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Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Open the Chute! Time for Provs - and to Stop Watching the Continental Cup


The week before Provincials is the single longest week of the year for a curler.
You feel like one of those rodeo bull riders waiting for the chute door to open and the chaos to begin. I have thrown more practice rocks than I care to count, the crest is sewn on the jacket and I have purchased a medicinal bottle of rye for the week. I am ready. 

Any predictions? Sorry, no.

I will say the men’s field is as strong as I have seen in a while, with a remarkably deep field of teams that have put more effort and time into improving their game. Add a couple of Ontario imports, a few wily veterans and you have the makings for a crazy week of curling. Can’t wait. Definitely worth a quick drive to Valleyfield to watch if you are a fan.


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So I was watching the Continental Cup this weekend. At the risk of pissing off my Curling Canada friends; this event should not exist.
For the uninitiated, the Continental Cup is a TSN made for TV event that pits the best teams from Europe against Canada’s best in a “match-play” kind of format, featuring numerous formats such as mixed doubles, skins, mixed and regular curling. The teams are playing for a trophy and bragging rights, with the winners splitting some token amount of cash.
I get the idea. The premise sounds exciting: let’s do a Ryder Cup, but for curling. It all sounds like a good idea. Until you watch…
Here is the rub; as a competitive curling team, there are only so many things you are mentally able to give a shit about. This is true for all level of competitive teams, and in other sports as well.
In British soccer for example, there is the FA Cup, The Champions League, the League Title, plus multiple more pre-season and in-season shields/trophies. At a certain point, big teams end up focusing on or two events at most, often fielding a “B-team” when they play in events they care less about. But curling teams don't have that option.
It is true for my team as well. I love curling, and I love playing as much as I can. But do I have the same level of intensity in every event I play in? Of course not. But nobody televises my Tuesday night ladder games.
As much as you can try to be up for every single event you play in, the fact is that there are events that get you more jacked than others. The Brier. A Slam. Provincials. Canada Cup. Trials. As hyped as the Continental Cup is, and as much as I think the teams try to get into it - they are not. I don't begrudge the teams that are there. They try their best to look like they are giving it their all.
Sure they eat donuts on the bench while cheering. They use noisemakers like some suburban hockey mom cheering on her 8 year old. They wear cool lumberjack-like jackets. I think they honestly try their best. 
But you just can’t fake caring.

Also – this year we had the added joy of misogyny! We got to watch some of the country’s best male curlers mansplaining shot selection to some top women’s skips! As the Stones Across the Pond podcast described it:  the Saturday game was cringe-worthy, and a fine example for coaches to use to highlight bad team dynamics.

I don’t want to sound too much like an old man standing on his front lawn yelling at the clouds, but this contrived made-for-TV event has done its time. Maybe its time to think of some other ways of getting exposure for curling, and better using the platforms provided by a TV audience to sell the game. I understand that TV ratings drive decision making, but I find it hard to believe that this is the most compelling contest we can put on TV.

***

A shout out to Hudson Whitlock Curling Club for putting on a great spiel last weekend. The club itself is beautiful, they had great food, decent money, great ice, big crowds of people watching and live bands on Friday and Saturday (featuring Brian Greenway of April Wine, no less)!
Funny that at the end of the spiel, as they were handing out the prizes, many of the thank you speeches from the curlers said “thanks for running a great bonspiel – this is how curling tournaments USED TO BE.” 
It should serve as a great reminder that if you want to run a great tournament, try to make sure people are having fun first.

4 comments:

  1. I quite agree there was significant misogyny this year. I was there and it was embarrassing to see some of it. I will not mention names but certain matchups did not work and I thought I saw steam from some ears. Maybe as Jeff said there is a need to rethink how teams are selected for this event.

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  2. There was a very heavy sigh at one point from one of the skips. Clearly heard on television and hopefully this message gets through to the players. And our Canadian teams certainly didn't look their best. Mind you, I think David Murdoch had a better plan coming in and it showed.

    Good luck at provincials!

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  3. I'll help you with the medicinal rye if needed during the week, although you may need a secondary supply. If supplies are looking low, I may have my emergency scotch on hand. #athletes

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