“Good curling!” curlers say as they greet one another before and after the match. Besides my first year in the ACC, this is my first year throwing stones across the ice of a curling sheet at the St. Paul Curling Club as a member of the Luther College Curling Team. Imagine my delight when I learned the Mike Rugg Bonspiel (the curling world’s word for tournament) also featured a cribbage tournament. “Sign me up!” I said. Curling and cribbage have much in common: both are social sports; both involve moving objects in hand across the venue of competition; both are accompanied well by beer. Curling has the hog line, cribbage the skunk line. In cribbage terms, we got skunked this weekend on the ice.
A typical match in curling is composed of eight ends, each team throwing eight alternating stones per end, two per team member. We won the first end of our first match and lost almost every one after that. Not good! Before the weekend, however, I learned the club was looking for spare cribbage boards, so I slapped a name tag on four of my own and hauled them to the club, accompanied by a few decks of cards as well. I met some good people over a game of crib and even taught a cribbage variant, Crash Cribbage, to one of the club’s employees (that I spent three hours on the phone with its creator a week ago will have to wait until I can listen to the audio). I’m pleased to say my teammates, kindled by my own enthusiasm, asked for a cribbage refresher. Reid was skeptical as I counted “knobs,” a rule he declared I made up for my own amusement; can’t say I blame him, it’s a goofy language we cribbage players speak (the same is also true for curling).
For the tournament, the cards were fickle. I beat a curler of 40+ years named Stan to move into the main bracket, and followed up with another close victory over Jesse, a member of a team of guys called the Common Good Curlers, sponsored by Garrison Keillor’s Common Good Books bookstore in St. Paul. They had the pleasure of beating us the first night we ever curled in November, and also the pleasure of seeing me bite it on the ice and split the skin above my left eye open in a gashy bloody mess. Whoever says curling isn’t a contact sport is a liar. In any case, Jesse and I played on his teammate Marty’s family board, a beautiful polished and drill-punched deer antler. By this time it was about 9:30 in the evening, the DJ was the only one dancing, and curlers new and experienced were splayed around octagonal tables above the ice, enjoying a laugh and a few other card games as the spirits flowed freely, evidenced by my third opponent, a gregarious dude named Chad who opened the game pegging ten and celebrating with a shot. I had position down the stretch, but my luck ran out as I dealt him a cool 21 (77789) and he cruised to the semifinals.
All in all it was a great weekend. My legs are sore, my shoulders throbbing, my thighs a burning mess after all that sweeping on the ice. If you ever get a chance to hurl a stone or two, I suggest you take it, and remember to say “good curling!” to those you’re with. I’m looking forward to speaking more with Dave Rugg, whose father Mike the tournament was named after, to talk more about both of their experiences with cribbage, with curling, and how one informs the other.