February 28, 2010
I'm not one to spend much time thinking about (or watching) anything to do with the Olympics but this spate of Winter Games brought something that would have thrilled my mother to the tips of her toes. None other than the Norwegian Men's Curling Team and those fabulous pants.
My mother was inordinately proud of her Norwegian heritage. I say inordinately, because it was not based on any direct experience or connection - she never managed to travel to Norway, nor did she keep up a correspondence with any of her Norwegian family. Nonetheless, her Norwegian-ness was a source of deep pride and every now and then this would manifest in knickknacks, odd foods and bits and pieces she would bring into the house: yet another bit of Viking-style pewter, a set of Akavit glasses or a Norwegian-print tablecloth. Her sense of Norway had never encompassed the sport of curling, but if she were still living, it would now.
My mother was one of the least athletic people I've ever known. She swam with her neck craned to keep her hair dry and well out of the water, she avoided most any activity that would have caused her to break a sweat. My father and I would arrive home from a game of tennis beet-red and sweaty and my mother would look at us like we were quite out of our minds. There were only two times that I know of when my mother felt inspired to take up a sport. The first was in High School when she joined the skeet shooting team (and earned a Varsity letter for her efforts). 20 years later a new sport would flame her interest - curling. I suppose it should be said that we were living in Canada when she took up curling and did so because a group of her friends asked her to join their team, but at the time and for many years afterwards I thought of curling as the most ridiculous of sports; the sport of ice-bound housewives; 2nd only (in ridiculousness) to synchronised swimming. The height of absurd without any semblance of cool.
That is, until the Norwegian Men's Curling Olympic Team hit Vancouver and captured the world's imagination with those fabulous pants. Over half a million people are signed on as fans of the pants (and incidentally the team that wore them) on Facebook (I'm one of them). Matches featuring the Norwegian team drew celebrity spectators - everyone from the King Harald of Norway, to Donald Sullivan and Pamela Anderson and tickets for curling finals were being scalped for $500+. Suddenly the sport on everyone's lisps was not ice dancing or aerial skiing, but curling and though the powerhouse Norwegian team didn't win the gold (they lost to the Canadian team in the final), they won silver and lifted their sport from embarrassed obscurity into proud and stylish prominence.
Mom would have been so proud.
* pants photo from nationalpost.com
* medal photo from The Norwegian Olympic Curling Team's Pants Facebook page