I arrived at my friend Gordon’s house a little early for the USA/Canada women’s hockey game and found the great Albertan nationalist banging away on his computer keyboard. I figured he was still Googling photos of Russian curler Anna Sidorova, but it appears he is as fickle as ever. His new passion, it turns out, is for Norwegian curling pants.
“I tell you, it’s the next big thing,” he assured me. Since the puck wouldn’t drop for another half hour, I put up with him walking me through it day by day. To give you a sense of the sheer awfulness of it, this is how it went as best as I can recall.
On day 1 of the Men’s Curling Competition, the Norwegians took on the U.S. The Americans were clearly taken aback by the Piet Mondrian-inspired squares of red, white and blue (Norway’s national colors) with a subdued gray counterpoint sported by today’s vikings. With their pop art swag, the Norwegians easily beat the Americans, who at least have the colors right if not the patterns. The final score was 7-4.
Day 2 saw the Norwegians taking on Russia. After a day of rigid angles and polygons, it was time to cut loose while remaining in an artistic vein. Wearing a Jackson Pollack-inspired paint-splatter pattern, they were too much for the hosts — Norway beat Russia 9-8.
Day 3 was when the Norwegians put down a fashion marker not just for these Olympic Games, but for all Olympiads to come. In a match against Germany that they would win 8-5, the Norwegians wore a daring red, white and blue houndstooth pattern, but that wasn’t enough. The trousers were actually knickerbockers offset by dark blue tube socks with red and white stripes. In 2018, the question will be: how will they top it?
The fourth day of competition was truly a matter of national pride. Norway was playing arch rival Sweden. Some people can’t tell the difference, but it’s easy enough — Sweden gave us ABBA while Norway gave us Death Metal. So the pants of the day were just Norwegian flags up and down the leg. Clearly this pattern wasn’t enough, as the Swedes won 5-4 (personally, I think Putin had a hand in that since Ukraine and Sweden both use blue and yellow in their flags).
On day 5, it was Valentine’s Day. Norwegian men are known as the world’s great romantics and lovers — wait, no, that’s not right. Well, they brought flowers, sort of. The pants of the day featured a floral print on a black background. My aunt Leona had similar slipcovers on her couch in Rugby, N.D. Anyway, the Canadians beat the pants off Norway 10-4 (and it was probably just as well).
Later, that same day, the lads decided that the flowers were a bad idea. They went up against China wearing a red, white and blue lightning bolt pattern right out of Ziggy Stardust or a Grateful Dead logo. It was better, but not good enough. China won 7-5.
Then there was a day of rest. No one knows what pants they wore that day.
Day 7 was a double-header, first Britain and then Switzerland. In the first game, the Norwegians went back to the zigzag pattern that they had tweeted around the world (minus, of course, the matching sports coat). Whether it made the opposition seasick (I confess it gives me the bed-spins), the pattern must have helped in some way as the Brits went down 7-6.
Against Switzerland, the pattern was a simple checkerboard of red, white, blue and Norwegian flags. The result was 5-3 for the Norwegians.
On the eight day, the red, white and blue pants were done in a swirl reminiscent of the stylized waves seen in Japanese wood block art. Or perhaps, it’s back to the 1960s pop art. In any event, they lost to Denmark 5-4. That meant a sudden death match against Britain with whom the Norwegians had tied for fourth.
And here, I sense there was a mood of defeatism. They had only packed trousers for nine matches! Subconsciously, they had already determined that there would be no 10th match. Even without the play-off, there was a semi-final and final, yet the Norwegians had not packed enough pants for those! Oh sure, they could have borrowed some from a wayfaring American golfer and probably kept their sartorial rep intact. But by then, the damage had been done. They lost the tie-breaker to Britain.
Regardless, Gordon is now seeking a small business loan, pawning his grandfather’s snuff boxes (I don’t think you get much for cardboard Copenhagen boxes, even when they’re full) and opening a Kickstarter campaign. He’s convinced that the Norwegians have just scratched the surface. His first Canadian model uses the red and white of his homeland. Sadly, he has chosen to put the maple leaf exactly where you would expect it.
Still, I wore uglier clothes in the 1970s — everyone did.