curling, bars, nightlife

Your newest winter drinking game: Curling

Words: Josh Rakic
Photos: Courtesy of Sliders Curling Club

Gear up for this rising trend in bar sports.

If you thought pool and darts were the height of bar games, think again. Because curling - yeah, that obscure Winter Olympic sport that’s part sweeping/part human shuffleboard - is taking over bars everywhere from Chicago right through the midwest to as far as London, England. Basically anywhere cold enough to sustain an ice-rink made specifically for drinkers.

With the hipster seal of approval, the four-person game knows no discrimination, men and women alike teaming up with friends and or strangers in an effort to get their stone closest to the button (bullseye). And since making its debut in Chicago’s West Loop last season at Kaiser Tiger, curling is quickly finding its way to mainstream popularity. We asked Olympic curler Chris Plys, who grew up playing the sport and was forced to develop a thick skin as the subject of his friends’ jokes, about the rising trend.

© YouTube/Kaiser Tiger

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The growing popularity of curling

“It’s one of those things that growing up a lot of my friends would give me shit about [laughs]. And now they’re all playing in bar leagues and stuff like that! It’s just one of those things where once people try it, they get hooked. And for the sport, the exposure is great. It seems to take a leap every four years during the Olympics because everybody watches it then and most people learn what’s going on. Since then, NBC has picked up specials, ESPN is picking up streaming from events, and so much more media outlets than there used to be are promoting the sport.”

Curling in bars

“I’ve seen them popping up all over the place. I’ve seen them in Chicago, I know London has a Sliders Roof Top Curling Club now. It’s one of the trends that people can take part in. It’s been spreading really well, which is nice to see. Because when I grew up, a lot of people didn’t even know what the heck it was. It’s come a long way from that time. It’s like golf. If you’re not playing at a high level, you’re doing it to socialize and have a few drinks with your friends. It’s a fun way to play.”

olympics, curling, chicago
The appeal of curling

“In my opinion, it’s one of those games where I enjoy playing it rather than watching it. Not that watching it isn’t interesting, but it’s a super fun game to play. Like golf. Everybody wants to just shove it super hard and bang it around. I think if you’re just having some beers with your friends, it’s a little more fun to play for something, drinks or money. Not that I’m condoning gambling [laughs]. There’s no real right or wrong way to do it when you’re just having fun with your buddies, just get around, have some beers and have a good time. It’s a very social sport.”

The stigma of the curling “athlete”

“People used to make fun of the sport but that’s changed now as the game and the athletes have progressed. The sport used to be popularized by a lot of older guys - maybe not the fittest guys [laughs] - but it’s really become a younger game over the past five or so years as popularity grows. But you look at old footage and the guys are out there drinking beer on the ice and overweight [laughs]. It’s really changed in the past few years and it’s given us more credibility, which people like to get behind. It’s like darts, but less sketch.”

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