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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Broomapalooza - part 2


I never thought #Broomgate – or #Broomgazzi – or #Broomapalooza would get the attention that it is getting. This is crazy. I hear it is going to be on CBC national news tonight. Seriously.

I wrote a blog last week calling bullshit on a lot of this – in my usual friendly, joking tone. And it has gone crazy since. I feel the need to write a bit more, especially because I think some of the parties involved ARE NOT acting in good faith, and this seems like the case of one company trying to put another company out of business.

If you are offended by the term BULLSHIT, I suggest that you stop reading now, because I use it about 100 times in this post. There is an industrial level of Bullshit being generated on this discussion, very little of it fact-based, and a lot of it coming from parties that have a direct financial incentive to skew the debate one way.

So let’s talk about a few things:


Here is what I can tell you, as a longtime Hardline user, and a reasonably knowledgeable curler.
Hardline Fabric is NOT DIRECTIONAL. You can talk about the abrasiveness of the fabric – but there are no lines that direct the rock one way or another. Although I have never seen the BP version, I hear that if you rub it one way – it feels different than the other way. So I guess the shag carpet in my parents’ basement would be directional fabric. Or the brush I use to get dog hair off my suit jacket.  A Hardline is not. If you are saying it is – I call BULLSHIT. Show me proof.

I will tell you what I know from experience. A brand new Hardline performs differently until it is worn in. I think this has more to do with the way it fits on the head, or the malleability of the foam. But a brand new Hardline is not particularly effective as a broom. It gets wet. You usually have a bit of snow on the edges. It is not very effective at making a draw go further (which as a skip, is kind of something that I like!). I don’t think it SLOWS DOWN THE ROCK, but I can’t say I have really ever tried. If you are telling me that you can slow a rock down with a new Hardline – I call BULLSHIT. Show me proof.

Here is a pic of a used Hardline head (although admittedly it was was used by an aging skip sweeping 6 feet at a time).

You can see that the edges wear first (note the darkish ring). I think this is what causes the sharpness at the beginning. The “direction” of the fabric has nothing to do with it.

According to my current sweepers, and my longtime lead Mike Kennedy (no – not Mark Kennedy) – the “sharpness’ usually lasted about half a game – then they would return to “normal” and perform like a typical curling broom. I suspect that this sharpness likely makes them a bit more abrasive, so therefore one sweeper using a new head and corner sweeping against the curl could probably make a rock fall. I guess this is the “joystick” effect that everyone is talking about. To be honest, I have seen the same effect with other pads – like Norway pads or even Performance pads do when they are brand new. It is what we used to call “good sweeping”. I suspect that the players have seen this too, as competitive teams playing with Performance-type heads change heads pretty much every game, if not more often to have this effect.

My teams have never really benefited much form this effect with the Hardlines - because we did not see it as a benefit. Maybe I am old fashioned, but I like my sweepers to be able to drag a rock further when I am drawing against 3 in the first end, as opposed to holding a hit straight. I am sure McEwen and Caruthers probably like the fact that they could hold a hit well with a Hardline, but not sure they would always use brand new heads for this reason.  

Gushue took it to another level this year. They allegedly switched pads on different types of shots (although I did not notice in the game I played against them). They would have a brand new "sharp" head on a hit and roll – so they could better manoeuvre the rock with a “sharp” head. I never saw him sweeping to slow a rock down. They switched to older “normal” pads on draws so that they could actually be effective. I agree this seems to be taking things a bit far. So okay – let’s ban the practice of switching heads between shots. One head per game! I think this rule would impact all of ONE team.

As I mentioned, I played Gushue at Cornwall. I did not see his rocks doing anything that unusual. I did not notice if he switched heads. But if people are freaking out – then fine – let’s accommodate with that rule. Let’s ban switching broomheads within a game. He is the only guy doing this anyway.
But should we all agree to ban Hardlines altogether because Gushue pushed the envelope? BULLSHIT.

Balance Plus

So Balance Plus comes out with the Blackhead Directional broom of death that basically destroys the ice to prove a point. People have been sending me the videos of them fudging a rock around the ice – and then say “Hey Mike – here is proof that we should ban Hardlines”. BULLSHIT.

That is like showing me a video of the Atomic Bomb at Heroshima and saying “look at this video – therefore we should ban all firecrackers!” BULLSHIT.

Balance Plus and Team Howard are also shamefully sending emails to their entire curling address book saying that nobody should use or sell Hardlines. (I had it forwarded to me by a friend of mine in Ontario) Call me crazy – but isn’t that libel? I am no lawyer – but maybe you guys should think about that before hitting “send” next time. Especially when you have a direct financial benefit in having your competitors’ products banned. 

I do not accept the impartiality of Balance Plus or their representatives in this discussion. They are shameless broom peddlers, using nefarious smearing tactics to trash one of their competitors and try to put them out of business. Shame on you guys. Stop it! 

They are working to put Archie and Stan out of business, plain and simple - and are getting pretty close to accomplishing their goal. If this stream of bullshit results in a wider ban, or an official rule change, then Hardline is done - and we will all have to switch back to Goldlines or Balance Plusses.

If anyone believes this “integrity of the game” bullshit they are peddling to try to get this accomplished, then my sister has some lovely swampland to sell you in Florida. (BTW my sister really is a Real Estate Agent in Florida – if anyone is looking for a winter condo J

There are some big dollars at stake for the parties involved here – so keep that in mind when you read anything (including this!).


The letter signed by 22 teams is a bit too much for me. Talk about a witch hunt! By my count, out of the 22 teams that signed, 4 are Hardline teams: Laycock, Gushue, McEwen and Caruthers. The other 18 teams basically signed a letter that said YES, “I think we should ban my competitor’s brooms!” The fact that they lumped Hardline in with that Balance Plus MONSTROSITY is BULLSHIT.
And now Balance Plus has put out a Press Release calling Directional Fabric the end of curling as we know it – and saying that Hardlines need to be banned. And for fun they also imply that the Hardline teams have won because of the Directional Fabric.
If I were Mike McEwen or Reid Caruthers, I would be seriously offended by a press release that basically implied that they have won last year because they cheated. I call BULLSHIT here too.

Don’t ask me to sign a Bullshit letter saying that I will play the game with integrity and not use Directional Fabric. 
I always play the game with integrity. And I am pretty sure Reid and Brad and Mike would say the same thing.

If I believed I was cheating by using the Hardlines, I would not use them. I do not need a letter to say that, but thanks Nolan.

So what am I going to do?

Okay – first of all, anyone who ever questions my integrity in this sport can GFY (anybody who wants to know what that stands for can write to me personally!). I have played the game honestly for as long as I have played. If you want to accuse me of cheating – say it to my face. I dare you.

That being said, I like Hardlines. Not because they manoeuvre rocks in some mysterious way, but because they do what a good curling broom is supposed to do: drag my rocks further on draws and hold hits straight when I need it. They are light and fast. I would very much like to keep sweeping with them without being labelled a cheater.

Some teams are saying if you turn a Hardline pad inside-out, then they are okay. In other words they are less effective, but still pretty effective. I think that is what Caruthers and McEwen are doing this weekend in Manitoba – but not sure. My team tried it, and was not enthused with the feel.

I will be playing David Murdoch next week in Gatineau in my first game, who I believe signed the letter. I will be playing with my Hardlines one way or another. Maybe inside out - maybe not.

What has to happen next?

1. IMPARTIAL TESTING!!! The bullshit to facts ratio in this debate is 1000:1 right now. Maybe Curling Canada needs to step in, and please involve the manufacturers. Let’s get some facts before we change rules, or submit to bans. Please do not send me more bullshit videos of magic brooms. The fact that you can put a piece of sandpaper on a stick and destroy the ice to make a rock fall is not proof of anything, other than you have too much time on your hands.

2. Can we stop trying to put Hardline out of business? Archie and Stan set out to make a better broom, not an illegal one. They do not deserve the treatment they are getting. They are not cheaters. They are not scam artists. Can Richard Hart and Team Howard and Balance Plus stop putting out emails calling for Archie and Stan’s head on a stake? Let’s take a deep breath and remember that nobody is trying to ruin curling here.

Last point -

I really hate writing blog posts like this. 
I like writing fun, pithy stories about curling. This is no fun. I am writing this because I believe that Archie and Stan are getting screwed in this broomgate - broomgazzi bullshit. I can’t sit on the sidelines here. 

Plus now I feel like if I show up and play next week in Gatineau with my Hardlines, people are going to point and say “cheater”! I just can’t stand the hypocrisy of it all.

You can say that I am biased – and of course I am. Arch and Stan have been very good to me and my teams (both Mixed and Men's) over the past few years.  But all I am appealing for is for facts and reason to dictate the terms of this discussion, not BULLSHIT and smear tactics. 

btw I  NEVER delete any comments from the section below except for spam - so have at me!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Magic Brooms! Not a Harry Potter reference - just a Curling Blog.

We are very early into the curling season – and we already have our first controversy to talk about!
And I did not see this one coming – it is magic brooms!
There was a player meeting this weekend at a big tournament in Toronto – with some players suggesting  that the new brooms should be banned (!), as they are removing all the skill out of the game.

(My apologies to the non-curlers who read my blog - this one is for the hard-core curling fans)

A number of curlers are now suggesting that Hardline and the new Balance Plus brooms used on tour are “too effective” and are allowing sweepers to effectively manipulate the path of the rock significantly – taking the skill out of the game. Big guys like Hebert, Kennedy and the Harndens are saying that the new brooms are eliminating the advantage they have by being big and strong.

The controversy emerged after the first Grand Slam- where Brad Gushue really pushed the envelope on this – by using some unconventional sweeping techniques on his way to successful results.
So what do these magic brooms allegedly do? The big impact seems to be on soft weight takeouts. If you throw a hack weight hit – they are suggesting that the new brooms can hold the rock absolutely straight (or even make it fall) by sweeping against the curl – in other words by having the sweeper on the “low” side sweep in the opposite direction that the rock is curling in.

Gushue believed in this so much that he does not even let the other guy (the guy on the “high” side) sweep – as he harbours the belief that sweeping the other way will make it curl. So only one sweeper is sweeping hard, while the other guy just stands there looking goofy.

Gushue has also taken it to different level by changing pads between shots. Their belief is that a new pad is more effective on hits, but an older pad is more effective on sweeping a draw further. So his guys carry multiple pads in their pockets, and switch based on the shot they are playing. Not sure if anyone else is doing this.

So what do I think of this?

Full disclosure – I am a user and am a promoter of the brooms in question – my team has been with Hardline for a couple of years now – and we are very happy customers.You will notice their ad in the banner of my blog.

Having said that – I call BULLSHIT on this.

I have played against Gushue this year. I have talked to Mike McEwen (who also uses the Hardline brooms) this summer. I have played with the brooms for years.
The Hardlines that I play with are not joysticks that control the rocks – they do not have magical powers.
I definitely think both McEwen and Gushue are very effective at keeping rocks straight – thus making hit and rolls and runbacks easier. (Unfotunately, my team has not been able to use the brooms to win $100,000 yet, but we are still working on it).  

Gushue and Caruthers and McEwen make a lot of hit and rolls. I agree with the notion that new brooms are FAR more effective at keeping hits straight but they might be LESS effective at dragging a draw further (they just seem to get too wet) and they perform better after a few games.
When we played Gushue in Cornwall, I thought he had some effective sweeping – but it did not seem to be doing RIDICULOUS things to the rocks. He had pretty effective sweeping last year too – and it certainly helps that his sweepers look like the “after” pictures in a Bowflex commercial. But I would not have said his rocks did anything crazy. I read an article quoting Wayne Middaugh saying that he could make a rock back up four feet. I have never seen this with the Hardlines – and I am assuming that this is a misprint and he meant 4 inches. But they are claiming that the new Balance Plus brooms can do magic like that. If that is the case – then maybe we should look at banning these.

But here is the thing – broom technology is not new. This has been happening for years. The EQ pads – developed in partnership with the CCA to give Canadian teams an edge at the last Olympics – used a piece of foil in the heads to heat up the pads –making them more effective at destroying the ice! The Norway pads use a coarse, ribbed material. I think when either of these pads are new – they could likely have been used to have similar effects as what we are seeing now at holding a takeout straight by sweeping against the curl.  

What has changed however is the ability to change pads between shots. While players used to change pads within a game – it was usually only once per game – and was only to put a new head on - because new heads are more effective. They did not change heads based on the type of shot played. Now teams can change pads in seconds depending on shot selection by snapping on a new head.

The other problem is sweeping rules have been pretty relaxed over the years. The rules used to be specific about a “back and forth, sweeping across the face” movement – now that has been stretched to the limit.
Ben Hebert got called out for “dumping” in front of a rock (which is scatological way of saying he lifted his broom and dropped debris in front of the rock to slow it down) by Richard Hart in a Slam final a few years back - So the rules have pretty much been – “as long as you are not damaging the ice – significantly – then anything goes”.


So do we need to ban these?

My answer is No. 

I think this debate sounds a lot like the same debate that happens every time a new piece of golf technology comes out.
So we need to ban Titleist Pro-V’s? How about big-head drivers? Or belly putters?

I think some rules might need to come into effect that restrict a players ability to change heads within a game – much the same way you can’t use a Pinnacle to hit your drive further and then switch to a soft ball when you are approaching the green. Switching heads from one shot to another just seems wrong – and seems to be an awkward advancement for the game. I am old enough to remember playing against teams that would sweep hits with a brush, and then draws with a corn broom (damn I am old). Switching brooms or heads based on the type of shot played seems wrong. It did not make sense back then…and rules were changed to prevent this.

But I do not think you can go backwards and ban the brooms. I have played with Hardlines for a few years – and have not seen anything crazy to suggest that I have an unfair advantage. Admittedly we do not have the team budget to play with new heads every game…but my rocks do not do magic tricks. I wish they did.

Furthermore, I am not sure how a ban can work. We would have to ban types of synthetic heads? Or only certain materials? Would we have to play with brooms that only have a limited coarseness? Do we all have to back to hair brooms?  Would it only be banned in competition? Only on tour?

Apparently my spies tell me that the players meeting did not settle anything, and seemed more about posturing than problem-solving.

I am not sure where this issue is going – and I get the impression that the debate is being driven as much by competitive marketing then it is by facts or science.