Shortly before the last Winter Games, I became fascinated by a curler from Norway named Thomas Ulsrud. Now, the man is very attractive but I know many, many attractive men. There was just something in his eyes when the camera would pan in for a close up that would draw me in.
Now having been a major fan of his team for a while (and taking a lot of grief for rooting against Canadian teams in the process), I finally got to see him in person last week during the Players Championship at the former Maple Leaf Gardens. I also got to meet the team following their first match and I'm now kicking myself for not getting a photo with them.
I spent the week contemplating what lessons Thomas had for me (since whenever I'm pulled to someone like this they have something to teach me) and this is what I've come up with:
Lesson 1: Be completely focused in the moment, then let the moment go.
There's no mistaking his focus when he's taking his shots - watch his close ups on tv to see this. There was a memorable moment during the playoffs where he missed a shot and yelled "fuck" - which the whole rink heard because for one odd moment the rink had gone completely silent. (With 4 games going on at a time this never happens!) Everyone laughed - including him. He doesn't dwell on missed shots. He reacts in the moment and moves on - unlike some other curlers I saw this week. (Johnny Mo - I'm looking at you!)
Lesson 2: Enjoy what you do. Don't take yourself seriously. It's just a game.
Best example of this was right after he had missed two shots in a row, giving up a double in the process to the opposition. As soon as the next end started, he was laughing with opposing skip Niklas Edin about how badly those shots had gone (at least that looked like what they were talking about, based on body language). He smiles a lot. And anyone who can wear those pants can't be too caught up in self-importance.
Lesson 3: Don't play safe. Be a gambler. Go for the big play.
This is his blessing and his curse as a curler. There were a lot of times I wondered why he would call a certain shot, a shot that would be high-risk/high-reward. Then someone during the playoffs called him a gambler and it all made sense to me. He doesn't play safe. He doesn't even play to his own strengths if by going outside his comfort zone he has a chance for a bigger impact. This may be why they didn't get farther in the tournament - but it's also probably why they got as far as they did.
Calling a shot
Lesson 4: When a teammate suggests something outrageous, give it a try. You'll never know where it will lead you.
For the Olympics the team's second, Christoffer Svae, suggested they wear a pair of pants from Loudmouth Golf that matched the country's colours. The pants are, to be polite, ugly as hell. But Ulsrud agreed they should wear them and the outrageous pants became one of the most talked about things during the games. It also brought them a silver medal. Since then, loud pants have become their trademark and have brought them recognition far beyond the game. They may be the most famous curlers in history, the only curlers many people know. Kudos to the team for going with such an insane idea. I don't know if I'd have the guts to do it.
The playoff pants
During the week, I got totally hooked on watching curling. It was nice to not be filtered by camera angles and talked at by commentators who are complete Canadian homers. I've become a fan of some of the other teams as well (Team Edin, Team Sigfridsson, Team Muirhead) so I may just have to travel to an event next year. Who knows when they'll be in Toronto next - it had been 20 years since a major event had been here.
And I'm thinking of taking up the sport myself. Should be interesting!