High-tech curling brooms banned

Monday, September 12, 2016
by Cameron Shelley

Sweeping restrictions have been announced by Curling Canada, the national regulator for the sport of curling.  That is, Curling Canada has outlawed certain sorts of curling brooms that support novel kinds of sweeping.

The move follows controversy originating in the previous season with the introduction of brooms designed to allow sweepers to significantly change the trajectory of a curling stone after it has been thrown.

New brooms (really brushes) incorporate a "directional" fabric that allows sweepers to change the texture of the ice assymetrically.  As I understand it, the fabric allows sweepers to either score the ice in one direction to increase curl or to smooth the ice to decrease it.  Two sweepers coordinating their use of the new brooms can result in large displacements.  

Broom manufacturers were promoting the new technology and top-level teams were taking note.  In addition, the new brooms and brushing did not appear to violate any rules of curling, which stipulate only that sweeping may not "harm" the ice.

Nevertheless, critics complained that the new gear degraded the game.  

"It's making a mockery of the sport," [Brad] Jacobs [current men's Olympic champion skip] stated. "And curling is in a great place right now where we're showcasing the athleticism of the sport and the players. This isn't what we need."

Nolan Thiessen, lead for Team Canada, complained that the innovation gave the technology too important a role in success relative to the players.

This controversy illustrates the importance of what is called the "lusory attitude" of a game or sport, that is, in what way the sport allows people to develop and display excellence.  Jacobs points to the desire of curlers to be considered athletes, a term that usually encompasses physical fitness and  coordination as well as special mental skills.  As Thiessen points out, this status could be threatened if the technology used in the game is seen as playing a dominant role in the outcomes of competitions.

I am not a player of follower of curling, so I am unsure whether or not the lusory attitude proper to the sport is violated with the "directional" brooms and sweeping.  Thoughts?

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