The Coldest Stone: The Worst Montage in Sports
We won the European Championship! And all we got was this crappy video.
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Some water gets squirted onto the ice by an anonymous set of hands. Something that looks like a catering dish sits on a table with some medals. A stone gets polished by one gloved hand. Women in white and navy-blue polos yell. Another woman shimmies down a sheet of ice, legs poised in some unnatural position. Her competitor shakes her head for some unexplained reason. Stones crash into each other, bouncing off like the rubber discs they’re not. A woman cracks at the ice with her broom. Another woman kisses the frozen water.
The Coldest StoneWelcome to Curling
Life and Pants
Russia wins the 2012 European Curling Championships, and they’re holding what is not a catering dish and what is a trophy that looks like a catering dish topped by miniature curling stones.
IT IS DECEMBER, AND therefore it’s almost the end of the year, which means it’s time to group things together. Even if those things are only tentatively connected in the sense that they existed as an Internet thing. But they’re useful, too, because things can be overwhelming—especially in the face of the rogue wave that is the Internet. If you haven’t kept up with the year in reading, here you go. If you’ve got free time and you want to watch some movies from the past 300-or-so days, you’ll find someone to tell you what to go see. These lists, whatever they concern, they generally work because they’re practical and you’re a person without the ability to stop the world from spinning.
Then there’s the year-end constant or the end-of-anything constant: the video montage. The formula’s usually pretty simple: find some weepy instrumental track or over-the-top pop song that pitches high at one point but generally doesn’t get to crazy, put it down, throw in some scenes from whatever thing this is a remembrance of, make sure it’s sprinkled with more than enough reaction shots because this is raw humanity we’re going for, and you’re done. The Steubensville High bake sale is now the Kerri Strug of bake sales.
All of which is to say that the video montage, really, is just a thing to provoke emotion—and nothing at all beyond that. Which is also to say that sports are ripe for video montages because they’re self-contained things with a beginning and end—whether it’s a game or a season—and it’s all human emotion and over-the-top reaction distilled. So, the thinking might go: it is impossible to make a crappy video montage about sports. That thinking would also be wrong.
THERE IS NO EMOTION to be provoked from the World Curling Federation’s final-match montage from the women’s European championship, and the same goes for the men’s version. (Both begin at the end of the highlight packages.) Everything that begins and ends and is recorded on video becomes an edited together series of edited-down events. So, that a curling tournament montage exists is inevitable. But that it is the summary-video equivalent of a piece of frozen cardboard is not.
The matches themselves were actually pretty good: upsets, revenge, extra ends, guys in scary pants losing … those kinds of things. Russia beat Scotland, the defending champs 6-5 and their skip (captain) Anna Sidorova kissed the ice and broke into tears, which means this thing was pretty important to someone and probably not an easy thing to achieve. For the men, Sweden beat Norway 8-5 in a rematch of last year’s final and in what was a victory for a favorite that had yet to make good on all the greatness that was prescribed onto it by others. In short: all reasons that a lot of people watch sports in the first place.
Plus, there’s the Scandinavian storyline. You might expect Scandivanians to dominate the men and women’s side—which they generally do, although the sport’s origins begin in Scotland—but Russia and Scotland are not Scandinavian in any way, so you could wonder why there’s a divide between the men’s and women’s side, which could then be countered by someone saying that two Scandinavian sides made it into the bronze medal match, and sports are random, so they were close and there’s nothing to worry about. The things that happen when countries across the world—or a continent—compete against each other somewhat often are things that happen in curling, too.
You wouldn’t know it if you just watched the video montages, though, which is fine because, again, a montage is just a thing that only barely recounts the events with which it is dealing. But a few clanking stones and a blurry shot of a Russian curler’s face that fades into a shot of her hand doesn’t really do anything other than tell me that those things exist, which I know because there’s an Internet for all that. The soundtrack is also pretty clearly a recording from one of those white-noise machines people use to fall asleep.
It’s a bridge too far to draw any real conclusions about curling-as-a-sport based on the quality of a, presumably, last-second, thrown-together montage, but it’s no stretch to say that these videos, representative of two of curling’s biggest matches of the year, are awful. The sport doesn’t seem to be—for all the reasons outlined above—and these videos sort of accidentally make that point, too: curling can’t be this bad, can it? Someone should make a list.