Favorite Reporter

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Curling Withdrawal

- It is officially springtime in Montreal:

The winter dog poo is peaking out majestically from its blanket of snow; the Libya-like potholes cover the roads like acne on a teenager; and curling season begins its slow and agonizing journey into summer repose.

- The Brier is over. I must say - I already miss good curling on TV.
The finals were a bit of a yawn-fest- with Stoughton and team curling a ridiculously good game. The game was not even as close as the score indicated.
You have to feel a little sorry (just a little) for Glenn and the boys, who can now corner the world silver market with all of the 2nd place trinkets they have amassed.

The World Curling Champinships are not nearly as entertaining as the Brier and the Scotties - although Women's Worlds certainly has a number of very watchable teams- but not for the curling.
The World Men's is usually somewhat exciting, but Stoughton will likely be boringly better than most teams there. Given that the event is being held in Regina, likely with the same rocks as the Brier and on similar ice conditions - look for a relatively easy win for Canada this year.
The World's have produced relatively few memorable moments over the past few years, with the exception of the infamous Martin throw-through that surely will go down as one of the worse curling calls in history.

- The silly season is definitely in full swing. A number of rumours and strange team configurations are being discussed in Quebec and elsewhere. I will provide an update when the dust settles - but some big surprises are coming. Spoiler alert: apparently, making it to the Brier is no longer enough to keep a team together...

- I will try to blog a bit from the road this weekend in Toronto. I am heading up to curl in a drinking, eating and joke-telling festival (I think there is also curling...) with some guys from Glenmore. This is definitely not a competitive venture. Goal will be to not injure myself. The event is held at the Royals, organized by bunch of characters who usually make the trip to Glenmore at Easter for the Intermediate. Reciprocation is what I am all about.
You gotta love a spiel with a steak BBQ night and an Oyster party.
(Although the combination of raw Oysters in a men's only spiel seems somewhat homeoerotic and misplaced to me. Hope I am wrong) 
Theme song for the weekend:  Spirit of the West

- The Seniors is on in Digby - last time I checked the Quebec team was 3-2, and leading in their game against PEI. Robbie and the boys are a solid team - would be nice to see them near the finals.

I noticed Brad Heidt is in the field. For those who do not know Brad Heidt, he is a Shrek-like character from rural Saskatchewan (I guess all of Sask is pretty much rural) who is famous for chewing out his 3rd in the 10th end of the Brier final. I have played against Brad only once, and it is as close to a curling brawl as I've ever been. This was especially scary given that his neck is about the same width as my chest. Too bad the seniors are not televised.

- I need to go shoe shopping. I know this sounds horribly lame, but I need a new pair of curling shoes, my Asham's are coming apart at the seams. Anybody have a good recommendation? Keep in mind that I am a toe-tucker who uses about 2 inches of his slider...I am seriously considering buying a decent pair of shoes and making myself a pair...
On a related topic, I am not a big fan of the $300 curling shoe movement that has emerged in the last 5 years. I think curling is going the way of the $500 driver and the $60 per dozen Titleists in golf, with some ridiculously expensive "innovations", that really don't help people curl or golf any better.
Having said that, I slice and pull hook with a $500 driver and hit my Titleist Pro Vs into the lake/woods as well. I blame marketing.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Brier: Bronze Zombies and Geek Shuffleboard

More random Brier thoughts:

- Smart money would have bet the farm on Kevin Martin not winning the Brier this year. Rumours of their impending breakup are likely true, and teams about to breakup never play well together.
Just look how well Martin did in the Brier just before he broke up with his previous team...(I believe that was the year JM won).

- So I am watching the bronze medal game on TV. Looks like a funeral. You would think these guys would at least try to put on a show for the fans...instead of an extract from the zombie curling league.
I have seen more adrenaline and passion in the day ladder at my club. There might be a couple of hangovers on the ice...

- I have little sympathy for these primadonnas not wanting to play a bronze medal game. Most curlers have had to get up on Sunday to play the C-Semis in some crappy open spiel for the chance to win a toaster in the finals - we all did it. they should have to do it to!
I mean they are playing for 10K...you would think you could extract a little excitement.
Play it up for the crowd. Play it like an exhibition. Show the fans that you are capable of having fun. Have a guy from the crowd come down and call a shot...Have fun. The game needs it. I think it will become a good addition to the Brier.

- I think PEI should not be fined for quitting early. C'mon. It must have been painful to watch. They could have passed a hat around the crowd to pay the fine. Nobody wants to watch Howard throw 2 ends of peels....Put them out of their misery. I think they should have fined them if they had kept playing...for cruelty to spectators! It was bad enough people had to watch 5 ends of that "game".

- 3-8 - not a great performance form the Quebec team. I know they are rookies, but I think we all expected a little better. Let's see where these guys go from here. At least they looked good at the banquet, which apparently had a 70's theme.

I am still a bit peeved that the Toronto Sports Network never saw fit to show any of their games. I know they were never in contention, nor one of the favorites, but at least a morning game...I mean C,mon. I had to watch Gratton twice (snooze), Gushue, Martin and Howard more times than I could count and they even featured Shawn Adams at least once.
Thankfully, they did not show any PEI games. Those guys were truly awful. I have played some good teams from PEI before. Apparently, they were all unavailable this year. Seriously, they would be no better than 4-3 in this round of the Glenmore A ladder.

- Shot of the week - the double raise double that Kevin Martin made to beat the Territories. He deserved to lose that game...that was an amazing shot! That must have made the guys from Northern Ontario throw up a little bit..

- Prediction for the final: Manitoba squeaks out a win. I think they are due - especially Mead who still loses sleep from the Olympic Qualifying final in 2005, where they lost to Gushue in part due to a missed sweeping call from Mead.

- So rumour is that JohnnyMo is leaving Martin, and Nicholls is leaving Gushue...could we see a JohnnyMo / Brad Gushue combination taking a run at the next Olympics? You heard it hear first.

- Just saw Nicholls' tear-soaked final interview...Christ the guy is barely 30. Give me break. He is taking a couple of years off...he is not retiring forever.
I don't doubt the sincerity of his tears, just feel a little perspective is in order.
Maybe he is vying to be the next Scotties spokesperson.

- OK - I am a big fan of developing curling...but if I see that Rocks and Rings commercial one more time I am going to go JohnnyMo on my TV set.
Will shuffleboard and sweeping on a gym floor actually help create a positive image for curling? - or will it just make the sport seem geekier? The kids in the commercial look happy, but maybe its because they got to play shuffleboard instead of climbing the rope and doing sit-ups in gym class.
If you want to get kids curling, my experience is that you have to get them out on ICE. I have seen  (and participated in) a number of programs run at curling clubs by volunteers for local schools that surely create a more positive impact on the game than a one-time visit from the shuffleboard nerds with the signs and the plastic rocks with wheels. Glad to see our CCA contributions are so well spent.

- So what happens to Kevin Martin if JohnnyMo leaves the team? What about Stoughton if Mead is done...will Howard take another run at the trials? Expect the announcements to come out in the next month or two, fast and furious, as the Olympic qualifying run starts next season. If the big guys are going to change teams, now is the time.

- I will miss fakekevinmartin on Twitter after the Brier. I wonder if he will keep it up.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Brier...Rolling up the Rim and Green Soccerball flags

the Brier:

OK - firstly - I am not the @fakekevinmartin on Twitter. But that guys is hilarious. Definitely a follower. Wish it was me...

The Brier is my favourite TV sports event of the year. It always produces entertaining games, and I love hanging around a curling club watching the evening game with 30 or 40 armchair skips.

The Brier has been fun to watch thus far, although there are few surprises with the 4 teams pulling away from the pack (Nfld, Alta, Ont, Man). I think they are a notch above the rest - and will more than likely be the 4 teams in the playoffs.

Some observations so far: 

- Where did Brad Gushue dig up that lead? It is hard to believe he could not find a better curler on the Rock than that guy. Jeesh. He should get Russ Howard out of the broadcast booth with a fake Nfld driver's license.

- The Quebec team continues to struggle after a 2-0 start, dropping 6 in a row (and counting). Likely to finish with 3 wins at most. They needed Frank and Bob to be hot all week; they have not been. They look somewhat outclassed. Glad its not this year where the bottom teams would have to play each other for the right to have their province come back next year! (although I think they would beat PEI if needed)

- Martin, Stoughton and Howard look to be a notch above Gushue. Of these 3, hard to pick a winner. The Bear is obviously the favorite, but I think I am cheering for Stoughton. Its been a while since a toe-tucker has won the Brier...we are due.

- Is it just me - or do we need some more variety of teams? Where is the next big team? Have been watching Howard play Martin for years now...in the Brier...the Grand Slams...I am kinda hoping JohnnyMo leaves Martin as rumoured - at least it will shake things up.

- I made my son a chicken fajita yesterday. I put a green soccer ball flag on it. He smiled almost as widely as the dumbass kid in the M&M commercial, then dumped the contents of the fajita on his lap, and then stabbed his sister with the flag. I guess it really needs to be the M&M fajita.

- PEI would not go undefeated in the Glenmore A ladder.

- The TSN team doing the morning games is quite inadequate. I have an idea: for the morning games - TSN should bring in random armchair skips from across the country to do the colour commentary. It would at least add some entertainment value to the coverage. And who really watches the morning games anyway (apart from consultants "working" from home).

- If Newfoundland plays Alberta in the final - which team would Randy Ferbey want to lose more?

- Agree with fakekevinmartin, it is hard not to dislike the guy from Saskatchewan with the Justin Bieber haircut. C'mon.

- Chara deserves at least 20 games for almost killing Max Pacioretty. Bruins vs. Habs in the playoffs could be a classic. again. (not curling related, just needed to be said)

- Rolled up the rim this week and won!!!!....a donut. Carried around an empty coffee cup all week, then lost it before getting the free donut.

- Seems to me this Brier needs a story. It needs something to happen to add some excitement and variety. It need some controversy....or some trash-talking. It needs a rivalry. Most of all, the game needs another character. It needs Brad Heidt cracking himself in the head with his broom and then reaming out Mark Dacey in the finals. It needs Paul Gowsell stoned wearing crazy pants. It needs Guy Hemmings with mangled hair re-arranging the scoreboard when the lights went out. It needs Eddy Werenich.

I like Stoughton, and Martin and Howard but jeez these guys get dull after a while.

- What is the point of Jennifer Jones sliding across the floor in the grocery store to get her box of Scotties? They should re-shoot that commercial so that she cuts in front of Cathy O in the line-up at the cash.

will comment again at some point this weekend.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Death Spirals, Drinking Lessons and Senior Peeling

A few things to talk about this week  -forgive me for being late on this one...

1. The Scotties. I am not usually a massive fan of the Scotties. In past years, I have often found the curling during the week relatively boring - but this year seemed different, better.

There were some great stories, and the final was an awesome game. Amber Holland showed a great deal of a little thing called guts. She made the big shots, and looked calm doing it.

Ontario fell short of my prediction, but still showed some impressive play - and tried some shots you usually don't see in women's curling. The shot that ended up killing her against Saskatchewan was a brave attempted double raise pick that would have broken the game open. She was millimeters away from making it, and instead gave up a costly steal of 2, which they never recovered from. But the fact that she even tried that shot was remarkable, and that kind of play will help elevate women's curling in the future.

The Cathy Overton - Jennifer Jones game lived up to the hype. That was a classic case of a skip saying "You will not beat me." Her team was outcurled by a solid 15% (and it felt like more) - she won that game on her own - out of sheer will.
That game makes you realize what it takes to win - and it isn't just a pretty slide. Cathy O is a competitor.
Both Her and JJ were remarkably civil in the press all week when talking about it, but make no mistake there was no love out there, and I am guessing there was some serious celebrating after that game.

2. Rosemere:

Last weekend I played in the Rosemere Cashspiel. This is a truly great tournament. There is great prize money, a solid field of teams, amazing food and warm hospitality. The one element lacking is the ice conditions, which are truly horrific. But all in all a great spiel.
The "favorites" (Ferland, Venne, myself) ) all took a beating, and the final was won by Fred Marchand.
My team performed like a team in a death spiral, losing 2 truly horrific and uninspired games of curling. I am thinking I should just call it a a season and curl drunk for the next few months.

3. Speaking of Curling Drunk...

I realize that curling has made great strides in distancing itself from the perception that it is a drinking sport. It is now an Olympic sport, there is absolutely no drinking allowed in juniors even when they are of age. But it seems to me that this zealous prohibition has taken away one of the main elements that kept me curling in my early 20s once juniors was done: the parties.
I hold very fond memories of tournaments such as the Glenmore Intermediate, the Kenogami spiel and even the Last Chance at Lachine. The competitive season was over, so it was time to relax, have some fun curling and drink a little too much.
The game seemed more social - and strangely think it taught me some valuable life lessons.

So here is a list of lessons learned while curling in drinking-oriented spiels:

1. No matter how drunk you get or how late you stay out - you still have to get up and play your 9AM game. If you can't do the time - don't do the crime!
2. Play hard on the ice - but drink with your opponents after.
3. Avoid drinking games with anyone from the Atlantic provinces (especially Newfoundland).
4. Be generous - buy a round now and then. Try to make sure everyone is having a good time.
5. Know your limits: especially when the evening turns to Tequilla or Vodka shooters. This lesson is usually best learned through extensive vomiting.
6. Avoid Peach Schnapps shooters at all cost. (that was an ugly night)
7. 2AM is not a good time to call an ex-girlfriend - looking to re-connect.
8. Taxi drivers do not find you as funny as you think you are.
9. Best cure for a hangover: Gatorade and McDonald's Hash Browns.

Seriously - while these may seem like trivial lessons to learn, some of the above lessons are often the basics for networking and building good relationships later in life - and even at work.
I don't think we are doing a service to juniors, or to the game when we try to make them take the game too seriously. I see more kids being sick of curling by the time they get out of juniors - less and less continue into adult curling. Not to sound like I am advocating underage drinking - I just don't think there is any value in being the booze police. Work hard - play hard. We need to teach the social side of the game as well as the technical side. Good coaches know that.

Curling in and of itself is just a game - but its the social side of it that makes it a truly great way to pass the winter.

4. Oops, I made the seniors angry:

Last blog - I made a reference to senior men being lousy at take-outs, and was taken to task by Lauren Steventon - the current provincial champ, and challenged to a peel-off.

Imagine my surprise....firstly in finding out that there are seniors who actually know what a blog is and can figure out how to use the comment button...and secondly that Lauren would have the misplaced confidence to think that he could outpeel me!
Three words Lauren:  Bring it on.


Look for another blog entry later this week to discuss the Brier, and that goofy kid in the M&M commercial who gets giddy over a crappy green soccer ball flag on his frozen chicken fajita.