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Irregular Podcast! #11

2007-07-20: Irregular Podcast! #11 - "World Cup Burling Final" (9:59, 2.29 MB)


WARNING: This podcast's position and momentum cannot be precisely determined simultaneously.

[opening theme]

We're talking away
We don't know what
We're to say
We'll say it anyway
Today's another day to record
Shying away
We'll be recording a podcast, OK?
(Ir. Regular)
(Ir. Regular)
We'll be gone
In a minute or two

2007 Burling World Cup - Australian Team
Australian 2007 World Cup Team
[Sports intro theme]

Dan: Good evening sports fans, and welcome to the Burling World Cup final, between Norway and Australia. It promises to be a thrilling match, and joining me here in the commentary box is Olaf Gunnarson.

Olaf: Hello Dan.

Dan: So how do you see tonight's match playing out?

Olaf: Well Norway is of course a major power in burling, being the original inventors of the sport way back in Viking times, so they will look on this title almost as a birthright. Whereas the Australians are making only their second appearance in the World Cup, and have stunned everyone with their strong performance, including a major upset against the Germans in the semi-final. If they can put together another show like that, anything could happen out there on the ice tonight.

Dan: So you're not game to call this one?

Olaf: I'd be a fool, Dan.

Dan: It certainly will be interesting, especially with Norway's Johan Haldarson banned from this match because of that incident in the quarter-final with Switzerland.

Olaf: That's right, and his absence will have the Australians brimming with confidence.

Dan: Now we'll cross to Rolf down on the ice. What's the atmosphere like down there, Rolf?

Rolf: {yelling over crowd noise} It's amazing, Dan! Of course it's a sell-out crowd, with a huge Norwegian contingent in red and blue, chanting traditional burling war cries over 600 years old. There aren't as many Aussies - many of them had to buy tickets from scalpers at the last minute just to get in - but they're even more excited, if anything.

SFX: {in background} Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi! Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi! Aussie! Oi! Aussie! Oi! Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi Oi Oi!

Dan: And I hear the Australian fans have only just finished the banner for this game?

Rolf: That's right, Dan. They didn't even start on it until they made the second round, so they've only had a couple of weeks to complete it.

Dan: That could be a setback to their team. Most of the top teams have been working six months or more on their banner for the final. Thanks Rolf! Do you see this as a serious problem, Olaf?

Olaf: The Aussie fans know the score - they're not going to let their team down at a time like this. I'm sure some of them have been working around the clock on this banner.

Dan: There are a lot of fans new to the sport of burling watching here today. Larry, what's the importance of the team banner?

Larry: Thanks Dan. The banner is where the activity of the fans can either help or hurt their team. At the beginning of each half, the attacking team's banner is placed across the half-way line to hide their actions from the defending team. During this time, the defending players are restricted to the neutral zone, within ten metres of the half-way line. Defenders are only allowed to leave the zone when the Heiptirsteinn breaks through the banner. It hides the trajectory of the rock, so the defenders need to react quickly. The thicker the banner, the more sound it muffles, but the more momentum it takes off the rock as well. Good banner construction is vital to giving your attackers the edge.

Dan: Thanks Larry. And there's the banner now! The Australians have won the toss and elected to push first!

Olaf: I think that's a bad decision, Dan. The Aussies have a strong defence and should use that to intimidate the Norwegians. Pushing first is a risky tactic that could backfire. Not to mention the condition of the ice, which should firm up later in the evening.

Dan: Let's ask our statistician. Jim?

Jim: So far in this World Cup, teams pushing second have an average advantage of 23 centimetres.

Dan: That's quite small, Olaf.

Olaf: Yes, but it's still positive!

Dan: Here we go! The referee has the starting pistol...

SFX: Bang!

Dan: And the Aussies are off to a quick start! They're going with eight pullers, split between two ropes and... have they got three sweepers out there?!

Olaf: They sure do, Dan! That's a big change from their earlier tactics. Look how far ahead the lead sweeper is going!

Dan: Wow, he's a good 50 metres in front of the rock. It looks like, yes... I think they're doing the Lørenskog! manoeuvre!

Larry: For the uninitiated, the Lørenskog! manoeuvre is when a group of sweepers dash ahead of the rock to smooth a large patch of ice well in advance of the path, unlike the standard practice of staying with the rock and sweeping the ice just in front, like in curling. The goal is to gain a final burst of high acceleration.

Dan: Thanks Larry. That leaves just three more players pushing the Heiptirsteinn from behind. They seem to be doing a good job on that 24-tonne piece of granite.

Olaf: They don't have any lakes suitable for burling in Australia, so these guys have been training by pushing trucks across salt lake beds.

Dan: A bit like how the Jamaican team trains...

Olaf: That's right. Now have a look at the Norwegians.

SFX: {in background} Lørenskog! ! Lørenskog! ! Lørenskog! ! Lørenskog! !

Dan: They're looking a bit nervous in the neutral zone. They can hear the roars of the crowd, but it's hard to tell if they can make out their fans yelling "Lørenskog! ". I'm guessing they have no idea what the Aussies are up to.

Olaf: Exactly, Dan. They're not going for extra rakes. That means just two men hacking up the ice in front of this rock. If the pushers put a lot of spin on it in that soft ice zone, these triple World Cup champions could be on the back foot in a hurry. No, wait! They are going for the rakes! I think they've understood their fans!

Dan: That's a blow to the Aussies. Of course they can't see what the defenders are doing on the other side of the banner either. Now they're approaching the Lørenskog! zone... let's see how much spin they put on the rock.

Olaf: None! They're not spinning it, Dan! It's a double bluff! This is fantastic!

Dan: They're just skating for their lives, and building up an impressive head of steam! Here we go! The last hundred metres! And it's through the banner! Rolf!

Rolf: 8.14 seconds, Dan!

Jim: That's their fastest push of the tournament.

Dan: Amazing stuff! The Norwegians are after the rock and they realise they've made a mistake. Two of the rakers peel off to get in front and grind! This could cost them 10 metres, easily.

Olaf: 15, Dan. With four grinders already, they really wanted those two extra men on ropes or hammers.

Dan: Ice goes flying in front of this rock. The Aussies are watching through the banner. The Norwegians have settled into the grind are giving it all they've got. This is a good time to explain the defensive part of this game. Larry?

Larry: While the attacking team's goal is to push the Heiptirsteinn as far as they can, the defensive team wants to bring it to a stop in the shortest possible distance. They do this by a combination of physically pushing and pulling on the rock, jamming their skates into the ice for friction, as well as using hammers to transfer momentum to their own bodies, and chopping up the ice in front with rakes.

Olaf: These guys are very professional. The computer says 378 metres, and I think they'll hit that mark. Don't expect any more mistakes.

Dan: Looks like you're right, Olaf. 350... 360... 366... 370... 373... and stop. 376.44 metres is the official score. That's very competitive.

Jim: Australia's fourth highest push of the tournament, Dan. Although one of those was that 512 against the United Arab Emirates.

Dan: Thanks, Jim. Stay tuned, we'll be back for the second half after these messages.

Crazy Ivan: Amazing deals at Crazy Ivan's Used Cars! Come in for a deal you won't have to push home! These deals are sliding out the door! Even a team of twelve won't stop our incredible bargains! Don't get caught between a rock and a slab of ice! Come see us now, at Crazy Ivan's!

Voice Over: New! Ice Cauldron(TM) from Morgan-Marssen's! A crispy cone full of vanilla ice cream surrounding a huge chocolate rock smothered in blood red raspberry sauce! Buy yours today!

Singers: Listen to Irregular Podcast!

Warning Guy: WARNING: It's good for you.

2007 Burling World Cup - Australian Team
Australian Team pushing a training rock
[Sports intro theme]

Dan: Welcome back to the second half of this Burling World Cup final. Australia have posted 376.44 metres and now have to defend that distance against a powerful Norwegian attack. The ice has been completely resurfaced while the half-time show has been underway, and we're just about ready. The Norwegian banner is out there and the Heiptirsteinn is on the starting line.

SFX: Bang!

Dan: And here we go! Norway is using a standard formation, with two sweepers tracking in front, six pushers, and six on ropes. Do we expect anything tricky like what the Aussies pulled?

Olaf: No, Dan. The Norwegians dominate this game merely by being extremely good at it. They'll put a bit of spin on at the end, but that's about it.

Dan: The Aussies look a bit tense. They've seen Norway in action against other teams, but this is the first time they've met in international competition, so it's got to be intimidating. And with this crowd, I tell you Olaf, I wouldn't like to be out there.

Olaf: Oh I would! This is what every burler dreams of.

Dan: The sweepers have tossed their brooms and joined the rope crew. They're going to give it everything they've got in the last 200 metres. Let's keep an eye on the spin. The Aussies have three rakers and a couple of hammers there, at the ready. Looks like they've predicted this trajectory pretty well. And there it goes, through the banner! Time, Rolf?

Rolf: 7.96, Dan!

Dan: Wowee! 0.3 faster - that's good for an extra 30 metres...

Olaf: But look at Rolfson!! He's slipped at the turn!

Dan: Yes! He's sliding flat on the ice! And pow! He's through the banner and into enemy territory!

Olaf: That's a huge mistake, Dan. Every metre he crosses that line counts double as a penalty.

Dan: He's scrambling! He's got a skate in. He's stopped, but that's a good five or six metres over.

Jim: 6.20 metres is the official score. That's a 12.4 metre penalty.

Dan: The Aussies will have seen that, and it'll spur them on. The hammers are pounding into this rock and the wielders are flying backwards with the momentum transfer, then returning for more. They've lashed two ropes around the rock and nullified the spin, and now they're settling in for the grind. I don't like the angles of those skates, though.

Olaf: No, they look a bit steep to me. They're trying too hard.

Dan: McKenzie's fallen and... oh no! He's hit that rock hard, there's blood on the ice!

Olaf: The medics are rushing out. I think he'll be okay, Dan.

Dan: The Aussies are now a man down, and still grinding this rock. 300 metres! Are they going to make it?! The crowd is going berserk! There's ice spraying everywhere! The rakers, what are they doing?!

Olaf: They're making footholds at 380 metres. That's a dangerous tactic! Limbs can get caught!

Dan: They don't need fit players if they win this game! This is the World Cup Final! They're giving it everything they've got! 350 metres!

Olaf: The momentum in this rock is incredible. The Norwegians are flat on the ice, gasping for breath. They can't look!

Dan: 360 metres! What a final! This is excruciating! The rock is moving slowly now, but inexorably! How do you stop a 24-tonne sliding rock on smooth ice?!

Olaf: Teamwork! That's how!

Dan: 370 metres! This one's going down to the wire! The Aussies are straining every muscle! They know they're close!

Olaf: 376! If it wasn't for that penalty, Norway would have won this now!

Dan: 378! I can't bear to watch! 379! The rock is barely moving! But the Aussies are exhausted! 380!

Olaf: I don't think they can do it, Dan!

Dan: They've jammed their skates into those footholds! Oh no! A foot's gone under the rock!

Olaf: 381!

Dan: That's Gibson! He'll need surgery on that leg!

Olaf: It's stopped! It's stopped!

Dan: 381.71! The Australians have won! The Australians have won the World Cup!

SFX: [in background] Waltzing Matilda! Waltzing Matilda! You'll come a Waltzing Matilda with me!


2007 Burling World Cup - Australian Team
Australian Team publicity shot


Dan: David MM.
Olaf: Andrew S.
Rolf: David Mc.
Larry: Loki P.
Jim: Steven I.
Crazy Ivan: David Mc.
Voice Over: David MM.
Singers: David MM, David Mc, Loki P, Andrew S, Steven I.

Programme Notes

2007 Burling World Cup - Australian Team victory logo
Championship jersey logo

Burling is a sport we invented one lunchtime at work. I walked into the lunch room and said, "Okay, I have an idea. Let's invent a brand new sport." And we brainstormed for an hour and came up with pretty much the entire concept of Burling. We started with the idea that it had to be played on ice, and... well I don't recall exactly how we ended up where we did.

Obviously the pushing the rock part is inspired somewhat by curling. We decided it would be cool to make the rock stupidly enormous (24 tonnes seemd about right) and require a team of players working together to push it. But merely trying to get near a target seemed too tame, so we decided there should be a defensive team, who get to try to deflect or stop the rock. From there it was a short step to making the distance the rock travelled determine the attacking team's score. Now the sport was a cross between curling and tug-o-war.

The major problem we had was that we had to keep the teams separate, which required a half-way line that neither team was allowed to cross. But this meant that the defending team could see the rock coming and prepare early by setting up defences or starting to rough up the ice in its path, which seemed a bit too soon - we wanted them to only be able to start planning and executing their defence when the rock crossed the line. So we added the neutral zone, and stipulated that the defenders had to stay close to the halfway line until the rock crossed the line.

Then one of us had a brainstorm, inspired by Australian rules football. At the beginning of each game of (professional) Aussie rules, the team members run out on to the field, bursting through an enormous paper banner. These banners are made for each game by the team's fans. So we added the idea of the banner to hide the attacking teamand the rock's trajectory from the defending team, and kept the idea that the banner was something constructed by the fans. This adds a unique element to the sport, in that the team's fans play an active part in the success of their team, through the skill of their banner construction. (A relatively small part, but that's as it should be.)

This adds a fair bit of strategy and bluffing potential to the sport, as there are two approaches to trying to achieve maximum distance. You can either just push the rock as fast as you can, or you can sacrifice speed to give it a significant amount of spin as you let it go over the line. What's harder to stop, a 24-tonne granite rock sliding across ice at 10 metres/second, or one sliding at 8 metres/second and spinning at 5 revolutions per minute? And the tools you need to stop them are different: The teams have a variety of officially approved tools they can use: brooms, hammers, ropes, rakes, and so on. They need to make the right choice, and fast.

Technical details: The field is a flat area of ice, a bit over a kilometre long. The starting line for the rock is about 600 metres back from the half-way line, so there's lots of room to get it up to speed. We decided the rock should cover the last 100 metres at a speed of roughly 45 km/h - faster than a human can run, but a reasonable way short of speed skating records.

The rock is known, in the traditional Viking terminology, as the Heiptirsteinn, which means "blood death rock". We came up with a bunch of other sports jargon terms, but I decided not to use them in the podcast, as they'd add too much confusion.

So now if anyone asks you what your favourite sport is, you can say burling. And if they ask you to explain it, you can say it's a 600-year-old Viking sport that's like a cross between curling, tug-o-war, and Australian rules football.

My comics: Irregular Webcomic! | Darths & Droids | Eavesdropper | Planet of Hats | The Dinosaur Whiteboard | mezzacotta
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