Bad news for U.S. curling fans: both the American men’s and women’s teams are officially out of Olympic competition. Not only that, but they went out in the worst way possible — on the bottom. Of the 10 competing nations at this year’s Winter Games, the U.S. women were dead last and the men only did slightly better.
And sadly, this isn’t a fluke. If you combine Sochi’s results with those in Vancouver in 2010, the total U.S. wins among both the men’s and women’s teams is seven out of 36 games. That means 29 losses.
Why are we so bad?
“This is an Olympic sport Americans really should own,” said Steve Politi, a columnist for The Star-Ledger. He wonders why the sport isn’t more popular in the United States considering:
1. It takes place indoors, because what American really wants to be outside during the winter?
2. It involves teaming up with friends, and then when things go horribly wrong, blaming them. The American Way!
3. It attracts some drop-dead gorgeous participants. Google the name Anna Sidorova from the Russian women’s team. You’ll be practicing with your broom in the kitchen.
4. It isn’t particularly taxing on the body. One P.R. firm sent an email with tips on how to avoid getting hurt while curling. It actually included this: “One way an athlete can prevent curling injuries is to always stay firmly planted on the ice, helping to avoid a slip or fall.”
5. It has beer. Lots of beer. Some curling clubs actually store their kegs on the playing surface.
The flaw in Politi’s logic, however, is that having more people participate won’t necessarily field better Olympic teams if those millions of Americans don’t take the sport seriously.
Sure, you can play a casual game of curling completely sloshed. You can do that in a pick-up game of basketball, too, but good luck making it to the NBA.
So, how do we get Americans to take curling more seriously? It might be a matter of marketing. After all, if there’s something we love more than drinking beer with our friends, it’s making money.
If people could make curling their sole source of income, it would probably attract a more serious crowd. Unfortunately, Subway is not knocking on curlers’ doors hoping to give them millions of dollars to smile and say “Eat Fresh” about a sandwich with Fritos on it.
But to score endorsement deals, two things need to happen: Americans need to get good at the sport and then a dominant personality needs to emerge. Basically, curling needs its own Tiger Woods.
That’s when Subway will come a-knockin’. And Swiffer (seriously, what better match for a curling endorsement could there be?) But we’ll really know when curling’s made it when EA Sports releases Pro Curler, preferably on the Wii or Xbox Kinect. Hmm, that idea might be worth a gold medal in and of itself.