In 2003, when Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event, outlasting poker “pro” Sam Farha in dramatic fashion, poker exploded in popularity and hundreds of card rooms burst on to the scene wanting a piece of the action. Despite the hype dying down a few years after, the “Moneymaker effect” carved no-limit Texas Hold’em in to western culture and became as universally well-known as other established, classic games like Chess.
Team Shuster’s recent run at the Olympics in curling, toppling world-class giants Team Canada and Team Sweden on their way to gold, was about as unexpected as Chris Moneymaker’s improbable run. With virtually nothing to lose and already exceeding their expectations with a playoff qualification, their free and relaxed play got the best of Canada and Sweden, countries burdened with the higher expectations of earning gold or silver, like all prior Canadian and Swedish representatives in the Olympics.
What Chris Moneymaker represented to the spectator was the realization that an average Joe like themselves can battle it out with the big guys. With a bit of luck and a bit of refined skill, dreams of reaching the top can be achieved.
Shuster’s team conveyed that same underdog image. Some spectators even described the team looking as if they were a bunch of buddies that just got together over a few beers years ago and said “let’s make a curling team”. Suddenly, they were facing the best of the best in a gold medal match, pitted against opponents that looked like they were genetically engineered for curling. When Shuster hit for five to go up 10-5 in the eighth end, it became clear that the Davids have slayed the Goliaths, and that with a little bit of luck and a little bit of refined skill, that dream of reaching the top and winning Olympic gold was achieved once again.
Will there be a “Moneymaker effect” in curling? We’ll have to wait and see. But I think we’re guaranteed at least a small boom in the curling markets and perhaps it won’t just be Canadian expats signing up at clubs in the U.S. in the near future.