Curling, the ice sport with brooms, is roiled in controversy over — what else? — the brooms.
Having evolved in recent years from its beer-drinking, chain-smoking, down-at-the-local-club roots, the friendly sport of curling suddenly has a debate on its hands that in some quarters has resulted in the civility, and even some gloves, being dropped.
Perhaps unsurprising for a sport that has something in common with a household chore, the issue involves fabric — specifically, something called directional fabric. The use of this material in broom pads is the latest escalation in an arms race among manufacturers seeking to help the world's best curlers guide their 44-pound stones along a sheet of ice as if they were controlled by joysticks.
Sweeping with the brooms, which more closely resemble Swiffer mops, is considered an athletic skill in the sport. If that task was becoming too easy, well, some curlers felt that it just was not curling anymore.
Many, but not all, of the sport's top competitors signed an agreement last month to shun the newest brooms. But with few regulations on the books and Olympic qualifying tournaments underway this month, the World Curling Federation stepped in Wednesday and issued new rules that set severe restrictions on the types of brooms that can be used.