Frank Stranzl

Stop the presses! You had better grab a seat for this one – the United States upset – gasp! – that’s right upset the defending gold medalists, Norway, in curling!

Did I read it in Obscure Sports Quarterly? Maybe on ESPN8 “The Ocho”? No, it was at NBCOlympics.com where I discovered this tidbit of Olympic history.

Al Michaels might not have been the rink-side for this one, but I’m sure he can hardly hold back the excitement. I can see it now; as Shawn Rojeski conducts a perfect three-stone knockout – “Do you believe in miracles? YES!” as a Norwegian stone clanks away from the middle target. Then the crowd goes wild.

It’s pandemonium! We beat those dastardly and elusive Norwegians in what could come to be known as “The Miracle On Ice: Part II.”

In fact, not only was the U.S. team victorious, but they literally beat them into submission. A curling match lasts 10 frames, but, realizing the upset was imminent, the Norwegians conceded in the eighth frame.

This shake-up on the international curling scene will surely become an instant classic. It will undoubtedly be called upon as an inspirational moment in American Olympic history, just like the Lake Placid version of “Miracle on Ice.”

The similarities to the 1980 Olympics are impeccable. The rivalry even had a history. The Norwegians defeated Uncle Sam twice at the world championships twice last year, the second of which eliminated the U.S. from medal contention.

Those two losses are in the past now. America: curling conquerors.

In reality, this upset is no more meaningful than the Tampa Bay Devil Rays winning a game against the New York Yankees. Upsets are as frequent in curling as they are in baseball, according to the article at NBCOlympics.com.

Nonetheless, it is curling – so I felt compelled to dedicate this column and a portion of this sports page to this semi-monumental event.

Now, some of you may be asking yourselves, “Is curling really a sport?” The answer is obviously no, but it is a spirited and competitive activity very comparable to shuffleboard, which doesn’t happen to be a sport either.

For the sake of maintaining tradition and an Olympic standard, we can simply refer to curling as a “sport,” a pseudo-sport of sorts.

Curling traces its roots to Scotland. Although there is no precise date pinpointing the beginning of curling history, the “sport” was common amongst Scottish parishes by 1638, according to the USA curling Web site.

The sport likely touched North American soil in the 1700s, but the first documentation of the “sport” didn’t occur until 1807 with the founding of the Montreal Curling Club, the Web site said.

Despite its lengthy history, records of world champions didn’t begin until 1959, as listed on Wikipedia.com. The first six years of the world championships belonged to the mighty curlers of Canada while the inventors of the game, the Scots, settled for runner-up each of those years except for one. (The United States took second in the 1962 championships.)

American teams have actually claimed three men’s championships, the last coming in 1978. The Canadians and the Swedes have dominated in recent years.

Women’s curling tells a very similar story, as Swedish and Canadian supremacy has become a trend in international curling.

At the Salt Lake City Olympics, Norway, while a strong team, was considered an upset winner of the gold medal in men’s curling. And here we are now, four years later, and the Americans have defeated them. The Americans have been shut out of major curling championship medal stands for years ” maybe this is the year American curling comes back to its glory days like those of the mid-to-late 1970s when Bob Nichols, Bill Strum and Bud Somerville ruled the rinks.

And for those of you wondering where you might be able to find a curling rink by you, the San Francisco Bay Area Curling Club might be the place for you.

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