I covered the sheet cake in white frosting. Squeeze tubes of red and blue icing were used to make the rings on both ends. Yellow and red gumdrops became stones, and some of my son’s Lego men posed as the curlers. I don’t recall now what we did to simulate their brooms.
The cake was a manifestation of my sudden obsession for the ancient ice sport of curling developed during the 2006 Olympic Games in Turin. After years of mocking a sport in which middle-aged men and women in black leather shoes sweep ice in front of a circular rock, I actually watched a match. I was enthralled. The sport of curling is a visual treat, but also demonstrates for the viewer a taste of strategy, skill and cunning.
So my son and I gave his cub scout troop a taste of sheet cake in the form of a curling lane. Every kid was supposed to bring an Olympics-themed cake for a contest involving several packs. My son was very much into making a derby car but had no interest in creative baking, so he said yes immediately to a curling cake for wont of a better idea. We were the only father-son curling-cake duo in the church basement, and we also did not win. But the blue and red rings on the sea of white still moved me.
I renewed my affair with curling in 2010 during the Vancouver games, and now the obsession has returned with these games in Sochi. My TiVo is set to record every curling match available. Yes, I will watch all of the matches involving the U.S. men’s and women’s teams, but I will watch other nation’s teams as well. I will watch every match that airs. And then, in two weeks, the Olympics will conclude, and I likely will go another four years before I watch curling again.
I have never played the sport myself. I have never even seen it live. But it transfixes me on screen in the same way that snooker did when I lived in England. If you have never seen a master like Ronnie O’Sullivan clear a pyramid of shiny red snooker balls from a bright green felt board, potting a red and then a black and then a red and another black before clearing through the other colors in perfect order–breaking a century in the process–then you have not lived. It pains me that, even in this magical era of on-demand online global entertainment, I am unable to watch snooker here in the U.S.
But every four years I have curling. Both sports involve masters of skill and strategy whose physiques we do not always immediately associate with athletes. Both are made for television, in that you get to watch colored objects dance across a contrasting solid surface. (That, I realize as I type, could also describe figure skating.) And both involve activities that are not exactly accessible to me. (There are no curling lanes, nor snooker halls, in my northern Virginia neighborhood.)
I’ve written on this blog how I get up early each morning to write. The last few months I’ve devoted some of that time to seeking publication for my memoir, or planning out what my next book will be. But for the next two weeks that time is dedicated to athletes who only make my acquaintance every four years, including women like Erika Brown, Debbie McCormick, Jessica Schultz, Ann Swisshelm, and Allison Pottinger. They sure know how to have fun; check out their spoof of “What Does the Fox Say,” complete with animal costumes:
Now my TiVo calls. My writing muse must wait. As I like to say every four years, curling rocks. (Get it?)