre, once-every-four-years event that shows up on NBC's cable affiliates during the Winter Olympics.
If curling has been on the TV at your workplace — and let's be honest, who hasn't seen it this week? —it is almost impossible to pass by without cracking some type of joke:
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How are these folks athletes? Does this mean bar shuffleboard is soon to join the Olympic lineup? Do they really need to sweep the ice — don't they have a Zamboni for that? And wasn't that guy on a CBS sitcom? Why are they wearing John Daly's pants?
Then, after the jokes subside — which takes a long, long time — there will be a comment about a particular shot or rule as viewers start to figure just what the heck is actually going on.
Finally, you're hooked.
Suddenly, everyone is an armchair skip, wondering how is it possible to miss that takeout shot.
Let's just say at the Run 'n' Gun headquarters, there was passionate interest and annoyance during each United States curling match this week.
Never before have I cared more about the fortunes of a 0-4 team, whose members were completely anonymous to me seven days ago.
But, boy, I cared.
I cared when seemingly each game came down to the wire (or final end) and every time, the Americans would lose on a horribly curled stone.
Remember how bitter KU fans were after the Bucknell and Bradley losses? Yeah, that was me after losses to Germany, Norway, Switzerland, and Denmark.
I mean, come on, Denmark? I know. Ridiculous. What do those guys even know about curling?
How can the U.S. lose to the 10th-ranked team in the world, when supposedly our guys are No. 4? (In case you were curious, the World Curling Federation ranks 42 countries. You want a piece of us, No. 40 Andorra? Yeah, I didn't think so.)
It got so bad that John Shuster, the U.S. skip (or captain), was benched for the Americans' match against France.
Tough break, guy.
You toil for four years in obscurity to make the Olympic team in a sport which automatically elicits smirks, and suddenly you're on the outside looking in.
But it worked.
Friday against France, the U.S. triumphed 4-3 behind vice skip Jason Smith's clutch shots.
"Obviously, any athlete wants to be in the game," Shuster said on Friday. "But I was giving my teammates all my support, because that's part of being a team."
And then again on Saturday, Smith played the part of Tom Brady for the 2001 Patriots, leading the Americans to an exciting — yeah, I said it — 8-7 extra-end victory over Sweden, this time with Shuster back on the ice in a supporting role.
"When that rock stopped today, I said, 'That's my boy,' " said Shuster of Smith after Saturday's match. "He's always been a big-game player and big shot-maker. He's just always played third and that was his deal. I had no doubt he had the ability to do it. He made some big shots today."
Did I mention San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis was inexplicably in the Vancouver audience for both wins? The power of curling is just that compelling.
Davis compared the atmosphere to that of a 49ers game.
Please. You think people in Stockholm are on the edge of their seats to watch an 8-8 football team?
So having been left for dead, the U.S. team can still rally for the medal round.
What an amazing comeback that would be.
Mr. Shuster, I apologize for cursing you like you were Mitch Williams in the 1993 World Series. You're a better person than I am.
You're a great teammate.
And nothing would mean more to me than to see the U.S. win a curling medal.
At least until next week, when we've again forgotten the sport and its athletes exist.
Run 'n' Gun is The Eagle Sports staff's weekly look at the offbeat side of sports.