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Sunday, September 29, 2019

4 Rye and Cokes and a Bag of Jalapeno chips - and Other Life Choices

Okay maybe 4 rye and cokes and a bag of jalapeno chips was not the ideal post game snack.

We are at the Moosehead Fall Open Classic in Ottawa, and we have qualified for the quarterfinals tomorrow morning at 11. Team Fournier is playing pretty well so far this spiel, we are 3-0 and get to sleep in tomorrow morning while other teams are still fighting to get to the quarters. But I’m up at 4 am in our crack-house AirBnB with a wicked heartburn due to my poor nutrition choices…so why not write a blog to spend some time.

Amazingly this is our second event of the year. I say amazingly because most curlers in Montreal have not even thought about curling much; my curling club only put its ice in this week, and most clubs in the area are also just kicking things off. We played in the Shorty Jenkins Classic in Cornwall a few weeks ago, and most big teams played the weeks before that in Oakville or elsewhere.

For some reason, competitive curling season seems to start earlier every year, as teams try to get a jump on the season, meaning we are walking into curling clubs more in shorts and flip flops than in winter coats. I am not sure what has driven competitive curling so aggressively into September and even August, when I feel like I should be golfing or at least enjoying our far-too-brief summer.

One thing that is stunning especially about playing in the August-September spiels is just how many teams around the world have now made curling their day job. I snuck out of work on a Tuesday morning before the Shorty in Cornwall a few weeks ago to throw a few practice rocks, and had a tough time getting a sheet of ice. All the Euro-teams and Asian teams were there early in the morning practicing with their coaches, fitness trainers, psychologists and nutritionists (who clearly would have advised me against the rye-jalapeno chips decision). As you watch them, you realize that this is their job. Curling is not a hobby, or a past time, or something they do for fun. This is their job. They are paid by their country’s Olympic committees to get as good at curling as physically possible. That means fitness training, sports psychology, video review and lots and lots of practice.

It goes without saying that when I was coming out of juniors, curling was never a career choice. Not that I was ever good enough at the time to even have contemplated this, but curling was always something you did when you were not at work. I am not sure if I could handle devoting my “life’s work” for something as potentially frustrating as curling. Don’t get me wrong – I love the game. But I love it at least in part because it is not everything. If I win great, if I lose life goes on. Either way I am still back at work on Monday. I have had some brilliant moments curling, but I have also had some soul-crushing losses, where it felt like some cosmic force is working against you.

Imaging your job is curling, and your season comes down to one game (as it often does). And you lose that game on a random “missed-shot” by the other team that creates some unintended wiki-ticky bullshit lucky result. It’s happened to me countless times in my life (both for and against). Curling is a game that lends itself to these type of conclusions; there is a fair amount of randomness that can decide the outcome, even at the highest level. The difference between two evenly matched teams can often come down to a lucky break; to an unintended consequence. Now imagine that your career success or failure depends on this!

I was thinking about this last week as well. I was watching a movie on the golf channel about Bobby Jones. Jones golfed in the 1920's and 30's, and was the best in the game at the time. But despite the financial rewards that were available, he chose to remain an amateur. He played golf as a game, and ended up quitting early to become an architect or something (I fell asleep before the end of the movie :-)). So despite being remembered as one of the best to ever play - golf was never his job. 

The pursuit of excellence in the name of Olympic glory has certainly added so much skill development and shot-making to the game. It has elevated the quality of play to the point where teams just do not miss. Even with a 5-rock free guard zone, the best teams are able to control ends – to move guards around at will and control so much of the outcome. But even with that, there is still that element of randomness to the game. It’s what makes it so much fun to PLAY and watch, but often makes me happy that I have a job to go back to Monday morning to pay the mortgage! The fact is I still curl because it is fun, I am not sure how much I would enjoy it if it was my job.

Thank God – I just found a Rolaids in the bottom of my shaving bag. Salvation.