True confession time: I have become slightly obsessed with the U.S. Curling team. On the list of topics I could compose sonnets about, the U.S. Curling team has leaped onto the list, ranking above The Biggest Loser and Coffee Crisp candy bars yet slightly below the Tour de France and pancakes after a long run.
Indeed, I love everything about these teams. I love the story about the men’s team packing into one apartment for six months to train and prepare for the Olympics. How they get by on their $300 a month stipend from the U.S. Olympic committee. (Check out the entertaining read by Jim Caple on ESPN.com). Granted they probably would rather not be crammed into one apartment, picking up odd jobs and selling their own sponsorships for the opportunity to compete. But again, it gives us at home a chance to glimpse at another definition of passion, another definition of authenticity, that often calls us forward in our own lives.
And, truth be told, I even love the struggle of the U.S. Curling teams. Yep, that’s right. Oh, it’s not that I like to see Team USA lose. The men, who finished fourth in the last Olympic games, had woeful results this time around, eliminated Monday night in round robin play. The women’s team finishes up its preliminary rounds today, also unlikely to advance.
As the missed shots and losses piled up, both U.S. teams took drastic moves, benching their skip. John Schuster’s performance actually stirred up criticism in the cyberworld as people questioned his ability and has the U.S. Olympic committee evaluating how it selects its curling teams.
An American curler drawing Internet ire? This is new territory. Schuster is a four-time national champion drawing the criticism of momentary fans, as Linda Holmes wrote on an NPR blog, who two weeks ago couldn’t pick Schuster out of a lineup. For athletes who train and compete well outside the hyper-intensive media world, it’s a sign of commitment and competitiveness that the U.S. came back to win two games.
The women have flown under the media-hype radar (a potential discussion for another day) but have suffered similar problems with its skip, Debbie McCormick. But before she couldtake criticism in Vancouver, she had to work her way back. After being part of the U.S. teams in 1998 and 2004, she missed out on the Torino Games when her team came in second place at the U.S. Olympic Trials – by about three inches.
But she was motivated to return by her dream – to earn an Olympic medal. She might keep on chasing the dream, noting in her NBC bio that “The main thing is just to have fun and enjoy who you’re with. I’m going to keep competing until I don’t anymore.”
McCormick respected her teammates enough to make a tough decision on Sunday and remove herself from the fourth position, essentially benching herself as skip. That’s not an easy thing for anyone to do, let alone on the biggest stage for your sport when times are getting tough.
Sometimes the best lessons come not from glory, but from when you stumble. When you’re just not quite good enough.
You don’t have to win an Olympic medal to inspire other people. Just show a bit of moxie and keep moving forward.