Sunday, February 26, 2006

Dan Steinberg is tired, coughing and getting grumpier by the minute. When a cake to celebrate the end of the Games arrived a day early in The Post's office, Dan said: "If we eat it today does that mean we can stop covering the Olympics tomorrow?" That's the attitude that will take Dan far in life. That, and his obsessions with blogging, cheese and the Dutch curling team, as discussed yesterday on Tales from Turin:

Steinberg, on Turin's biggest Redskins fan: [Chocolatier] Massimo Gertosio, who runs this shop with his father, is a former left tackle for Giaguari Torino, the Jaguars, a local amateur American football team that quotes Lou Holtz on its homepage. You won't believe why he prefers American football to its European cousin.

"I don't like soccer," he said. "The people play only for fame or money, not just for sport. It could be also for American football, but I know the players work for a target. They take it from the high school to the NFL, step by step."

Amazing, right? All these American hipsters love international futbol because of its purity or something, and now here's a European who loves American football because of its hard-working, non-money-grubbing, goal-oriented players. I guess we'd all like sports more if our heroes worked 3,000 miles away. Seriously, if you couldn't understand what your heroes were saying, and if you didn't have to get slammed in the face with their foibles and contract squabbles every day, and if you didn't have to watch them doing half-naked sit-ups in their driveway, maybe the "spoiled athlete" talk would disappear and all would seem pure in the world of sports. Which is why all of you should pledge to make the Kiwi Curlers the focus of your sporting universe. You'll never read anything negative about them, and therefore, you can shower them with your unconditional love.

Steinberg on his Dutch research: I had no desire to socialize last night, but I was getting obsessed with the Dutch Curling Team, and whether they were real or fake. So we went back to the Holland House, determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. Turns out it's hard to get to the bottom of anything at the Holland Heineken House, save for small plastic cups of Heineken.

Anyhow, it was after midnight, and I was going to a dance party armed with curling rosters. Specifically, the Netherlands' roster from the 2005 European championships: Reg Wiebe, Steve van der Cammen, Reinier Butot, Christiaan Offringa and Mark Rurup, none of whose names appeared in my notebook after Thursday night's encounter with the "Dutch Curling Team." . . .

I saw this guy I knew only as "Dries," one of the alleged curlers.

"You're not really the Dutch Curling Team!" I screamed at Dries. He seemed startled, and said "Yes, we are." I whipped out my roster. He studied it, and then brought me over to Oblong, who said he knew one of the guys listed on my roster.

I saw "Frank," who had identified himself the night before as the skip.

I questioned Frank about his team, and whether they were really the Dutch Curling Team.

"Up till now we're too young," he said. "We need to beat the older generation. The curling federation has a policy that youth should be first, and so from now on we are. Otherwise, we're never going to make it to Vancouver."

He gave me his last name -- "Fraza" and his e-mail address.

I turned to another "curler," Maarten, who had the same story. "We're the next generation," he insisted. "What do you need? What do you need for proof?"

I didn't know.

I said that the "Dutch Curling Team" T-shirts made me think they had represented the Netherlands in international events. "But we never said that," Maarten said.

There were more explanations about the "younger generation" and its feud with the national federation, and the problems of the Dutch system, and the problems within the team.

"You shouldn't be writing all this down," Frank said. "You should be having fun."

So where do we stand? I have no idea. The general consensus around the office is that these guys do curl, and that they do hope to represent the Netherlands in the future, but that they have willingly allowed American journalists to think that they are more powerful in the curling world than they actually are, and that I know more about real Olympic curling superstars than they do. Which reflects poorly on all of us.

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