Tom Musick: Ready, set, curl
CRYSTAL LAKE – Rich Delisi clutched a broom in his left hand and a stone in his right hand as he launched out of his stance and aimed for a target more than 150 feet away.
"Sit! Sit!" Delisi screamed toward the stone Sunday at the Crystal Ice House. "Slow down!"
The stone had other ideas, zooming past the target like a teenage driver determined to speed. For Delisi, the experience was like trying to talk to a rock.
"I do the same thing with my golf ball," said Delisi, 49, of Prairie Grove. "It never listens."
Listen up, people.
Let's teach these stubborn stones a lesson. Let's become Olympic curlers.
Because McHenry County has boasted great athletes in just about any sport you can name, from baseball to football to hockey to soccer to cage fighting. Now, correct me if I'm wrong, but our Land of Long Commutes has yet to produce a champion curler.
Who wants to be the first?
More than two dozen people showed up Sunday to take their best shot at the sport, which started in medieval Scotland and quickly has gained popularity in 21st century America. The lobby of the rink included fliers for the program – "Learn How To Curl Like An Olympian" – which will wrap up next weekend with two more sessions.
Perhaps Kyle Buresch could be our region's first great curler.
Buresch, 17, plays hockey for Prairie Ridge High School's club team. He and his Wolves teammates took part in the curling class as a team-building session.
Less than 10 minutes had passed before Buresch fell down, broom in hand.
"The shoes aren't high quality," Buresch said with a grin. "It's all the shoes' fault."
Buresch went on to cite other factors for his fall, including the high winds (it was indoors), the steep incline of the ice (it was flat), and the bright sun (presumably in the parking lot).
Wolves teammate Brett Maier stayed on his feet, making him the next logical choice for future Olympic curler. Maier slid on his left foot, extended his right arm and pushed the stone toward the bulls-eye target on the opposite side of the rink.
The stone slid too far. Way, way too far.
Instead of pointing the finger at faulty shoes, Maier blamed his muscles.
"Too much bench press," Maier said.
Hey, we've all been there.
Maybe it was wrong to assume that a teenage hockey player would have the skills to become an Olympic curler. Maybe one of the adults in attendance would prove to be the diamond in the rough.
Steve Zoellick, a 56-year-old from Crystal Lake, certainly looked the part of a responsible adult. He wore pajama pants, which he bought for $1.99 at Savers, to go along with a winter hat that featured long strings and the face of some sort of wide-eyed, sugar-crazed animal.
"The invitation said, 'Ugly Pants Optional," Zoellick said with a shrug. "I figured I don't know how good I'll be at curling, so I might as well look goofy."
Meanwhile, Delisi continued to talk to inanimate objects that refused to slow down.
"I'm sweating right now doing this," Delisi said. "I can't believe I'm actually sweating."
The instructor in charge of the motley crew was Rob Corn, a 31-year-old from Wauconda. Corn has curled competitively across the Midwest and hopes to be a part of the U.S. team for the 2018 Olympics in South Korea.
Curling was gaining momentum as a sport, Corn said. It could thrive in Illinois just as it did in Minnesota and Wisconsin, he said, if more venues offered curling clubs and could expose more people to a sport that is as fun as it is challenging.
"The sport is all about repetitions," Corn said. "You're not going to find your balance at first. The more you do it, the better you're going to get.
"It's not like you have to be Bo Jackson to play the game. You can be a normal person."
Corn's message proved true. By the end of the session, fewer people were falling over and more were hitting their targets.
Sean Van Damme pumped his arms as his shot inched to a stop inside of the circle. A small group of people watching from the bench cheered for the Prairie Ridge senior, and an impromptu chant broke out for a few seconds.
Maybe there's hope, after all.
• Northwest Herald sports columnist Tom Musick can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @tcmusick.