My wife has a recurring dream where she wakes up angry at me. She wakes up and tells me that she dreamt that I was cheating on her with an unknown mistress. She spends the whole dream trying to figure out who the other woman is, only to find out in the end that it is a curling sheet. Weird, but understandable. Admittedly I have had a life-long affair with curling.
It started when I was 13. I started curling in a junior league at Lachine Curling Club, and I loved it. I started Saturday morning juniors in September, and by Christmas I was hooked. I was asked to spare for a team with some older kids at the annual Christmas Bonspiel at the TMR curling club. I remember getting picked at my house to go and play by 3 seventeen-year-old girls with 80’s hair in their parent’s Oldsmobile with Bon Jovi blasting on the radio. For a shy 13-year-old boy, this was obviously the highlight of my life at that point. I do not remember how we played that tournament, but I remember the car ride. I wish I had a copy of our team picture from that event.
Since then, curling has given me so much. I curled juniors and had ridiculous amounts of fun getting into trouble with friends in crazy places. I loved the game. The drama, the strategy, the history. I soaked it all in. I would practice after school with my friends. We would play tournaments on weekends. It allowed me to get into the right amount of trouble.
After juniors, I started curling in men’s and mixed leagues. I curled with or against grandmas, police officers, union reps, lawyers, conspiracy theorists (we called them “crazy guys at the end of the bar” back then), politicians, World War 2 vets, students. The curling club was a diverse cross-section of society. And after every game, you would sit and have a drink (or usually 2 or more) with the teams. What I did not realize at the time was how valuable a gift this was.
Curling takes you out of your bubbles. Normally we tend to hang out with people who are like us: people with similar backgrounds, similar beliefs and similar habits. But at a curling club we are all just curlers. And I learned how to talk to people. I learned how to disagree. We learned to laugh at our differences, and not let them define us. I could disagree with someone’s views, but still curl with or against them. Curling was the bridge.
We need this today more than ever. We have lost the ability to tolerate those that we disagree with. Social Media has allowed us to crawl back into our like-minded bubbles. The Crazy Guy at the End of the Bar can now find millions of on-line allies, emboldening his views. Our differences now define us.
Curling is the enemy of this. It is not pretentious, it is welcoming. I applaud those working to bring diversity into the sport, we need this. While curling clubs are generally welcoming by nature, it takes awareness to recognize that maybe not all feel welcome, and hard work is required to fix this. We can be better at this, to better reflect the communities we live in. This will help curling continue to play its role in helping to build relationships across boundaries.
I recently moved for work, from Montreal to Toronto. Once again, curling is helping me to fit in somewhere new. Forty years after walking into Saturday morning juniors, I have joined a new league. I have a new team, and I continue to learn and make new friends. I can’t think of another sport that can give you this.
So on this Curling Day in Canada, I declare that this is the greatest game of them all. We need it now more than ever.