What to do with brooms and stones

By Ryan Mulloy
February 14, 2002

photo courtesty of Robert McGee

Have you ever played horseshoes at the beach? Perhaps you’ve putted on a golf course? Or maybe you’re familiar with shuffleboard or bowling?

If you can answer yes to any of those questions, then the concept of curling should not be that hard to grasp.

Robert McGee, a professor of mathematics, participates in curling games in his free time, but hasn’t always been an avid fan. “Growing up in Buffalo, I had heard of it before,” McGee said, “but never really gave it a try.” He didn’t actually start until about 12 or 13 years ago.

McGee was also a runner but began having knee problems and needed to try something else. These days, McGee curls with his family and friends at the Philadelphia Curling Club, the only club of its kind in Pennsylvania, located in Paoli. When his kids asked to try the game, he told them to wait until they weighed as much as a curling stone-40 pounds.

If you were to ask McGee about curling, he could tell you just about everything. Curling is a sport that started in ancient Scotland. It is a game played on a long, wide sheet of ice, with inner circles on either end, almost looking like a dart board when viewed from above. There isn’t much equipment. The game involves curling stones and brooms (or brushes). There are also special shoes. The left shoe helps the player stride, while the right has adhesive to hold to the ice. “They’re just like regular shoes. I’ve even just put duct tape on my shoe to help me.”

The teams consist of eight people with four people to a team. Two players stand on the ends and two stand to the sides. The two at the side are the sweepers. They sweep in order to get the stones to continue on their way to the other side or to slow them down. Those players at the end throw the stones, which isn’t exactly throwing. The players at the end slide them down to the other side. Sounds easy enough, right? Wrong.

While everything up to this point has sounded as straightforward as horseshoes, this is where it gets more complex. The stones have a hollow-grind on their bottoms, which allow them to curl. This is where the strategy comes into play. “It’s a bit like a chess game. Though sometimes you just need to be lucky.” The player opposite the slider points out the spot to aim. It’s important to have a spot picked out and to anticipate the curl of the stone. McGee compares it to putting in golf. “Sometimes the players need to worry about the hill and need to change their aim.”

So now you’ve curled the stone and you need to score it. Here is where any knowledge of horseshoes is a big help. The inner circles at the end all determine how well you do. The closer to the center you are, you get one point. If you are even with someone, your scores are null and void.

What’s key in keeping the opponent from scoring is guarding or taking out your opponent. If you want to give it a try, you can put your stones together to guard them or you can aim for your opponent’s stone and try your best to completely nail him from the circles. The game is played in eight ends, sort of like frames, with each player getting a turn and tossing the stone.

McGee’s club, the Philadelphia Curling Club, is very diverse. Men and women can play the game, as well as children. He shares the interest in the game with his wife and often plays with her, living just five minutes from the club. Though he’s seen people in their 80s playing the game. the club also has programs for children.

The club will be holding an open house this weekend in Paoli. The open house will be from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. If anyone is interested in seeing the game in person and not at this year’s Olympics, they can contact McGee at x8344 for further details.

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Ryan Mulloy

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