By J.A. Adande
It wasn’t too long into my first up-close look at curling that I recognized its superiority over the NFL.
Granted, curling lacks the athleticism, synchronized teamwork and hitting (if that’s your thing) of football. You know what it has? The good sense to make use of modern technology.
First, some curling basics for the novices like me. When the stones are sent down toward the other end of the sheet of ice they must be released before they cross the “hog line.”
And how do we know whether they were released in time? Look for the little green lights.
You see, there’s a magnetic strip frozen in the ice below the hog line. That, combined with a pressure-sensitive handle on the stone, lets sensors in the stone know if the release is legit. If it’s all good, the little green lights go on. Brilliant.
Why can’t the NFL have something like this to determine if the ball has cleared the first-down marker or the goal line? Why must the most popular sport, in this great country of innovation, remain locked in a pre-Industrial era?
Think about the standard football practice of determining first downs when it’s a close call. An official estimates where the ball’s forward progress ended, then motions for a couple of guys holding sticks to run 20 to 30 yards across the field before stretching the chains to their limits, then eyeballing whether or not there is a gap between the nose of the football and the forward stick (utilizing an index card on occasion). Even the supposedly modern method of reviewing close plays at the goal line can be undone by a faulty camera angle or a person blocking the view of the ball.
Why bother with any of that stuff? Why not be more like curling? Just run a magnetic strip under every yard line on the field and activate the ones that come into play on each drive. (The goal lines can have their own frequencies and always be on). Instead of all of the waiting and reviewing, just look for a little green light at the tip of the football.
Curling’s wise embrace of technology won me over. Any sport that sensible deserved a closer look. I also had the fortune to be sitting next to a Canadian at the Olympic curling venue in Gangneung, South Korea. Not just any Canadian; it was Devin Heroux (Twitter handle @Devin_Heroux), a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation who’s like a walking Wikipedia of curling information. He answered every question I could think to ask about the sport, he gave me insight into the strategies and he let me know what to look for next. The knowledge he provided even enabled me to execute my go-to move whenever I’m dealing with an unfamiliar sport: put it in NBA terms.
The Canadian men’s curling team (or rink), Heroux explained, plays a patient, deliberate style, learning the grooves of the ice, playing the long game picking spots and waiting for an opponent to make a mistake. In other words, like the Grit ‘n Grind Memphis Grizzlies.
The United States rink tends to be higher scoring, but also more susceptible to giving up big point totals to the opponent. Kinda like the Seven Seconds or Less Phoenix Suns under Mike D’Antoni.
Oh, and whenever a skip holds his form and remains bent over, sliding along the sheet long after releasing the stone I can’t help but think of one thing: Michael Jordan’s final shot as a Chicago Bull, in Game 6 of the 1998 NBA Finals.
NBA aspects with smarter-than-the-NFL sensibilities. These Olympics got me hooked on curling.