To the uninitiated, the sport of curling is not only unique. It can be downright bizarre with its curious terms like "rocks" and "the house" and the "skip."
First of all, the game is made up of 10 "ends," which are sort of like innings. Two teams go head to head, each of which has eight 42-pound "rocks" of solid granite to which handles have been attached (red for one team, yellow for the other).The object of the game is to take turns sliding the rocks along a 146-foot sheet of ice and land the rock inside a 12-foot circle, called the house, at the end of the sheet. The strategy comes into play when your opponent tries to knock your rock out of the house.
After the teams alternate tossing rocks eight times, the score is tallied by how many rocks each team has remaining in the house. One point is scored for each stone closer to the center of the circle than any of the opponents' stones.
Each team is made up of four players, each of whom will shoot two rocks in each end. The first player is called the "lead," the next is the "second," the next is the "vice skip" and the last is the "skip," the team leader who decides on shot selection and reads the curl in the ice.
It is actually the movement of the handle upon release of the rock that causes it to curl as it slides toward the house. Because the rock will not slide in a straight line, two team members with brooms slide in front of the moving rock to sweep the ice surface, a mechanism to slightly melt the ice and thereby redirect the rock or add distance.
Called "sweeping," the vigorous brooming action on the ice is the most recognizable part of the game. It is also an extremely complex procedure involving various levels of strategy.
If that all sounds confusing, it is. It gets even more so when you add various aspects of strategies in which rocks are positioned as a defensive wall, when a team intentionally loses a point in one end so that it gets the last shot in the next end, and so on and so on.
"Curling has been around forever, and like golf or football or any other sport, you have to get into it and watch it and learn the rules before it starts making sense," said Rick Patzke, spokesman for the United States Curling Association. "It is definitely a thinking-man's game."