Thursday, January 29, 2009

A Curling we will go...

This column originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on January 24th, 2009.

As much as I love sports, I have never been much of an athlete. Anyone who knows or has ever seen me can vouch for that fact.

But that hasn’t stopped me from trying to compete over the years as best I could. As my sons got older, I tried to join them in certain athletic activities. As recently as two years ago I pitched on a slow-pitch softball team, and managed to hold my own. I did decimate a hamstring simply running to first base – but hey, at least I tried.

Lately my attempts to best my two boys have been limited to events such as horseshoes, bocce, and the more-my-speed world of fantasy football. Let the record show I did finish ahead of both of them in one league this year, and for the first time won a championship in a different league. But that doesn’t really count in an athletic or physical skill sense.

Now I am attempting to compete with them in a new and entirely unfamiliar sporting arena. Starting next week, I will be on a team competing against my sons in a sport (?) I never thought I would be playing.

I am now attempting curling. That’s right – curling.

For those who don’t recognize just what curling is, think back to the winter Olympics. Did you see that strange game with people slowly gliding big round rocks down a sheet of ice while others frantically swept in front of the rock like deranged 1950’s housewives? That is curling.

My younger son Nate got into curling while attending college a few years back in Virginia. After watching the Olympics, he and some friends found a curling club in Maryland and decided to give it a try. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience and raved about it to his family members.

His older brother Aaron, a newspaper reporter on Cape Cod, covered an event at the Cape Cod Curling Club in Falmouth a short while back. Intrigued by the unusual game and remembering his brother’s stories, he decided it would be a great Christmas gift to sign the three of us up for curling lessons.

You may be thinking it can’t be all that difficult to slide a big rock down a sheet of ice – and you would be right. But curling is a much more skilled and difficult game than it looks like on television, as I quickly found out. Sliding the rock is easy, but getting it to stop where you want is not.

There is much strategy involved in the game, and I am just beginning to understand it all. The captain of each team – called the Skip – calls all the shots and tells his teammates where he wants each rock to land. The first player to throw on each team – called the Lead – is asked to simply get his rocks in the way of the other team. The third thrower (the Vice Skip) takes over when the Skip throws the last rocks and “has the hammer” as he tries to score. You sweep the ice in front of the rock to make it slide further.

Confused? Me too. But I’m slowly learning.

You deliver the 42 pound granite rock by sliding down the ice and gently releasing it as you gracefully glide. My first attempt ended with me face first on the cold surface. My sons were hardly perfect in their early attempts, but they did catch on much more quickly than their competitive Dad.

There is a definite code of conduct amongst curlers, and a lot of etiquette rules. My fellow curlers are of all ages, although a large percentage of the club members are my age or older. This may have something to do with the fact the average age of a Cape Cod resident appears to be 98 or so, but age is not a big factor in curling. It is much more a game of skill than endurance.

My first match in league play will be Tuesday night. I’m practicing my sweeping. My lofty goal is to try and not make a fool of myself. I’m playing Nate’s team. If I fail, I’m sure my sons will let you know.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist, a grandfather, and hopefully a curler. If not hospitalized, he can be reached at

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Power of Will

The column below originally appeared in the Sun Chronicle on Saturday, January 3, 2008.

It has been said having a grandchild changes everything. But when whoever coined that phrase said everything, I didn’t know they really meant “everything”.

As I might have mentioned once or twice before in this space, I was blessed with my first grandchild this past April. Grandson Will (did I mention his name is William?) is everything a grandparent could possibly want. He is adorable, personable, and smart as a whip. He has made the lives of everyone around him so much better.

Well – almost everyone.

You see, since Will was born on April 3, 2008 strange and mysterious things have been happening. Changes have occurred not only in the lives of Will’s happy relatives, but in the political world, the business world, and in particular the sporting world.

Since Will was born, politics have undergone tremendous change. The Republicans nominated a woman for Vice President. The Democrats carried Virginia in a presidential election. And of greatest note, the country elected an African-American President for the very first time.

Since Will was born, 300 point daily swings in the stock market have become the norm. The Fed has lowered interest rates all the way to zero. Mortgage rates are at their lowest in decades, and the Big Three car companies are begging for money in Washington like panhandlers on a street corner.

But Will’s greatest impact may have come in the sporting world, in ways both good and bad. Let’s review what has happened there since Will’s debut.

Shortly after Will’s birth, the Celtics went from a last-place team to winning the World Championship, their first in 22 years. The Boston Bruins, the laughing stock of Boston sports for the last decade, are now the hottest team in hockey.

On the flip side, since Will was born Tom Brady has played less than one quarter and suffered a season-ending injury. The Patriots won 11 games and somehow did not make the playoffs. The Red Sox went from World Champions to losing the American League Championship to – it is hard to say this – Tampa Bay.

On the opening Sunday of football season, my son brought Will to our house to participate in our good-luck rituals. He wore a Tom Brady jersey, and we watched Super Bowl video’s (not last year’s) to warm up for what promised to be a great Patriot season.

After Brady went down with his injury, the tiny Brady jersey was promptly removed from my angelic grandson and stuffed in a drawer where it can no longer harm anyone. Later, my son put a Tedy Bruschi jersey on him – and Bruschi got hurt. We are not blaming Will for either injury – but we didn’t put anyone else’s number on his back for the remainder of the season, just in case.

After the Pats were eliminated from playoff contention last Sunday, my family members began to discuss the post-Will world in which we now all live. It quickly became apparent to us that my grandson has been endowed with some type of strange power, and is struggling to control it.

We will now try and find ways to harness the wonderful power of Will. We must find ways to channel his karma for purposes that help us, and steer it away from the unwitting damage his unchecked aura has created.

Maybe we could get him Yankee pajamas and hope it leads A-Rod to marry Madonna and retire from baseball. No, forget it – there is no way we would ever allow Yankee pajamas on a beloved family member.

Of course, non-believers like Will’s mom and grandmother firmly reject any notion that young Will could somehow be connected to anything that brings bad luck. They need to understand we are not saying Will is unlucky – just that he has yet to grow into the superstitions and rituals we all know control the world. We just have to get him through this difficult stage.

I love my grandson with every ounce of my being. But I’m telling you, if the Celtics go on a long losing streak, Brady breaks his other leg, or the Detroit Lions beat the Pats in the Super Bowl next year – we are going to have to cover that kid in rabbit’s feet.

Bill Gouveia is a local columnist and has a grandson named William, who is the greatest. Grandpa can be reached at