Curling, by definition, is a sport somewhat like shuffleboard.

Teams of four players, on a rectangle sheet of ice, slide stones toward a target area.

That, in a nutshell, is a description of game that has intrigued and fascinated many of us for years. It’s been the butt of jokes, as well — at least, every four years during the Olympics.

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But, in you listen to Phil Burian, it’s much more than that.

“It’s a way to bring people together, where we build relationships,” said Burian, president of the Cedar Rapids Curling Club. “It’s a great way to meet people.”

Teams are encouraged, required even, to hang out after competition, share stories, food and maybe a drink or two. You know, like we all did before Facebook, Twitter and cellphones were twinkles in our eyes.

“It’s a way for people to engage with people in person without a phone in their hand,” Burian said.

But it’s even more than that.

“It’s uniquely insistent on sportsmanship and civility,” he said.

Sportsmanship and civility? Curling, it appears, may be just what society needs today.

Big-time curling, if you missed it last week, is coming to Cedar Rapids in 2021.

Thanks to the work of the Cedar Rapids Tourism Office, VenuWorks, the local curling club and the city, the USA Curling National Championships will be held Feb. 6-13, 2021, at the Cedar Rapids Ice Arena.

That is, of course, if we can all be civil and good sports between now and then.

But I digress.

This may not be as big of news as the White Sox hosting the Yankees in a Major League Baseball game at the Field of Dreams site in Dyersville next year … unless you’re part of the curling community.

And, yes, there is a vibrant curling community in Cedar Rapids.

“I started curling in 2013 when the club started,” Burian said. “I had never touched a stone and didn’t know the rules.”

Now he travels to tournaments every three or four weekends.

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“We’re trying to grow the sport in Eastern Iowa,” he said. “This, obviously, is pretty thrilling.”

The Cedar Rapids Curling Club wrapped up its sixth annual CedarSpiel on Sunday, an event that drew 22 teams and players from 15 states.

The sport is huge in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but in Eastern Iowa — and maybe across the state — its hard for many of us to figure out. What is a “stone?” What is the deal with the “sweeper?”

“‘Sweeping a rock’ decreases the friction, which makes the stone travel a straighter path (with less ‘curl’) and a longer distance,” notes a description on Wikipedia.

Still not sure?

“It’s always more work than people realize,” Burian said.

That’s why he is thrilled the national tournament is coming to Cedar Rapids. The best curlers in the country, those vying for Olympic berths, will be here, showing off their talents.

And while sportsmanship and civility still will be front and center. Burian admits those men and women coming here “will be the best curlers in the country and they are coming to win.”

But, for now, Burian will focus on getting more of us knowledgeable about the sport.

“We’re really thrilled, thrilled that people are finding out about our sport,” he said.

l Coments: (319) 368-8696; jr.ogden@thegazette.com

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