Don’t mess with certain social curling contracts

At least one side of the Continental Cup of Curling will be totally booze free this week, by management fiat.

It may be a sign of the apocalypse. It certainly changes the world – the world of curling, anyway.

At least one side of the Continental Cup of Curling will be totally booze free this week, by management fiat.

The annual event, which pits six non-American rinks (three men’s, three women’s) against six from this continent in a variety of curling formats started Thursday.

Peya Lindholm the world team honcho, has decreed total abstinence for his team for the duration of the event.

For those not familiar with curling this may seem like no big deal. For those that are familiar, this is a ground shaking event.

Curling was invented in Scotland, where there is a distillery around every corner and its popularity has always depended on the social aspect of the game.

A post-game gathering for a dram or two has always, always, been a part of the social etiquette for the curling fraternity.  So much so that long before most curling rinks (including Trail’s) had liquor for sale, it was an absolute necessity for teams to stock liquor in their lockers in order to live up to the most prominent and sacrosanct convention in the game – the winner must buy the loser a drink.

If you beat someone on the ice you had to offer them something with ice in it (or at least a beer) immediately following the match to be considered a kosher curler.

Those who did not often became pariahs. I once had a curler from Nelson, months after circumstances prevented us getting together following our defeat by his rink on a Creston Sunday morning, excruciatingly apologize and explain his/their lapse.

This was a Nelson businessman and city politician who wore a tie while playing, and I believe I may have been still underage, but this serious man was abashed by his breach of etiquette and actually blushed while he civilly confronted me.

The incident is part of the reason I came to love curling – not the booze part, but the rigid requirement of relaxed civility between opponents – and got pretty good at it.

Now the Europeans, many of whose biggest competitions, just like ours, have been sponsored by liquor, beer and wine producers and purveyors, are mandating, “none of that!” for this major annual event.

The American side is nonplussed. None of them can remember such a rule since they achieved the age of majority, and none seem to understand it.

The top rinks play for big money now, but everybody came out of club play and everybody likes the social, convivial aspect that is part of curling’s charm.

The confluence of playing and socializing that is curling has always been curling. It is the roaring game in many ways.

Now Lindholm, who, as brilliantly as he sometimes played, always looked like he could use a stiff belt or two, wants his cohort to suffer the slings and arrows of the slippery game without the self-medicating rituals they are used to.

It’s understandable that Lindholm, whose squad was demolished last year, wants to try something different. Like most competitors, he hates losing, whether it comes with socializing or not.

Here’s my take.

I hope the world team gets beaten even worse than last year. Not because I don’t like the players from there or am a fanatic Team America supporter – it’s really a bunch of strangers playing mostly for the money – but because an integral part of curling has always been its social aspect, enforced by the generally unwritten but stringent rule about winner buys.

Alcohol, of course, need not be a part of that post game. It often isn’t in many clubs. The co-mingling of teams is the necessary part – friendship and civility are key. I have curled both with and against teetotalers who enjoyed the activity as much as I.

I don’t want to contemplate a curling world in which the social aspect is downplayed or downsized in any way.

So, Go Team America.