Friday, February 09, 2007
The philosopher's (curling) stone
My best friend from high school, Graham Freeman, is one of the best curlers in Manitoba. He is currently playing in the Safeway Selectplaydowns (do bloggers get paid for produce placement?), although he lost to former World Champion Jeff Stoughton this morning.
For a couple of years now, I have been planning a documentary about Graham, and, well, me--a MyStory of sorts, a buddy story (ironically, to be sure), but also a piece of cultural analysis, and, uh, maybe some philosophizing. Hence, the philosopher's (curling) stone. The way I see it, we were best friends who left high school and took very different paths. Graham stayed in Virden, works in the grocery store by day, is a Super Curler for about 5 months of the year, got married to one of the two young women we mixed curled with while in Grade 12, has a couple of kids (one named Brooks!), and although also an excellent golfer, he plays the grand old game more recreationally because of the high demands of being a Super Curler in winter.
I left high school, got a degree, got married, got another degree, got divorced, got another degree, got married again, moved around, had a kid, more or less gave up curling, golf, and every other sport I played and loved as a kid and young adult, got a job just across the border from Manitoba, got tenure, get to meet a lot of really smart and interesting people, started curling again (but not Super Curling), and now I find myself asking not, "who has the better life," but, "how does one evaluate "quality of life?" There was no way I could have stayed in my home town and done what Graham has done, in part because I was never that good of a curler, but in part, some weird life trajectory had already made that impossible by about the time I was 12.
I'm getting a little too discursive here, so let me just throw out some ideas, and if anybody who reads this has comments and suggestions, let me know. I think I will need a good push or two to actually follow through with this film project, but next year is probably the right year to do it.
1. Curling is a strangely gripping sport, and I am interested in trying to figure out how it grips people. The movie "Men With Brooms" provides some "Bull Durham" like philosophizing on this topic, but I would want to hear what Graham has to say, and I would like to figure out what I think about this topic.
2. Curling is a strangely Canadian sport--albeit brought to Canada but Scottish settlers. Curling culture in Canada is pretty well documented, so the question becomes: why isn't it apart of North Dakota culture? All of the natural conditions that make curling viable in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, where the sport has the greatest grassroots support, are also found in North Dakota. ND was not settled by the Scottish, which will be part of the explanation, but the modern Scandanavians are great curlers--why not their ND cousins? What can be learned about the mysterious effect of the 49th parallel by studying curling in ND in MB, by comparing Graham's life on the Manitoba Curling Tour (2005 champ, 2006 runner up) and my life in Monday night men's league play?
3. What does it mean to "stay competitive" much of one's life? What does it mean to one's life to interact with the world's best in something / anything? Graham gets to curl against world class competition regularly, in a really black-and-white kind of way (win or lose). I have had the good fortune to meet a number of people who are among the most knowledgeable in the world in their various academic fields or sub-fields. I always claim to know more about the history of writing instruction in western canadian universities than any other person in the world, but then, there ain't much competition for that title. I figure I might be a top 100 McLuhan scholar by now--slightly stiffer competition, but still pretty small field.
Those are 3 "stones" to philosophize about--I suppose I could think of the project in eight parts (eight stones). Graham's thoughts, my thoughts, two teams, head to head, but in a totally sportsmanlike, male bonding, kinda way. I also see next year as the year because the World Curling Championship will be in Grand Forks, ND. While neither one of us are likely to be competing in that event, we could meet there. The narrative arch of the documentary could follow both of us through a season, him on his MCT, me in the Monday league. I have considered "getting competitive" for that year, but I am not sure that would make for a better film or not. Maybe I could do both, and see what makes for the better storyline.