LONDON-- Watching the best curlers in Canada exhibit their skills at the 2011 Brier hour after hour, day after day, leaves one almost mesmerized.
The curling buff is probably used to seeing these individuals throw their rocks through the smallest of openings, dissect a shot to the fraction of an inch so the angle works just perfectly, slicing out a rock from a pile as neatly as a surgeon's cut.
No doubt millions of others have watched on television as curlers like Kevin Martin, Glenn Howard, Jeff Stoughton and Brad Gushue make impossible shots look average.
Watching them live though is an entirely different experience. It's more than just that get an true appreciation of how difficult some of the shots are that the curlers make.
It's about atmosphere.
A knowledgeable curling crowd, and most who attend curling are knowledgeable, emit this anticipatory hum when they notice a skip tapping stones and ice for one of those tough shots.
The fans inch up on their chairs, crane their necks, whisper to each other and as the anticipation grows as you hear the rock slithering across the ice.
If the shot missed, there is a collective groan. If it's made, there is an almost orchestrated-like cheer that fills the arena.
Those feelings were showcased Thursday afternoon in a breathtaking moment. NWT/Yukon's skip Jamie Koe was on the verge of one of biggest upsets in Brier history. Koe led Alberta's Kevin Martin by one in the 10th and had a shot buried on the button surrounded by rocks.
No way, anyone was going to find a way to move it out.
But with the 4,100 hushed, Martin unleashed a yellow-seeking rocket. By the time the pin-wheeling had stopped, Martin had scored two to win leaving Koe and the crowd stunned.
It was worth the price of admission.
It's those shots that almost make one forget the mundane of the game.
For those tainted with contact with other professional athletes, a week dealing with the top curlers in Canada and the world, is a welcome relief.
Yes, there are temperamental curlers who may be a little surly and short. But win or lose, there is a professionalism and courtesy the curlers show that is so lacking in many other sports.
They'll take the time to answer questions win or lose and give you something more than the standard, 'You have to give it 100 per cent,' and "There's no tomorrow.'
But for all the good that is curling, there are things they need to change not just for the good of the sport but the good of the fans, including the casual fans.
It is difficult to figure out this hand-shaking thing.
Isn't a game 10-ends long?
Of course it's difficult to come back when someone is up by four or five, they know the ice especially against a good team. But during this Brier, there were teams shaking hands when they were only four points down.
It smacks of quitting.
Yes, it's hard to come back in this sport. But the key word is sports. You play to the end.
It's not easy when you are getting whacked around and you know there are another three ends to go through. But when a hockey team is getting waxed 6-0, they don't quit after two periods. They show up for the third.
There are fans that have paid good money to watch someone like Glenn Howard or Kevin Martin play. They just want to see these guys make shots and use their skills even if they are beating the hell out of someone.
They'd like to get their money's worth especially since these guys have the ability to provide it.