The image of a winter Olympic athlete is bathed in low-lying sunlight; tall, sleek, fit and full of promise. Then you turn on the TV to watch the games to witness average-looking people wearing sweaters and warm-up pants; crouched next to stones; scraping the ice with brooms. Curling might not look like much, but learn the game's scoring system for a deeper appreciation of the Olympic sport.
Nine innings comprise a baseball game and 10 ends make a curling match. Like baseball, the team that has the last crack at offense has an advantage. The stone that is shot last in an end is said to be the "hammer." But unlike baseball, the top and bottom of an end are not predetermined. Each team alternates shooting stones at a bull's-eye, called a button, painted into the ice; eight stones per team per end. Only the team closest to the button at the close of an end scores, getting 1 point for every stone that is closer than any of the opponent's stones. The closest team can score 1 through 8 points per end. The team that lost the previous end gets the hammer in the next.
Curling and Sweeping
Curling ice is not like hockey or figure skating ice. It is rough and uneven. Skilled players can spin shots to dictate the movement of the stone, effectively curling shots around stones already in play. Draw shots, as they're called, are performed without the broom, using the rough ice to help curve the stone. Friction from brooms melts some of the uneven ice, letting the stone slide on a watery mixture with less friction. You'll see players frantically sweep the ice in front of a stone for a straighter, faster shot.