Crowd goes wild for Sochi curling?/Paul Peterson

Just when I thought I had seen or read it all, the latest shocker came out of the Sochi Olympics this week.

What was it? A downhill skier being shot at while competing by one of the many terrorists lurking in the nearby hills? Another disgruntled Olympics visitor unable to get out of their crappy hotel room?

No, it wasn’t either of those. The big news was that the Russian curling team was giving favored Norway a scare in an early match, thanks to a raucous home crowd.

Now, the thought of curling of getting any crowd excited is something like imagining the inept Detroit Lions making it to the Super Bowl.

Or one of those tattooed NBA players taking a simple layup instead of going for the spectacular SportsCenter dunk.

It really was that hard to comprehend.

I can clearly recall the first time I saw a curling match. The late Tom LaJeunesse and I were heading to the Duluth Arena to cover the Michigan Tech hockey team taking on Minnesota in the 1981 NCAA Final Four.

On one of the covered ramps leading to the arena I noticed what appeared to be people using brooms to direct an oversized rock with a handle on it down the ice.

“What the he-double hockey sticks is going on out there,” I asked Tom.

“They’re just curling,” Tom replied with a smirk. “You never heard of that?”

I later learned that curling was a sport that was huge in Canada. I’m well aware that Canadians have long been our allies (except in hockey) and are good, salt of the earth people for the most part.

And that we even had a chapter of folks who play and enjoy the sport in Calumet.

But for curling, which features terms like a house (the location the stone is directed toward), a button (the spot at the center of the house) and pebble (a fine spray of water applied to the surface before a match) to get a crowd raucous is mind-boggling.

I have some Russian blood in my family, my 6-foot-6 great-great grandfather was a palace guard for the Czar in the early 1900s. But for these famously stoic people to get fired up over players pushing a rock down the ice while sweeping it with brooms is unfathomable.

You might as well tell me that badminton, with its birdies, wood shots and blade hits is the next big thing, and that 10,000 people will show up at the airport to welcome the American Olympic team home.

Or that I’ve already reserved airline tickets to watch the World Cup soccer matches in South America in person later this year.

By the way, when does the next plane leave for Rio de Janiero?