Curling Next to Royalty … Stories from the Big Spiel

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Borrowed from Wikipedia.

After getting to Minnesota, I learned that three-time Olympian John Shuster was playing in the Big Spiel. With so many draws spread out over four days at three different clubs, it wasn’t even likely our paths would cross. Nevertheless, throughout the course of the weekend our respective teams were in the same draw at the St. Paul Curling Club. As a fan, I was hoping for the opportunity to meet and maybe get a photo with him. At the same time, I didn’t want to be “that guy” and bother him before one of his games, so I figured I’d keep my eyes open in the club area after one of those draws.

Sunday morning I was tired and nervous. We won our first game the night before, staying alive in the 8th event…aptly named the “clown car.” Win and we’re in the final, lose and we go home. I was sitting in the viewing area watching the end of the draw before ours, trying to calm my nerves and get my head set right. My teammate Greg commented on an attempted triple takeout in the match, saying that it was a nice shot but it was a shame that he only got two, to which I replied: “Well, you know what Meatloaf said: ‘Don’t be sad, ’cause two out of three ain’t bad.’ ”

This elicited some chuckles from some unseen people behind us, and one of the group said: “That’s a pretty solid reference for this early on a Sunday morning. Plus you actually made people laugh.” Without even looking back I just said “Yeah, I have my moments.” That was that, and pretty soon after we were on the ice and playing. It was a good game, but we lost and soon after were on our way home. I never ran into John Shuster, other than seeing him play a few sheets over from ours…or so I thought.

Driving through Wisconsin that night we were recapping our trip with one another. I lamented the fact that I never got the chance to meet John Shuster. At this point my comrades informed me that the unseen person who laughed at my joke was none other than the man himself. Somewhat incredulous, I asked them why they didn’t tell me, as that would have been a perfect time to meet him and get a picture. “We thought you knew and were just trying to play it cool.” they told me. “No guys, I had no idea…thanks.” I thought about it for a second, then just shook my head and laughed, realizing it would make a good story.

philCPhil Darin has a goal of opening his own clothing line of curling apparel, entitled “Loudermouth Pants.”  Want to hear more of his insights about curling, drinking, and drinking while curling? Are you Eve Muirhead?  

Greg Torkelson’s “The Shot”
Dan Mulka’s “Bonspiels are More than Just Curling”


Curling Night in America: What You Can Learn from Watching Curling

Like most Americans, I was basically unaware of curling before the Olympics. I became completely engrossed in the competition in 2014 though, even going so far as to wake up at stupid o’clock in the morning to catch matches live. My enthusiasm built as the games went on and never waned. Afterwards, I found myself wanting more.

So there I was, watching lots of curling yet never having played. The more I watched, the more I wanted to play. I found Windy City Curling, attended a learn to curl session, and soon was playing regularly. I was definitely an armchair skip…I could call shots and strategy, but could barely slide out of the hack without falling over, let alone make a shot. I kept at it though, and now I find myself able to hold my own…Kevin Martin I am not, but at least I look like I know what I’m doing.

Watching curling led me to play in the first place, and I think it has helped me to become a better player as well. The top players have excellent form, and I find myself emulating their technique, even if subconsciously. When it comes to strategy, I find I’m better able to visualize shots, and know what is and isn’t possible, based on what I’ve seen in matches. Besides that, I’ve picked up on how easy and/or difficult certain shots may be…sometimes it’s easier to nail that double takeout than to draw around a guard to the button. Conversely, I find that I enjoy watching curling more after having played for awhile. Playing has given me a better understanding of the game as a whole, and on a situational level I think I have a better appreciation of what it really takes to make a particular shot.

philCOf course, the players I watch are light years ahead of my skill level. However, therein lie some of the best lessons I’ve learned from them…everybody misses shots, everybody makes mistakes, and nothing is certain. I’ve seen some of the best curlers in the world miss “easy” shots, skips make foolish calls, seemingly perfect shots pick and inexplicably fall off line, and so on. Given this, when I make a bad shot or mess up it keeps me grounded to know that the best in the world do the same thing at times, and I don’t feel as bad about it.

Of course, outside of the Olympics curling is rarely shown on American TV. Most of my viewing has been on the internet. That is set to change soon as NBCSN and Universal Sports Network are debuting “Curling Night In America” this week. Curling always draws huge ratings in the U.S. during the Olympics, and this presents a great opportunity for curling fans to show the powers that be that curling can be a ratings draw outside of the Olympics. So, if you’re a fan of curling be sure to tune in, watch, and record the series. Live viewing and recording will both help with ratings, so it’s important to do both if you are able to. Curling is a growing sport in this country, both for players and fans, and good ratings for this event will only help to get more curling on TV and more often, which in turn will only help to grow the sport more.

Here is the broadcast schedule for Curling Night In America from NBCSN:

January 23, 2015 – 10 PM Central
February 6, 2015 – 10 PM Central
February 13, 2015 – 11 PM Central
February 20, 2015 – 10 PM Central
February 27, 2015 – 10 PM Central
March 20, 2015 – 10 PM Central

Here is the schedule for Universal Sports Network:

January 22, 2015 – 1 PM Central
January 30, 2015 – 1 PM Central
February 6, 2015 – 3 PM Central
February 15, 2015 – 5 PM Central
February 27, 2015 – 5 PM Central
March 13, 2015 – 2 PM Central

Here is a link to a press release from USA Curling about Curling Night In America:


Phil Darin is new into curling, but is an experienced veteran when it comes to Loudmouth Pants.  Want to hear more about curling, beer and music? Is your name Eve Muirhead? Click on the button to follow Phil. .