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Throwing Stones

I found myself facedown on the ice sheet at the Madison (Wis.) Curling Club on Sunday afternoon - with my kids watching. And my wife. But oddly enough, I wasn't too embarrassed.

In fact, I now have new respect for the activity that some of my friends refused to call a "sport" during the Winter Olympics. The core muscles and balancing technique required to accurately (and powerfully) throw a polished 42-pound granite stone across textured ice with a piece of Teflon-like material called a slider underneath one shoe certainly is no simple task. Actually, it's extremely difficult.

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I particularly had trouble with the balancing part, trying to keep my right foot on the slider and throw the stone with my left hand as both of my legs slowly spread out from underneath me like a pair of giant scissors. Given that this was a demo for kids, though, Lester the instructor only allowed me two throws; otherwise, I'm sure I would have gotten the hang of it after just a few more.

A friend told my wife and me about the the sport by collecting names and e-mail addresses of attendees. I'm sure I'll get an e-mail late this summer, encouraging me to sign the kids up for Sunday leagues that begin around Halloween every year. For $50, participants between the ages of 8 and 18 receive nine weeks of instruction and game experience. Of course, they must get used to the terminology ("biter," "hog line" and "vice-skip") and etiquette (high-fiving isn't allowed, at least at the Madison Curling Club), but they also learn a sport they can play well into old age.

Both of my children are active in competitive swimming, another lifetime sport. And while Kayla didn't particularly enjoy her curling experience enough to join a league, Tyler thinks curling on frozen water might be a nice complement to swimming in warmer water. If that's the case, I'll be there to encourage him in his new endeavor; just don't expect me to get back on the ice.

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