What the hell was that?
I just watched the Brier final – and to be honest watched a bit too much curling this week. But how could I not? The Brier this year was ridiculous. It was like bacon-wrapped filet-mignon. It was simply the best curling I have ever seen.
It absolutely killed me to not be there.
Seriously, I have watched curling all my life, and I can’t remember anything even remotely comparable to the level of play this year. They talked about this being the best field ever, but damn. McEwen, Epping and Koe were amazing all week, and did not even make the final 4. The level of play and strategy was next-level. The fact that you know your opponent is going to make every make-able shot changes the way you play. The number of insanely good shots, the ridiculously well-curled games - I don’t even know where to begin.
- Let’s start with Gushue. What can you say? The pressure of a Brier final, and this guy curls 97%. Ninety-freaking-seven percent! He simply did not throw one rock tonight that was not absolutely perfect. Nichols was awesome as well. His front end actually got out-curled in the final, but when your back end plays that well, who cares.
- To give you an idea of how deep the field was, Mike McEwan’s team were all 1st or 2nd team all-starts, and they did not even make the final 4 of the tournament. Kevin Koe makes one of the greatest shots I have seen to win a game, and is out Saturday morning. Are you kidding me?
- As a 48-year-old from Eastern Canada living in a big city, I realize that I am just not the target demographic for curling ads. I watched ads all week for crop insurance, tractors and denture cream. I love the ad for the kick-ass snow tires for the snowplough, I wonder if they would fit on my wife’s Prius. The National rental car guy was starting to drive me a bit crazy. Seriously, I want to support the sponsors, but I think the only one that product I could use would be a cup of Timmies – but that would get me fired!
- Also, I have never been to a Mr. Mike’s Steakhouse, but the idea of playing Jenga next to my meal seems like a bad idea.
- Felt bad for the kids from Quebec. I am sure they are disappointed at 1-6, but the experience will surely serve them well. They earned their spot there, and were entertaining. From what I hear they became the crowd favorites, and I am sure the experience will make them hungrier to get back. Just hope its not for a while J
- Was cheering hard for my Tier 2 compatriots from the East: Grattan and Murphy. Was hoping to see one of them sneak into the championship pool, just to shake things up again and remind the curling world that curling does not stop East of the Ontario border (except for Gushue!). Sadly, the Brier highlighted just how wide the gulf is right now in Canada between the Pros and the Joes. When the big 5 or 6 teams start playing for real, it looks like you are watching a PeeWee hockey team playing against the Washington Capitals. I say this not as a knock on the Tier 2 guys (of which I am one), but to highlight just how good the best teams are.
- Loved watching Matt Dunstone this week. He is a genuinely nice kid – and obviously will be back. The raise triple to win was one of the best shots to win I have ever seen in all my years watching Briers, but at this Brier it barely makes the top 3! (Koe’s triple to win was just insane, and Gunnlaughson’s double-raise-double actually made me spit out my coffee)
- Team Bottcher is truly a remarkable curling team. You can judge a team’s character by how they react when things are not going well. They are incredibly tough. They look and act the same if they are 4 up or 4 down. Brandon had a shitty final, which I am sure will haunt him for a long time, but this is still obviously one of the top teams in Canada.
- Okay – don’t jump on me for criticizing shot selection – but I think if Bottcher draws for 1 in the 1st end of the final it is a very different game. I mean you work all week to earn hammer in the finals, and then give it away trying too hard to blank. I think there is a stat on tour that the team that scores first wins something like 60-65% of the time. Take. Your. One. Settle the nerves.
- It was amazing watching Jacobs this week. I have been hard on these guys in the past, but man are they a classy squad now. They were 1-3 early in the week, but you felt like they had more to offer. The addition of Kennedy has changed these guys. Even though they have not won a Brier in a long time, I would be hard-pressed to bet against them for the Trials spot in 2021.
- Shout out to Colin Hodgson. Don’t let the Bieber-like sleeve tattoo or the greasy hair fool you; this guy is completely deserving of the sportsmanship award he earned this year. A class act, and genuinely good for the game.
- To me, the best example of how good curling has become was the first end of Gushue-Jacobs earlier this week. Gushue basically made 8 shots perfectly, and gave up a 4. If you get a chance, go back and watch that first end. Amazing stuff. That end was like porn for curling fans.
- Early week highlight: The 10th end measure in the Jacobs-Gunnlaughson game. The poor official who had to measure was like a deer in the headlights; and just as eager to get off the highway as soon as possible. Marc Kennedy was about as Canadian as you can get; I think his face after the first measure is now a meme. But to his credit, he stayed unbelievably polite and respectful. This would simply not happen in any other sport. I’m not sure I would have remained as calm.
- So can we all agree to stop arguing about the format for a while? This year highlighted why the current format works. You get full provincial representation - but you get the entertainment value of watching the best in the business bash each-others' heads in as the week progresses. This format is working. It might not be perfect, but its getting pretty close.
Damn I have to get back. Even it is just to be cannon-fodder for the Slam teams.