February 16, 2010
Curling has heard all the jokes before.
"Q: What's the best way for a non-athlete to watch the Olympics? A: Take up curling."
"Why is it called curling? The disc is round. It should be called rounding."
"If this is in the Winter Olympics, when is shuffleboard getting added to the Summer Games? My grandpa in Miami Beach would dominate."
Here at the Fourth-Place Medal Investigative Unit, we don't appreciate such jokes. Curling may not be as intense an athletic endeavor as, say, getting the mail, but it's one of the most entertaining sports on the Winter Games schedule. The pushing, the gliding, the brushing, the nudging, the "is it on the line?" drama and the sweeping; oh, the sweeping. Our second Olympic mystery involves that very activity. The FPMIU answers the question that has been vexing Olympic aficionados all day: Those curling brooms aren't really brooms, are they?
Though there are curling brooms that vaguely resemble the common kitchen broom (as seen here), most curlers in the Olympics use a synthetic version that looks more like a Swiffer than what you use to sweep up crumbs under the table. The head is attached to a carbon rod that is sometimes outfitted with a stopwatch near the bottom (to time how long the stone has been out, thus helping judge its speed).
Sweeping is an integral part of the sport (which is why the shuffleboard comparison doesn't fit). After the stone is pushed, two sweepers try to either extend the path of the stone or change its curl with the friction created by moving the broom vigorously back and forth.
Bonus fact: Though it feels like curling has been a staple of the Winter Games for years, the sport was actually off the Olympic schedule for 74 years. It debuted in the 1924 Olympics and didn't return as a medal sport until 1998.
Fourth-Place Medal Investigative Unit is keeping its fingers crossed that the 2018 Winter Olympics will be awarded to Cabot Cove, ME, because we think "Murder, She Wrote"'s Jessica Fletcher would be a great addition to our crack mystery team. If you have an Olympic mystery you'd like solved, leave a note in the comments section or send us a message on Twitter.