Our media man here at Windy City Curling, Dan, wrote a blog a month back about the shot he made in his Learn 2 Curl that brought him back to keep curling. I have one of these myself (a takeout). If you’re reading this, you probably have one yourself, too. I mean, most of us are here because there was something awesome that happened at our first Learn 2 Curl that made us want to keep playing this game, right?
But what about the shots that got us all to TRY curling?
I’m sure you know the ones I’m talking about: those incredibly difficult and full of world-class finesse shots that you see those Olympians making? Those seemingly almost impossible deliveries with just the right weight to get the stone to hit another at an impossible angle and speed that sends it flying into other enemy stones that knock them just far enough out of play? Or those draws through the narrowest of gaps, where even the slightest of an incorrect deviance would spell disaster for the team? You know… shots like these?
Those are, quite simply, “TV Shots.”
Way more advanced than your common draw, they are the shots that not only require great skill to pull off, but also are more visually exciting for audiences to watch than say, placing a guard. (No disrespect to guard-placers intended, of course. While your job is highly valued and important, it’s just not visually stimulating, comparatively. Apologies.)
We all dream of making a TV Shot. Or two. Or hundreds. But they’re rather elusive, aren’t they? First off, the field of play has to be set up just right for even the possibility of one. And even then, what makes them so cool is that, unto themselves, they happen against great odds. So many things in a TV shot could go horribly wrong and spell disaster for the team. The mere fact they go off without a hitch makes them impressive. But when you factor in the skills needed of the shooter, the sweepers, and the skip – all having to work in solid synergy to make it work – Boom. The crowd goes wild. (Even if, just like we imagined when we were kids, that crowd exists only in our heads.)
I got the chance to try and make one of these TV shots tonight.
We were down two points in the seventh end. All players on both teams were shooting spot-on this end, it seemed; I don’t think anyone missed a shot. I had two blue stones sitting on either side of the button, touching it. They had this one pesky yellow stone right between them, just close enough to keep me at lying one. (They were that close.)
In front of the house: a tight guard just off of center line, with another guard a foot in front of it on the center line. There were a mess of other errant stones scattered about, making the area of play a minefield of granite. To top it off, the arena sheet we were on couldn’t make up its mind as to which direction it wanted to curl. Throw a stone one way, it curls like it should. Recreate the exact same shot, it curls like it shouldn’t. Try it again one more time, just to see… Who knows?!
They had the hammer. I was up to throw my last stone. I said to my third, “We have two options: we can either try draw around all of this mess and see if we can make it to the button – which is highly unlikely; -OR- I try to hit the tighter guard at just the right angle. If we do that, it should – theoretically – raise into their own stone already in the house with enough force to knock it through and out. And if it hits it dead-on, it’ll stay where it impacts, further away, leaving us lying two instead of one. The risk is, of course, hitting the further guard, or hitting the tighter one at the wrong angle and accidentally taking one of our own stones out, or missing everything altogether which, based on this sheet, is the likeliest.”
“Can you make that shot?” he asked me.
“Probably not,” I admitted with a smile. “But hey – if we’re going to give them hammer coming home, I’d rather take two now and tie it up. Go big or go home, right?” It was weird. I knew that our opponents were too good to not risk it. If they had any lead in the final end, they’d probably take us.
So that’s what we went for. We had our plan. It looked somewhat like this. (I apologize for my terrible abuse of MS Paint.) I was going to try what, in my beginner’s head, seemed to be a very tight and difficult “TV shot.”
I skated down to the hack, and got my rock ready. My third set his broom down and stuck his left arm out. (Now, you might be rightfully thinking, “Um… dude? Look at your picture. Why not curl it the other way, where the shot would be easier?” Because Arena Ice, that’s why.) I settled into the hack; my heart was racing slightly more than usual. This was not going to be an easy shot, and I knew it – but I wanted to make it. It’s weird. For whatever reason, I almost needed to make this shot, and I don’t know why. If I had to guess, I suppose it was to prove to myself that maybe – just maybe – somehow I might possibly (Dare I say it?)… be actually improving on some small level at this sport? And that my time put it thus far has been worth it, in some capacity? I’m honestly not sure.
The cuff of my left sleeve snapped me back to reality. For whatever reason it suddenly felt too tight on my wrist and made my grip on my broom feel… awkward. It’s weird how the littlest things easily ignored suddenly become that which pulls our attention and focus when we’d rather they not, no? So, “What the heck?” I thought. I took a moment to unbutton my cuff and roll it up.
As I was doing so I’m pretty sure I heard one of my sweepers (a delightful woman who subbed in for us tonight) say to the other, “Oh… he’s getting serious.” Or, “Oh… he means business.” Or some other such sentiment. At least I think that’s what I heard. At this point in time, nothing else seemed to really exist except for their smiling faces with their brushes at the ready, my vice as he stared intently at my stone, and the broom he was holding for me marking my target.
I slid out. The second the stone left my hand, I knew I would at least be close. “At least I could say I gave it my best.” The weight was there. The line was there. My sweepers followed pursuit, waiting for a call. I only called them on for a second or two – just enough. They swept and held the line. I called them off. I remember thinking, “If it doesn’t curl now, it’s going to wreck on that damn guard…”
No sooner had I thought that, the stone took the curl. Would it be enough? “Curl, curl, curl…” I begged in my head. It was curling, but it would have to curl a lot more, and yet, not too much – all at the same time. “Curl-Don’tOverCurl, Curl-Don’tOverCurl…”
At what seemed to be, from my angle, the last moment, my rock just cleared the front guard. “Objective One: Clear the Front Guard – Complete.” It then did not over-curl, held its course, and impacted into the tighter guard. “Objective Two: Make Contact with Target Guard – Complete.” Now the moment of truth: the new rock in motion… Did I hit it at the right angle? Their guard bee-lined into the house, impacting straight and head-on into their stone. My eyes widened. “Objective Three: Hit and Raise Target Guard into Enemy Stone – Complete.” I watched in disbelief as the guard I bumped up stopped dead in its tracks. “Objective Four: Do Not Hit and Roll Target Guard into Friendly Stones – Complete.” The stone it hit – theirs – flew *right* between my blue rocks and out of the back of the house. “Primary Objective: Find a Way to Remove Hostile Enemy Stone from House without Touching Friendly Stones in Play – Complete.”
I couldn’t believe it. The rush of joy I felt spring up… I pumped my fist into the air and let out a, “YES!” as my teammates offered compliments and congrats on a stone well-played. I was grinning like an idiot from ear-to-ear. I had never before attempted to make such a tight and difficult shot (my bad art work truly doesn’t do it justice), let alone have it succeed exactly as planned.
The gain I made of now-lying two shot stones was short-lived, however. In fact, the other team managed to use their last rock to ultimately take one point in the end. With an equally impressive double-raise, their skip took full advantage the Hammer stone provided and stopped me from stealing two. (I wish I could recall exactly what he did to do this, because it was an equally impressive TV shot in its own right, but I honestly was too busy calming myself down to keep my wits and memory about me.) And, to further bring the story back down to Earth: my earlier premonition was right. With them being up three points going into the final end, they won. Yes, we may have had hammer, but sadly, my team ultimately lost the match by one heartbreaking point. However, it was a well-earned victory by my opponents, and I absolutely salute them on a game greatly played.
So I won’t be on NBC at the Olympics anytime soon (or probably even streaming online at a national- or world-level event), and that’s okay. Because for one brief glimmer of a moment, I felt that much closer to being camera-ready.
For someone who’s already been coming back time after time, that’s a shot that’ll still keep me going.
Now what about you? Do you have a “TV shot” moment you want to share? Let me know in the comments below! Or tell me on Facebook! Or sum it up in 140 characters and tweet it to me on Twitter!
(Eric Reithel is a guest blogger who, in this blog entry, forgot to thank his mother, Goldline Curling supplies, and whoever made the awesome ham sammiches on Hawaiian rolls tonight. Their love, help, and support fueled one of his only curling career highlights in life so far, and he deeply regrets their omission. You can follow him on Twitter @TheCraftyCurler.)