A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

[Back in December, I wrote a Hater's Guide to the Roar of the Rings Team Canada qualification tournament. It was an unexpected hit! People who didn't give a shit about curling actually read the whole thing, and pretty much everyone in the curling community shared it, read it, or called me an asshole. One Rachel Homan fan was REAL mad. Here, then, is the logical follow-up, just in time for the quadrennial two-week period when people outside of Canada give a shit about curling!]

We made it! Another awful, grueling four years without Olympic curling. The excitement's back, baby! FEEL THE FRANTIC BRUSH-SWEEPING DEEP IN YOUR HEART!

And with Olympic curling comes its awful, estranged twin brother: the what's-curling-all-about? edutainment local news story. You can't swing a dead cat at a newspaper, blog, or local NBC affiliate without hitting the exact same curling piece!

Here, I'll save you the trouble:

  • The first paragraph will casually make fun of curling from the point of view of a befuddled outsider, like the guy at the start of an infomercial struggling to operate a can opener in black & white (Sample line: "And the sweeping - what's THAT all about?")
  • The second and third paragraphs are just fact-dumps liberally copied from the Wikipedia article about curling ("Early records in Scotland indicate...")
  • Next, you get to the part where your noble reporter heads to Podunk Local Curling Club to give curling a try ("It's harder than it looks!", EVERY SINGLE FUCKING ONE will report verbatim)
  • Then the reporter turns a corner, manages to nail a draw in the four-foot, and then wraps up with a pithy "Curling: it's wacky, but it sure does rock!" one-liner.

Whoa, slow down, Johnny Canuck. "Draw"? "Four-foot"? We weren't all born on a Manitoba ice floe where people understand curling jargon.

I'd love to sit here and hold your hand, teaching you the rules and history of curling, but there are plenty of good resources for that already. Articles about Derek Jeter don't all start with a detailed explanation of the rules of baseball. I'm assuming you at least have your GED-equivalent when it comes to curling knowledge before reading this.

If you're a complete rookie, here, I'll pick you out a good guide... this one from Yahoo looks fine, this video straight from the Olympics seems decent and has some funky elevator-techno music, here's a probably-too-comprehensive glossary. (I definitely wouldn't recommend this guide from the Telegraph, since it rather authoritatively lists Kevin Martin as the favourite in Sochi, despite the fact that Kevin Martin lost the Trials and won't be there.)

If you still hate curling, and still just want to tell the world how curling is stupid/sucks/isn't a sport, cool! Great. You're a real Jay fucking Leno. I'm sure there's an According To Jim rerun you could be watching instead.

That BleacherReport link was honestly the worst thing I've ever read.

I know. Sorry.

Back to curling. When are the games?

Here's a schedule. Draws are at 9 AM, 2PM and 7PM (Sochi time) daily. Translated from Commie to EST, that's midnight, 5 AM, and 10 AM local time. Depending on how much of a drunk you are, anywhere from o to 2 of those time slots are ripe for watching with a beer in your hand. If you're hardcore enough to watch curling from 5 to 9 AM on a weekday, though, you're either a farmer or a meth addict.

I read your original article about the Canadian play-downs, but I didn't actually watch them. Who won?

Do you mind if I relay that information to the tune of the "Talkin' Softball" song from the classic 1992 Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat"?

Of course I don't.

Well Brad Jacobs had done it
And Jenny Jones had won it
With Rachel Homan pouting all the while
Will Ferrell's comic stylings made us smile
While a drunk Vic Rauter passed out on the barroom tile
We're talkin' cur-ling
From Moose Jaw to Rimouski
Talkin' cur-ling
Martin and Kevin Koe
Glenn Howard grotesquely missing draws
Homan and her run-in with Middaugh
We're talkin' Jen Jones...
Jill Officer and Lawes

So... Jennifer Jones and Brad Jacobs are representing Canada, I think?

Yep.

Alright, you've got me hooked! Tell me about the teams!

You got it!

PART 1: THE LADIES


1. CANADA: Jennifer Jones

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

You can read everything you need to know about Jennifer Jones in the last article. Pertinent info: Jennifer Jones has the best team in the world, some curling fans love her, others hate her, but all will be forgiven if she brings home Gold for Canada. Luckily for her, there's a very strong chance that she'll do so.

One of the big themes of these Olympics will be the changing of the guard in the sport. In one corner you've got the old wily veterans like Jones, with players in their 30s and 40s who put their careers and families first - Jones is a mother and lawyer, and her teammates include a regional sales manager, a government case officer, and whatever a Senior Genetic Technologist is. This older generation of curlers grew up around the sport in the 80s and 90s before the spotlight of Olympic funding, back when curling was more about chain-smoking, beer-drinking, mustaches and unflattering vinyl jackets. Today's new crop of young up-and-coming curlers - like Scotland's Eve Muirhead and the spritely young Russian team - are more likely to be lifting weights, working with sports psychologists, using computerized biomechanic models to assist their sweeping, and wearing actual form-fitting gear you might find on a real athlete.

Jones is usually a rock, and she has one of the best front-ends in the game, so watch for young vice Kaitlyn Lawes to be the lynchpin this week. If Lawes can make shots at the 84% level that she maintained in the Trials, this team should be able to coast to the podium with relative ease. If she finally wins the gold medal she's been fighting for, I'd bet 10 bucks that all four of them, and half of Manitoba, are crying in unison by the time the national anthem gets to "home and native land."

ODDS OF GETTING GOLD: 3-2


2. GREAT BRITAIN: Eve Muirhead

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

Eve Muirhead's Scottish rink will be the ones to watch over the next couple weeks in Sochi. There are a few reasons for that:

  1. She is very, very good at curling. Currently ranked 2nd in the world on the World Curling Tour, she's a tireless performer, and she's been doing nothing but dominating the European circuit in the 4 years since she burst onto the scene as a 19-year-old skip at the 2010 Olympics. She can make killer shots, there are no weak spots on her team, and the rest of the curling world should rightly be scared of her.
  2. She's Scottish. This means that it's delightful when she screams HARRRRD like she's Mel Gibson leading a charge against the English. Also, she's Britain's best hope at the Winter Olympics, so she has the entire British media hype machine behind her. On top of that, she's something of a Scottish renaissance woman: not only is she one of the best curlers on Earth as a 23-year-old (pretty much the most Scottish sport ever), she's a scratch golfer who turned down golf scholarships from major US colleges (the other most Scottish sport ever), and - be still my beating heart! - she's a championship-level bagpiper. At the recent Continental Cup in Las Vegas (yes, there was a recent major curling tournament in Las Vegas, and yes, it was sold out) which has a Ryder Cup-style North America vs. The World format, she bagpiped her own Team World teammates out onto the ice. I mean, think about that - a Scottish woman who's only 23 and competing at a pro level in curling, golf, and bagpipes - stereotype bingo! It would be like if Yasiel Puig was also a top-ranked Cuban salsa dancer and cigar-maker, or if Roger Federer was also a renowned alpine skier and watch-maker.
  3. As many have pointed out, Eve Muirhead is hot. So, she's got that going for her.

ODDS: 5 - 2


3. SWEDEN: Margaretha Sigfridsson

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

After leading Sweden to the Gold Medal at the 2010 Olympics over Cougar Queen Cheryl Bernard, long-time Swedish skip Anette Norberg, seen here in a heavy metal video, decided to retire. That left the door open for former Norberg alternate Margaretha Sigfridsson to form her own team with a few other Swedish veterans, and they've been bruising egos on the European circuit ever since. Interesting wrinkle: Sigfridsson (that's her on the left, and, not that it matters one iota, but why does the IOC even bother listing curlers' weights if it's going to just make stuff up) is the skip and calls the game, but throws lead rocks. There are a few teams where the skip throws third rocks (usually when teams have an old, strategy-minded skip and a young, technically proficient vice) but having the skip of the team throw the easy-ass lead shots is pretty weird stuff.

They're talented, they're experienced, and they're put together with IKEA-like efficiency. Definitely earmark this team for the playoffs.

ODDS: 5-2


4. SWITZERLAND: Mirjam Ott

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014

Mirjam Ott's another veteran, like Jones and Sigfridsson. She's been on the scene forever, winning silver twice at the Olympics alongside a bunch of hardware in European/World championships. Also, as noted in my very important infographic, she looks like Shaun White.

Like all things Swiss, their playing style is fairly neutral and boring. (Speaking of boring Swiss stuff, Mirjam is a full-time banker.) But I dunno, they seem like a fun team. At least they drink together. They're a bit of a longshot in a very packed group, but I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the playoffs.

ODDS: 6-1


5. USA: Erika Brown

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

Erika Brown, 40 years old, is a three-time Olympian. That, on its own, isn't strange. Here's what's strange: her first Olympics were in 1988, in Calgary, where she represented Team USA as a 15-year-old. (Check this article, with a great photo of her from '88 looking like Blossom.)

Curling being the tight-knit sport that it is (join a Friday night men's league and you're instantly 3 degrees of separation from every curler on Earth), there are a lot of little connections at work on this patchwork of a team:

  • Brown's brother is the alternate for the Team USA men's rink.
  • Her parents were both curlers who represented the US internationally, and her dad's the coach of the Sochi paralympic curling team.
  • The Browns also own the largest curling supplies distributor in the US.
  • Brown's vice, Debbie McCormick, had been representing the US for a long time with her own team as skip, coming dead last in Vancouver 2010. They merged forces recently for a shot at the Team USA trials together.
  • Her second was also at the Olympics on a different team in 2006.
  • Her lead (at 45, the oldest Olympian on the US delegation) last played at the Olympics in 2002.
  • Brown lives in Canada (turncoat!) and is married to Ian Tetley, long-time Canadian curler who was on a bunch of successful teams from the 80s and 90s.

A lot of Olympic guides I've read have called this US team an "all-star team". (That article even suggests that no team at Sochi can stop Erika Brown, which, spoiler alert: they can.) I guess they're an all-star team in the sense that they're a purpose-built team put together for the Olympics made up of different rinks' members, but the term "all-star" might be a bit misleading, in the same way that the Mexican hockey team features an all-star team of Mexican hockey players.

Team USA just isn't on the same level as the Jones/Muirheads/Sigfridssons of the pack, but they're a well-rounded veteran team. Sneaking into a playoff berth and snagging a bronze? Weirder things have happened.

If you like cringing at badly-aged memes, here they are doing a "What Does the Fox Say" parody. DO NOT watch it if you plan on cheering for Team USA, as the video will turn you off of them completely.

ODDS: 9-1


6. RUSSIA: Anna Sidorova

The Russian team's on home soil, and they've been hard at work preparing to reach the podium for Mother Russia, with their team currently ranked-

WAIT, IS SHE THE HOT ONE FROM ALL THOSE "HOTTEST OLYMPIANS" SLIDESHOWS I CLICK ON?

Yeah, that's her. But that's not really important, can we talk about the curli—

THE ONE WHO DID A MAXIM SHOOT IN LINGERIE?

Yeah, I guess - but first I really want to talk about the keys to this team's success on the ice! If you look at their shot-making percentages-

NO! PHOTOS! WE WANT PHOTOS!

Fuck. FINE. GO NUTS, idiots. (Links probably NSFW if you work at a bank or a church or something.)

Thank you! Now, what were you saying about curling?

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014

For starters, Russia isn't a traditional curling country. They've only really ramped up their curling participation after they won the bid for Sochi 2014, and decided they needed a team to enter as the host nation that wouldn't bring eternal shame to the Glorious Motherland. They recruited a bunch of young, hot athletes, like a Russian version of Power Rangers, and made them start curling. Within no time they were competitive on the women's circuit in Europe.

Men's curling proved to be a harder nut to crack, so they actually tried to pull some serious KGB-type shit and just bribe a bunch of Canadians into renouncing their citizenship and curling for Russia. They found an up-and-coming young team out of Manitoba and offered to give them Russian citizenship (and, presumably, a pile of rubles) if they agreed to move to Russia and curl full-time. It didn't work out, but still, not a bad idea.

This is where another interesting wrinkle of Russian curling comes in: from a coaching perspective, they treat curling like it's a real sport. Curling coaches exist, but mainly their job is to watch the game, give the odd bit of advice during timeouts, and carry out the Gatorade bottles and apple slices during the 5th-end break. Curling coaches are just old retired curlers that manage the team and, if asked during a timeout, will offer advice on what shot to make. A hundred years of curling tradition dictates that the skip act as on-ice coach for all other decisions. But the Russians have taken curling and applied their trademark approach to athletics - y'know, grizzled old Soviet gymnastics coaches in tracksuits barking orders at crying 14-year-old girls. "YOU GET PUPPY BACK WHEN YOU STICK LANDING!" Anyways, at the last Olympics, the Russian curling coach actually stepped in and benched players at will for poor play, juggling the roster and rearranging the team on a game-to-game basis. At one point the coach actually benched their skip and put in the alternate. Look, the Cold War was one thing, but now you're messing with curling tradition, Russia!

In summary, this next sentence will just be SEO keywords so that this article shows up higher on searches for Anna Sidorova, pictures of Anna Sidorova, Russian curler naked, hot pictures Anna Sidorova, is Anna Sidorova single, exclusive photos nude Russian curling team Anna Sidorova.

ODDS: 10-1


7. CHINA: Bingyu Wang

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

China's another country that came to curling through a completely weird, backwards way: they smelled an Olympic medal that was up for grabs, wanted to bolster their country's medal count, and like 90% of people tuning into NBC Sports late at night during the Olympics, thought: "how hard could this be?" The answer: curling isn't really all that hard to learn on a technical level. China went from a nation of 0 curlers to a nation with a competitive international team almost overnight, just from, well, doing what the Chinese Olympic committee does: forcing people to adopt a sport and practice it 24 hours a day.

Bingyu Wang's team started curling in 2002, shortly after curling was reintroduced as an Olympic event in 1998. A mere 6 years later in 2008, Wang's Chinese team made the Women's World Championships, went 9-2 in the tournament, beat Jennifer Jones twice and ended up finishing in second place. They steamrolled the World Championships the next year, going 10-1 in the tournament and eventually becoming the first team to ever win a World Championship from outside of North America or Europe. In Vancouver, they played well and won Olympic bronze, another first.

It was around this time that old, crotchety members of the Canadian curling community started worrying out loud about Canada's continued dominance of the sport, openly suggesting that maybe Canada should stop sending coaches and offering training to Chinese teams. Cold War-ish talk of a Curling Red Scare aside, the surplus of retired Canadian curling greats just lying around are usually happy to coach top international teams. This year's Chinese squad is being coached by Edmonton's Marcel Rocque, formerly a part of the famed hard-sweeping front-end on the early-2000s Randy Ferbey team dubbed "Huff & Puff". (I think Rocque was "Huff".)

The big knock on the Chinese team is that they can make the technical shots on a very proficient level - being forced by the Chinese government to do nothing but barnstorm small-town Canadian bonspiels and practice curling 24/7, with no job on the side to worry about, will do wonders for your takeout accuracy. What they don't have is the strategic element that comes from absorbing curling knowledge for the past 30 years in an entrenched curling culture. Their team's currently ranked 14th in the world, behind Jones, Muirhead, Ott, Sigfridsson and Sidorova, but I wouldn't count them out in any game. Will they win gold, signalling a seismic shift in the history of curling away from Pilsner-drinking Manitoba hosers and towards joyless, technically-proficient automatons? Damnit, now I'm sounding like one of those bitter old "The Chinese took err jerbs!"-types too.

ODDS: 10-1


8. DENMARK: Lene Nielsen

Lene Nielsen skips a fairly young team, all between 26 and 29. Nielsen was actually Denmark's flagbearer in the opening ceremonies. Getty Images thinks Lene Nielsen is a man, according to their caption. Lene Nielsen isn't the skip that famously released a topless photo to promote curling, that was a different Danish skip from the last Olympics, which gives me one less interesting fact to tell you about Lene Nielsen. Uh... Go Lene Nielsen?

ODDS: 20-1


9. JAPAN: Ayumi Ogasawara

People have a thing for the Japanese women's curling team. See: this video, which inexplicably has 210,000 views (which is roughly 209,000 more views than the average curling video on Youtube.) Anyways, go nuts, talk amongst yourselves about how kawaii they look, I'm just saying they're probably not going to win shit, is all.

ODDS: 30-1


10. SOUTH KOREA: Kim Ji-su

Of the 10 teams competing in women's curling at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, this South Korean team is definitely one of those 10.

ODDS: 30-1


PART 2: THE GENTLEMEN


1. CANADA: Brad Jacobs

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

I originally gave Jacobs modest 3-1 odds of winning the Canadian Olympic Trials, and not only did he win them, he plowed through them like a... a... a Northern Ontario moose of some kind, through a... big field full of bowling pins? Anyways, Jacobs is our man, and even though he's a bit of a hot-headed cocky asshole, he's really the best man for the job, since his team's been playing this past year like an NBA Jam character that just unlocked HE'S ON FIRE!-mode. After making a clutch double-takeout, I just want Brad and all of his dude-bro teammates to chest-bump and scream "BOOM-shaka-laka!"

75% of this team is related by blood, with Jacobs' two cousins, EJ Harnden and Ryan Harnden, making up the front end. (Probably not the only time a story out of Northern Ontario has involved "playing with your cousin's front end." Oh come at me, Northern Ontarians! Put down the Timmy's cup full of grain alcohol you were drinking long enough to leave an offended comment!) EJ Harnden looks like this with his shirt off, in a picture you'd either right click and save as "Proof_CurlerIsASport.jpg", or as "What-A-Tool.jpg"

The only one who isn't a member of the Jacobs/Harnden family tree, Ryan Fry, is also part of the whole new wave of "I'm a real athlete, I yell and slam my broom and lift weights and wear UnderArmor and drink PROTEEEIN"-generation of curlers, which for some reason is endearing when it's Eve Muirhead, but just the worst when it's a bunch of baseball cap-wearing bros. Ryan Fry used to play on Brad Gushue's Newfoundland team when they briefly curled with legendary ex-skip Randy Ferbey, Canada's most decorated curler in history. After Ferbey had an ugly breakup with the Gushue camp, Fry said of Ferbey: "The sport has changed and the class of players have evolved. We have become athletes. There is very little room in the sport now for competitors like Randy Ferbey." God, what a dick thing to say. If Rory McIlroy went off about how Phil Mickelson should retire because he's too old-fashioned for the new generation of Nike-swag gym-rat golfers, you'd rightly think: wow, what a dick.

Here's Brad Jacobs, on his Sochi arrangements: "I think when we all walked in there, it felt like a good place to win a gold medal. The dressing room is a little tight, but we're going to make it our own. We're going to be pumping the house music as usual in there and having a good time and hopefully making a lot of shots."

Ugh. They're like the reason people quit gyms.

ODDS OF WINNING GOLD: Even


2. SWEDEN: Niklas Edin

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

Niklas Edin's Swedish team is also full of young-gun athletic intensity, but he also looks like a punk-rock hobbit and sounds like Skwisgaar Skwigelf, so no one really dislikes him too much.

Here he is in the softcore-porny Men Of Curling calendar... pulling a plow through a field? So, y'know. If you need a plow pulled, call Niklas Edin.

Here he is making a 360-takeout trick shot. See? He's fun!

Here he is in an AP article about how he's the "John McEnroe of curling." A lot of different publications ran the same newswire piece, only I just love the headline this local ABC affiliate went with: "Cursing expected at Olympic curling tournament." CONSIDER MY PEARLS CLUTCHED.

I haven't really mentioned this, but they're also a really good team, and the top-ranked non-Canadian team in the world.

ODDS: 3-1


3. GREAT BRITAIN: David Murdoch

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

David Murdoch is Scottish. Like, really Scottish. He looks like the type of perpetually-surly, pint-gulping Glaswegian punter in an Adidas tracksuit who'd headbutt an Englishman for been' a right wee bastart, innit.

Doesn't it seem like they're just just going to drunkenly turn to the bear here and go "Ay! Yaer lookin' tae fight, ye fockin' cuhnt?" and smash a bottle of Buckfast over the bear's head?

Murdoch's a wily veteran - he's been around the block, winning 2 World Championships, but never medaling at the Olympics. He blew up his team in 2012, picked up a young front end, and joined forces with Tom Brewster, the other big skip out of Scotland, as his vice. On a sidenote: when Murdoch's team is yelling Scottish-accented commands on the ice I honestly have a better chance understanding Niklas Edin speaking Swedish.

ODDS: 7-2


4. NORWAY: Thomas Ulsrud

DEM PAAAAANTS.

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

The Norwegian Pants Team burst onto the sartorial scene at the 2010 Olympics, where their tricolour, diamond-patterned pants custom-made by Loudmouth Golf received considerable attention from the pants media and developed a large following of pants fans, even among people who don't usually follow competitive pants. After taking home the 2010 gold in Best Pants, Ulsrud's team continued to grow and improve, working on new pants designs that continued to impress. After 4 years of training and practice to create the perfect pants balance, they shocked the world in pre-Olympics pants qualifying with the rarely-seen Full Norwegian Zigzag Suit. This week they've arrived in Sochi with a bold aggressive new approach to pants, including multiple new styles of pants for every game, like this Piet Mondrian-inspired number - a shrewd veteran move that will have them in hot competition with young, up-and-coming competitors going for the coveted gold in Men's Pants.

The Norwegians are so focused on pants gold in Sochi, they're only wearing them during competition, going pantsless off the ice.

Some say that distractions, like the team's penchant for curling, take away from their real focus here in Sochi: pants.

ODDS: 4-1


5. SWITZERLAND: Sven Michel

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

Sven Michel seems like a pretty cool dude - he's a 25-year-old square-jawed bricklayer, currently dating fellow Olympian Alina Paetz, the alternate on Mirjam Ott's Swiss team. His second is a plumber named Sandro who looks like your high school bully. Their lead, Claudio Paetz, is the brother of the alternate on Mirjam Ott's Swiss team, Alina Pae-... wait a minute, that name seems familiar. His skip is banging his sister? I'm sure that's not awkward at all. You think Sven ever calls a shot like "Ja, Claudio, I need you to slam it from de front, und then peel away - just like I do to das little sister!! (Humping motion with broom)"

I'm not a gambler, but this Swiss team could be a dark horse bet. They're the reigning 2013 European champions, having defeated Thomas Ulsrud in a final game where Sven essentially put the team on his back, shooting at a 90% clip as skip. The World Curling Tour has them ranked 17th in the world, 4th among teams in Sochi, behind only Jacobs (#1), Edin (#8) and Ulsrud (#9) - yet Bodog has the Swiss as 25-1 longshots. (My odds are a lot more optimistic than Vegas' odds for every team here, because I'm a shitty bookie who doesn't pay out.) I'm just saying, if they play like they did in the European championships, and not the World Championships where they placed a middling 6th, there are worse longshots to bet on.

ODDS: 6-1


6. DENMARK: Rasmus Stjerne

How boring is this team? Skip Rasmus Stjerne lists "IT development" among his interests, and says his hero is (exaggerated snoring noise) Peyton Manning. Their vice is a financial consultant whose Olympic profile page lists his goal as not winning, but just "coming in the top 5 at the Olympics." Their lead's listed ambitions are even more vanilla: "to play well." Maybe the wackiest member of the team, their second Mikkel Poulsen is so wild that he has a nickname ("Po"), and his own fun, superstitious ritual (he reportedly does "five slow push-ups after a game has finished.")

Danes are what would happen if you took Swedes and removed the part of their brain that controls personality. This group seems like they prefer eating plain bread because toast has too much flavour.

ODDS: 8-1


7. CHINA: Rui Lui

Rui, Rui Liu. Where are you? You've got some work to do now.

Like his countrymates on the Bingyu Wang team, Rui Liu's foursome are young, come from the city of Harbin (home to the country's first and possibly only curling club), and are heavily supported by the Chinese government. It's been said that there are only 10 professional curlers on Earth: the 5 men and 5 women from the Chinese national teams. Everyone else - including the highest-paid, most-decorated world champions - has a real job.

Unlike Bingyu's side, the Chinese men haven't had as much immediate success on the international stage. They're still a good, consistent team, and they've still earned the odd upset win against much better teams. Their job this week will be to put up a fight against the elites of the group, but no one's expecting much more. DEMOCRACY'S got an unbeaten streak in Olympic curling gold, and it ain't letting up now!

ODDS: 15-1


8. USA: John Shuster

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

I'd love to give you an NBC-style puff piece about how Minnesota's John Shuster rink - who mollywhopped Pete Fenson's team (known in curling circles as "That Other American Men's Team, No, Not Shuster, The Other One") by a score of 11-1 in a merciful 4 ends to lock up the US Trials - are really interesting and have a real shot in Sochi. The only problem is, a) they're not interesting, b) they have no real shot.

OK, one mildly interesting thing: Shuster admitted to Stephen Colbert (around 1:10) that he can't touch his toes. CURLING.

Hey, at least they've got Vernon Davis. PUT HIM IN, COACH!

ODDS: 25-1


9. GERMANY: John Jahr

This team gives me the willies. Their Olympic profile photos look like a police wanted poster for an international ring of black-market human organ resellers. Look into their dead eyes, and see only emptiness.

They're also not very good at curling, so.

ODDS: 30-1


10. RUSSIA: Alesksey Stukalskiy

As host nation, Russia gets an automatic qualification into every event. And, well, that's pretty much all I need to say about these guys.

They will lose almost every game, and then Putin will hit a mysterious "Make Shameful Curling Team Disappear" button.

ODDS: Nyet


PREDICTIONS!

A Hater's Guide to Olympic Curling: Sochi 2014S

(pictured: Yoshi delivers a shot as sweepers Wario and Knuckles look on, in a real video game you can apparently buy. I predict that this will not happen in the real tournament.)

Women's 1 vs. 4 game, Canada-Russia: The Russians surprisingly make it into the playoffs. Jennifer Jones carves Anna Sidorova apart like a Russian ham. Sidorova goes on to become model/reality actress/wife of oil-industry oligarch, and makes more money than Jennifer Jones will ever earn in her role as the greatest female curler of her generation.

Women's 2 vs. 3 game, Sweden-Great Britain: The Swedes play a tight, controlling game, forcing Eve to make a bunch of aggressive, screaming circus shots to stay in it. Scotland takes it in a nailbiter, as literally dozens of people watch in the stands.

Women's Gold Medal Game: Oh Eve Muirhead, you think you're hot stuff just because you've got blonde highlights, clutch takeouts, and you moodily blame your teammates? Jennifer Jones invented that shit when you were still in your baby-kilt. Jones plays a cat-and-mouse game against the young Scots, taking home the Gold. Canada is thrilled. Life continues as usual in Great Britain.


Men's 1 vs. 4 game, Canada-Switzerland: Brad Jacobs and Sven Michel just stand in the middle of the ice screaming at full volume into each others' faces, for two hours, until Michel eventually turns beet-red and passes out. No rocks are thrown. Officials shrug, Canada proceeds.

Men's 2 vs. 3 game, Sweden-Norway: In a battle between funny European moon-languages and handsome, stoic faces, Edin's famous temper comes back, as he loses his shit, misses an easy hit for the win, and bites a broom in half in anger.

Men's Gold Medal Game: Deciding that there's only one way to beat Norway, the Canadians decide to fight fire with fire, stepping up their pants game to new heights. Jacobs arrives to the rink in snapping-tight yellow women's yoga pants, Ryan Fry wears lederhosen, and the Harndens wear nothing but fishnets. Shamed at the amazing pants on display compared to his own lackluster trousers, Ulsrud immediately forfeits the match. Jacobs and team go on a Bacchanalian bender of Rob Ford proportions in the Athletes' Village, with Jagerbombs, house music, fistfights and streaking. They are apprehended by Russian police for excessive bro-love, and are never seen again.


Congratulations, you've made it through thousands of words about curling! Join me down in the comments, where we will discuss curling, perform Anna Sidorova search engine optimization, and call me an idiot.

-Matt English