Curling is the only sport I know of that begins and ends with a handshake. Every match ends with handshakes, no matter how lopsided it is. And every match begins with a good luck handshake. After every match, at least in club curling, it is customary to share a drink and some conversation in the warm room. (Winner buys). Curlers get to know each other, and stick together. It truly is a game of kindness, and friendliness, and good sportsmanship.
But it's about more than just the game.
The last few years of my life have had some trials and tribulations.
A couple of years ago, my wife and I separated. We had been married for almost 13 years, and together for 17. We just weren't working anymore, and we were both very sad about it, but we also both accepted it, for our sakes and for our daughters'. Our divorce was finalized later that year.
Last year, I lost a job that I had been in for six years. The job loss was due to outsourcing - I had done the job well and I was beloved - and it hurt. I quickly took another job, which was well below the old one in pay; I struggled to make ends meet and I absolutely hated the work and the company. The people were nice - the business model was failing, which is why I was released from there a few months ago.
Now, let's not have a pity party for me. I am back to work now at a company that I absolutely love. I have a fantastic girlfriend. It's just been a rough couple of years. And it would have been a lot rougher, except for three things. First, Lisa, my fantastic girlfriend. Second, Juliana and Isabella, my wonderful daughters.
And third, my curling family.
I didn't really know I had a curling family, until I started having trouble making ends meet. That included my curling club dues. I had a check bounce, which was embarrassing to me. And, in my weakened state, I told my club treasurer, who happened to also be my 2nd a few years back, what my exact situation was.
Sorry to hear that. People may come and go, but your curling family will always be there for you.
And we worked out a payment schedule. And I'm still a curler.
This was just one of many examples of people in my sport being kind to me and taking a genuine interest in my life. I've had people from curling, who I only know from Facebook and/or Twitter (curlers do not hang out on MySpace, except for Chris Plys), go out of their way to ask me about what's going on in my life. And when I've met them in real life... more than one has bought me a drink, or toasted to my new job, or just gotten to know me a little better. These are curlers from all levels, be them merely fans, or club curlers, or Olympic medalists. They're all like this. It's part of the curling culture.
There are several curling charities - the Katie Beck Memorial Fund I've discussed in the past, the Sandra Schmirler Foundation, and countless others at the local levels - and curlers (and their fans) are generous. I've participated in several fundraisers as a donor. And organized one - the Pants gave me the power to do that.
I usually arrive at the club just a few minutes early, to chat with fellow curlers. There are a few regulars who come early, but there's always someone different there. I've bought drinks for several of them.... for victories, sure, but to also toast a new job, or a new baby, or to say goodbye (I've said goodbye to far too many curlers), or just to sit down and watch a sporting event, be it curling, hockey, football, basketball - we're not picky - and have some casual conversation.
Every one of them has gotten handshakes from me.