OGDEN ? Will the 2002 Winter Olympics do for curling what the World Cup did for women's soccer several years ago?

If so, don't expect the U.S. women curlers to be ripping off their shirts anytime soon.

But the real result may be more people talking with confidence about rocks, hogs, tees and houses ? and all the rest of curling's unique phraseology.

With MSNBC and CNBC broadcasting curling during the 2002 Winter Games, more Americans have been introduced to the 500-year-old sport than ever before. What's more, they're watching with staying power.

"Everyone seems to be taking to it," MSNBC curling commentator Don Duguid told the Deseret News. "I know a lot of people associated with the Olympics, the skiing people, when they've got down time, they watch curling."

He said his curling colleague with MSNBC, Don Chevrier, has been getting e-mails from viewers from Texas, New York and California, about the curling coverage. "They think it's great."

Chevrier and Duguid came from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. (CBC) to NBC to cover curling. Both are veteran curlers from the country where some 1.3 million of the 1.5 million curlers in the world live. Their knowledge, however, may have been over the heads of many Americans who know next to nothing about the sport.

Then Friday night, Chevrier came down with laryngitis. NBC called on biathlon and cross country commentator Bob Papa to join Duguid at The Ice Sheet in Ogden for curling. Papa, who has no background in curling, didn't even know what "shot stone" meant.

All the better, said Duguid.

"He doesn't understand curling, so he asks, 'Why are they doing that? What is the 12-foot?' Those are the things the public is asking, so it works out perfectly."

Said Papa: "I brought the dummied-down perspective to the viewers, the most simplistic level. We were watching the curling in between our races in Soldier Hollow, and the crew started watching the curling. Chevrier and Duguid . . . said 'shot rock,' and we said, 'What the heck is the shot rock?' "

Using analogies and comparing curling to pool, chess, golf and even tennis, Papa and Duguid are bringing curling ? for the first time ? into American living rooms.

NBC is calling curling "the country's newest fascination" ? at least in recent press release crowing about MSNBC's ratings, which is outpacing normal delivery by triple-digit increases.

MSNBC reported a six-day 1.2 average rating (832,000 households) and a .6 and 487,000 in the adult 25-54 demographics. Saturday's coverage featured a recap of the first week's Olympic competition highlights, generating a .9/644,000 households and a .5/396,000 in the key demo.

Saturday's U.S. women's curling match against Germany ? teamed with live Finland-Germany hockey coverage ? and the women's Canada-Sweden curling contest to earn a ratings of .9 and 680,000 households.

"It's great for curling," said Duguid of the sport's increased exposure. "It took a lot of fortitude (for NBC) to say look we're going to cover curling. When you look at CBS at Nagano, they didn't cover 50 seconds (of curling). . . .

"I think CBS made a mistake. NBC did the right thing."

E-MAIL: julied@desnews.com