curling stones brush house ice Olympics Vancouver 2010 abyss Sweden Canada
Are the lights off? Or is this just a never-ending abyss?

The Coldest Stone: A Curling Fever Dream

Have you ever watched a three-year-old curling match while you had the flu?

curling stones brush house ice Olympics Vancouver 2010 abyss Sweden Canada
Ryan O'Hanlon

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There is a woman spinning on an icescape surrounded by the Northern Lights. There are buildings shooting up from the ice. There is a man, crouched over, one eye closed, getting ready to pull the trigger of a gun. And there is a bobsled, shooting down an open road covered in ice, making its way through what appears to be some kind of business park. Some hockey players spin circles around each other, and there are just a lot of uncontrollable feats of athleticism happening throughout a city made of frozen water right now.

This is all in my head, I think. Well it’s on a TV screen, too, but it feels like it’s in my head, a bunch of tiny Olympians crashing back and forth, brick edifices breaking through ground that’s not supposed to be broken through. I don’t know. I have the flu, and this is a general way of describing it: there is an Olympic ceremony occurring inside of your brain, and you cannot stop it. And you also can’t watch it, which defeats the purpose of the Olympics if you’re not an Olympian, so it’s all just not very fun.

I have had fever dreams, I think. That is, I currently have a fever, and have had one for the past few days, and while sleeping with a fever I have also had dreams. But there is now a woman on my television, standing by herself. She’s yelling at someone? I don’t think it’s me, but in the sense that she’s yelling at a camera that intends to then project her image out to viewers, maybe she is actually yelling at me.

Swedish guys are the best! We don’t care about the rest! Sweden! Sweden! Sweden!

Now there is a man wearing an animal on his head, and he’s squeezing an electronic rubber chicken. This is the reality that all fever dreams are based on.

IT IS NOW 6-1 in favor of Canada. This is the best curling match ever, or it’s A Curling Match Ever. I don’t know. This is one of the most-viewed curling matches on YouTube for whatever reason and it comes up when you search for “Best Curling Match.” Oh, there go those Norwegian pants!

Um, yeah. This is from the 2010 Olympics, and you watch curling matches from three years ago when you’re working from home and your body feels like it was just microwaved and you don’t have cable and you’ve already watched every movie on Netflix that isn’t The Artist because watching a silent film when your brain is filled with miniature speed-skaters is a good way to end up face down in a bathtub filled with oatmeal. Metaphorically speaking.

Sweden looked like they were going to lose this next end by two, but some strategic shots that didn’t even reach the house (read: the bull’s-eye-looking thing you score points on) forced the Canadians to waste some stones, and it gave the Swedes the last shot, which they used to knock out a Canadian rock and earn themselves one point, making it 6-2 after eight ends.

Canada is at home, and there’s a cowbell ringing whenever they shoot, so they have home-ice advantage or whatever you call it, but does that really matter in curling? (Is a clanking cowbell actually going to help you push a stone across a sheet of ice?) I’m not sure it matters in any sport, really, right? When you’ve done this thing for as long as you have—whether it’s snowboarding, rock climbing, skiing, soccer, basketball, or curling—you’re just doing it again … with some admittedly higher stakes. When someone screws up or does especially well in a big tournament or an important game, it’s easier to attribute it to nerves or some kind of clutch intangible, rather than the (way more likely) randomness of sports/life.

THE CANADIANS LOOKED LIKE they were going to take another end by a multiple-point margin, but Sweden was patient—at least, I think they were; there’s no announcer to tell me what to think—and they earned another point to make it 6-3 heading into the final end. For their final shot, Canada just slid their stone out of bounds, conceding the one score to Sweden. But now they’ve done the same with their first two stones of the final end—and a part of me feels like the sport is crumbling from the inside. When you’re not trying to score, and seemingly then not trying to win, does anything even matter and does the sport even really exist?

Yes, it does. After a few more shots, Canada knocks two of the Swedish stones out of the house with one shot, and the match is over because Sweden only has two stones left, and they’re down by three. The Canadians are on their way to the gold-medal match that happened almost three years ago, and the thing that seemed like it was going to happen all along did come to pass. From near oblivion, the sport returns, rather easily, right to where it’s always been: Canadians winning.

Now that woman is back, spinning so fast that I’m happy she’s stuck inside a TV and nowhere near me; she can’t suck me into her frozen ice-dervish. Oh, and then there’s a new woman, some kind of masquerade-ball-queen staring at me, and I can only see her face. She wasn’t here last time, I don’t think. Or at least I didn’t notice her, but after a few seconds she is gone, disintegrated into snowflakes, and the hockey players are back, and the bobsled is sliding, and the speed-skaters are rubbing the ice, and I think I already miss that lady with the mask. But now the TV is blank, and she’s gone, and I’m in a hot room filled with mostly-empty PowerAde bottles, ripped-open Dayquil packets, and vitamin-C-crusted water glasses. Everything’s back to how it was before.

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