We are mid-spiel, playing in the Challenge de Gatineau and I find myself with some time on my hands. And not because we exited early - we uncharacteristically qualified early on the A-side with 3 wins and find ourselves with a day off while we await the quarterfinals Sunday morning.
For my readers who are not familiar with cashspiel formats, most tournaments are a triple knockout. So you keep playing until you lose 3 games or win enough to qualify. Winning early means you get to have a day off while you wait for the other teams to play each other into exhaustion until late Saturday night. That is our usual path to qualification. But this year we get a break - and you get a blog!
In my younger days - such a break would have meant a debauched night of questionable beverage and moral choices, followed by a day of sunglasses-wearing recovery with no curling. But that was the younger Mike. The wiser, older Mike grabbed a lift home to spend a bonus day with the kids. Boring yes - and I have a feeling my team spent last night treating young Felix to some of Gatineau's finest local entertainment, but alas that is a story for another day.
And that means I find my self with time to write a blog!
So what is up with our team this year? So far the season is going pretty well. We qualified a couple of weeks ago in Toronto at a big spiel, and then lost a quarterfinal on a wicky-ticky uncalled double raise takeout for 3. Not sure what we did to anger the Gods of Curling, but clearly they were not pleased with us that game. But a great spiel all in all, we beat one of the hottest teams in Canada - Brendon Bottcher along the way, and got some solid learning on how to play the new 5-rock rule.
For those of you not familiar with the 5 rock rule - the rules have again changed so that you cannot remove a guard for the first 5 rocks of an end (it used to be 4 until this year, except at the Grand Slam events). It was our first time playing against big teams with the new rule.
I was surprised at just how much it changes the strategy of the game. Because you cannot peel as easily, you find yourself defending a lead by playing offense. Strategically, it felt like I was driving a car with one foot on the gas and one foot on the breaks - and I was pressing both at the same time. We gave a clinic on how to not play the 5-rock rule in an 8th-end loss to Epping. John was nice enough to give us a lesson on how to score a 4 in the last end! Thanks John!
Most interesting thing about the 5-rock rule is actually not the 8th end, but the 7th. under the old rule, when you were up 2 (or more) playing the 7th end, you would just hit everything in sight and give up no more than 2. The other team was pretty much all-in to score a 2 or more. But now, the better option for a team down 2 is to either take 3 or blank. So if the end starts to look bad - teams will shift to blanking to keep last rock in 8 to score a 3. Taking 2 is the 3rd choice! So if you leave a team with 1 rock in the rings - some teams will likely PEEL THEIR OWN rock and blank the end. Weird. I am not sure we are there yet - but it is fun to have to think about strategy and end-games again.
Highlight of the Toronto spiel:
Between our games, Felix is standing just off the ice watching John Shuster (the US Olympic Team and Gold Medallist) playing against Bob Desjardins. As the game ended, Shuster walked off the ice, saw Felix watching the game, took the used pad off his broom and threw it to Felix while saying "here ya go, kid", Mean Joe Green Coke commercial-style as a souvenir.
(For those of you who don't get the reference, this was a famous commercial from the 70's. Here is the link: Mean Joe Green Coke commercial)
Felix then goes to get changed into his curling clothes in the locker room, and of course sets up next to Shuster to change.
Very disappointed that Felix did not ask him to autograph the pad.
So I have been blogging about curling here for over 8 years, since 2010. I started doing it mainly for myself, as some sort of outlet that was read by a handful of friends and family. But the other reason was to tell stories about curling. My frustration living in Quebec is that you could not read anything about curling. Newspapers (for you younger readers, newspapers were collections of stories printed on paper and delivered to your house every day!) would not publish anything about curling, and there were no good on-line sources to find out what was going on.
That is why the logo for my blog is still Kermit the frog as a REPORTER.
So 122 blogs and nine years later, what has changed? Well newspapers have died, and so too has any semblance of local reporting or coverage.
But Curling Media has grown a lot.
Former Quebec Champ Dean Gemmell ran a Podcast before anyone really knew what a podcast was - where he interviewed curlers.
But now that podcasting is more mainstream, there are a number of excellent podcasts, reporters and writers that interview the top curlers in the country every week:
- 2 Girls and a Game, From the Hack, Stone and Straw do a great job of not only reporting curling news, but also providing actual insightful interviews with curlers.
- Devin Heroux from CBC Sports is a curling Twitter monster - he tweets more than I have thoughts.
- And I just discovered The Lazy Handle Youtube channel (this is my new favorite thing) run by a 13-year oldish girl named Katerina, who understands curling way better than most adult fans. Here is a link. The Lazy Handle Show
- Brian Chick is about to publish a book of interviews with curling legends from years past.
- And there is always the Curling News (which occasionally picks up my blogs!), a curling newspaper most often found lying around at your local Curling Club run by former Olympic Curler George Karrys.
(Apologies to those I have not mentioned.)
But I feel like the story-telling part of curling is actually in pretty good shape, and getting stronger every week.
Possibly my favorite part of curling over my career has been the stories. Curling is a game that lends itself to epic shots and games, ridiculous travel adventures and general craziness that had to be lived to be believed. The game has always been popular because of the characters that have graced the ice; from Werenich to Ryan to Gowsell to Gervais to Howard to Hackner to Martin to Hemmings to Jones to Jones to Darte to Shmirler. But without the storytellers, this rich history will fade, and will only be known to a few insiders.
So keep up the good work podcasters, bloggers, Youtubers and reporters. Curling needs YOU!