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Curling Gold: Has to Be a Movie

February 26th, 2018 · No Comments · Olympics

Here’s guessing that most American fans of the Winter Olympics watched pretty much anything that was put in front of them. Aside from curling.

What is curling, anyway?

Does it have lots of thrills and spills built in, like sledding or jumping or shooting? It is a high-aerobics sport where only the elite can survive, like speed skating or cross-country skiing? Is it a refined and delicate event like figure skating?

Well, no.

Curling is pretty much made of up of more than a few doughy people who do not look like Olympic athletes. Who happen to have an odd skill for sliding a rock over a frozen lane. Who typically receive very little attention unless they are about to win a medal.

Which is why most of us checked out on men’s curling in the first week of the Pyeongchang Games. John Shuster‘s American team was doing what it does, which is pretty much melt during the Olympics. “Nothing to see, move along.”

Until the plump former bartender from Minnesota who led the U.S. team caught fire, leading to what might be the greatest clutch shot in curling history — and to a gold medal.

Check at 2:15 of this clip for the money shot — Shuster’s clutch effort that produced a 5-0 “inning” for the Yanks against Sweden in the gold-medal game. (Note how Shuster’s shot leaves five U.S. stones in the circle, and zero Swedish.

It broke a 5-5 tie and led to a 10-7 finish.

Shuster’s history in the sport lends itself to drama.

–Young, overweight savant who helps the U.S. to a bronze medal at 2006 Turin. (Not one minute of which I saw, even though I covered that Olympics. Curling bronze was not to be confused with Shaun White in half pipe.)

–Fine results for Shuster over the next eight years — so long as it was not the Olympics, which led to the legend of Choking John Shuster. In 2010 and 2014. He now works for Dick’s Sporting Goods, and you had to wonder if they regretted the connection.

–It seemed like more of the same when Shuster’s team (he was the “skip”, the captain) when the U.S. lost four of its first six matches.

–Then the turnaround. Shuster’s crew ran off five consecutive victories to reach the semifinals, where they knocked out Canada 5-3 (crushing the Canucks), setting up …

–The gold-medal game. The Swedes has been the best all-around team, and their skip looked like he could be a real athlete, as opposed to Shuster, and then this John Q. Public of a Yank led his team in a taut final — that Shuster broke open with that five-point lightning bolt.

I saw him being interviewed the next morning, and he was stretching to meet “slob”. He had not shaved in … quite some time. He was a bit puffy and the part we could never get over was … he did not look like a guy who would win a gold medal in a donut eating contest.

That seems the stuff of a made-for-TV movie, at any rate, and some chubby actor (Kevin James is available; but he might be too “buff “for this) will get the leading role as a doubt-infused guy who “plays” the winter version of shuffleboard — and turns out to be the best in the nation in it, winning fans and delighting his family. (Wife, two kids; Mr. Middle America.)

And convincing millions of onlookers that if that guy can win Olympic gold, why not me?!?


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