As much as I wish I could take credit for that name I cannot. I do like it a lot and since I heard someone use it as a new nickname for John it made me want to write this post about the boys and Team USA curling. So here we go. The truth:
First, this post contains only one photo but it's all the way at the end (sorry). Second, I'm writing this before their semi final (re)match against Canada. I'll explain why later. And third, this post is longish. You've been warned. Onwards.
I met John Shuster in November 2013, in Fargo, North Dakota. But really we need to go back to 2006. That's when I discovered curling and John was the lead of the US men's team that won a bronze medal in Torino, Italy. Their first ever and only medal to date at the Olympics. At least as of the original posting of this entry.
It took me a few more years to finally find curling in real life but in 2012 I threw my first stone and I've been hooked ever since. Just over a year later and I'm meeting one of the guys that helped introduce me to the sport. Life can be funny sometimes. This was a good kind of funny.
I actually met Tyler George in 2013 as well, before I met John. It was right after I started dating the woman who is now my wife. We lured him out to California to play in our summer bonspiel as he was gearing up his own Olympic team run. John and Tyler weren't teamed up yet but in a year they would join forces and begin to elevate their game to the next level. Tyler is the guy that's making sure you feel welcome and like you've been his friend for years.
2015 is when I met Matt Hamilton. Another world level curler nice enough to curl at our summer spiel. To be fair I haven't had tons of interactions with Matt, though the few I have had tell me Matt is an honest guy with a forthright way about him. He's also got a keen memory because he recognized me in a sea of people in Las Vegas and said hello. Maybe he confused me for someone else but that is the kind of thing I remember about him.
John Landstiener I probably met once in 2014, in Sochi, Russia, but really I just meet him the other day here in PyeongChang. I only know him a very little but I appreciate his quietness and his just working hard to get shit done way that he has. He also seems pretty smart.
I don't think I've ever met Joe Polo. But you don't need to meet that guy to know he's a class act. You can read about him, watch how he interacts with his team, and get to know his parents a little bit over the course of a week in a foreign country. I've done all of these things- Joe Polo is a good dude.
The Middle Distance
All this to say that I've gotten to know John and the guys a little bit over the past 4+ years. But I know John the best of them. We're staying with his wonderful family here in South Korea. In Sochi, he got us access to a hospitality house so we had a place to refresh and recuperate. He runs a charity bonspiel every year in Duluth raising money for good causes. He's approachable, kind, nice and a genuine good guy. Even if I didn't know anything about his teammates, I would know they're alright too because of who he is. I respect that.
Watching the guys play and battle this week has been a roller coaster. It was a rough start to be sure. But those guys know who they are. They did the work, shoulder to the wheel. They kept at it, building up momentum like an incredible machine gathering up gravity. And they knew they had it in them. Here we are.
The guys play Canada tomorrow and I expect it to be a fight. Canada was in a foul mood after they lost a few days ago. A 5yr old's temper tantrum of a mood. It means even more now. But our guys run with the best, beat the best, and they don't back down.
Team Shooster is this great and wondrous living creature. Joe is the Calm. Landstiner is the Strength. Hamilton is the Fire. Tyler is the Swagger. John is the heart. I love this beast for it is mighty. It is the grit. It is the glory.
So here's why I'm posting this before their game: my respect, my support for these guys is not contingent on the result. That's an easy thing to say about your friends (I know- it's not new). Especially when they are on a roll.
Yes. I want them to win. I want them to beat Canada a second time very, very much. But I've been a fan of Team Shooster since before I met them. Cheering when they struggled. Celebrating when they won. And through it all I've always been proud every time they get to wear Team USA on their back. These guys, they are good guys. They are great curlers. Don't let anyone tell you different. Ever. It will be lies.
USA curling needs all of these guys. And so many more like them. They know who they are, they work hard, and they are approachable to fans like me. Win or lose tomorrow, I hope they comeback in 4 years, in 8 years and as long as they want to play.
As my Dad once texted me, "I'm a booster for Shooster". We all should be. Go boys go.