Tales of A Curling Hack
by Doug Maxwell
Published by Whitecap Books
320 pages, 2006
Behind the Rock
Reviewed by Adrian Marks
Every year a new crop of sports books appear on the shelves at your favorite bookstore. New books on hockey, soccer, football, baseball; some focusing on the sport in an intimate way, some featuring the stars of the game. One imagines people waiting for these tomes, some of them breathlessly. I admit to a passion for some of these titles myself. I'm one of those who waits for sports books anxiously. I know I'm not alone. But when one thinks of all of these books about sports, what tends to come to mind are sports with jockstraps and man-sweat and overpaid players with aggressive swaggers and terrible reputations outside of the game.
There are, however, other kinds of sports in the world. Take, for instance,Tales of A Curling Hack. As the author says in his preface:
Let's face it: Curling is not a major sport on the world scene. When any nation, including Canada, wins a world curling championship, or Olympic curling title, traffic, in even the most rabid of curling centers, is not stopped by joyous fans spilling out onto the streets. It may be difficult for curlers to accept, but there are many people who do not see curling as a sport that sets the synapses jangling.
None of that is over -- or under -- statement. To many people, curling is the cold weather equivalent of contract bridge. It looks mildly interesting, but is probably best left to other people. Probably older people. To make matters worse: outside of Canada, a mention of curling will probably make people think of hot irons and hairstyles, not a game played on ice at a tortoise-like pace.
Now, all of that said, Tales of A Curling Hack intrigues from the very first glimpse. The book is beautifully produced and makes for an inviting package. Printed like a small textbook, it fits comfortable in the hand.
Inside, things get even better. What you understand right away is that Maxwell has a very real passion for the sport he's reported on for the last half century. And being that he has been reporting on it all these years, there is probably no one on the planet who has a better store of stories about curling than this man.
What you end up with is a broadcast journalist's memoir as well as an inside look at a reasonably obscure sport that would be simply impossible to duplicate. The author's 2002 book, Canada Curls: The Illustrated History of Curling in Canada, deals with the nuts and bolts of the sport Maxwell knows so well. Tales of A Curling Hack is a more intimate look back. A companion to his first book, not a replacement.
Maxwell has been a television and radio broadcaster, he's also been an Olympic official and was for 18 years executive director of the Silver Broom World Curling Championship. If you're already a curling fan -- or even a curler yourself -- Tales of A Curling Hack is the absolute bomb. It can not and will not get better than this. If you're new to the sport, there could be no better introduction. Either way, you're in for some stories you'll not hear anywhere else. Maxwell is the curling king and, in a sense, Tales of A Curling Hack recalls his long reign. | October 2006
Adrian Marks is a January Magazine contributing editor.