Monday, December 12, 2005

The Veteran Youths

Well. Transport yourself back nine days, and we’ll bet you’d never have expected this.

After a week-long display of youthful exuberance, the young turks from Newfoundland and Labrador came through in the clutch. They did it in front of a record Olympic Trials crowd, many of them clad in bright orange, and a high number – as yet undetermined – of TV eyeballs.

And the changing of curling’s guard is not fully complete, thanks to the stunning presence of legend Russ Howard. Added to the lineup at the first Slam of the year, with the gracious Mike Adam willingly stepping back to fifth man (surely a candidate for Most Selfless Act in Canadian sports history), the new Team Brad Gushue (photo) rocked its way through curling’s strongest teams in three different events, the last being the Roar of The Rings.

9-1 in that one, against the (alleged) best of the best.

Newfoundland and Labrador is in hysterics. Watch for Premier Danny Williams to announce a national day of celebration, at which Howard will be declared an official, not just honourary, Newfoundlander. We’ll bet the Prem was Blackberrying his staff as soon as the last-rock measurement was confirmed, followed by the explosion of cheering, yelling and crying.

After the required hour of media probing and postulating, the winning squad enjoyed their first doping test. For the record, lead Jamie Korab emerged first, with his skipper coming in last. Awaiting the squad were more HBC gear to wear, an Ana Arce Calendar prominently on display (there was much attention paid to this) and a quick meeting with the CCA.

When the vetern Howard strode in, he saw us and shook his head, giggling. Who knew? Russ said. Do I have to get a tattoo on my ass now?

Later on, coach Toby MacDonald played the harmonica at the Athletes’ Reception, which included yesterday's women's champs (see yesterday's Blogpost) and cracked jokes about being single for that night only, and Korab being single all the time. As our friend Terry Jones wrote, this really is a remake of the famous Jack McDuff story.

Team Stoughton, meanwhile, partied it up at the Patch and then The Lower Deck until the wee hours, alongside some of the Gushies. Calm and professional as ever.

Speaking of Stoughton... there’s already some calls for third Jon Mead’s head because of a missed line call in the 10th end. Such logic defies a few things, namely that the shooter had to roll away and absolutely could not stick; that the match result certainly did not hinge on the execution of that single shot; and also that Jon Mead’s shooting was of peak performance through the entire week, including the final.

Should a high-performance curler’s net worth to a team be judged a single line call alone? We don’t think so. But that’s our opinion.

Mead spoke quietly with us between dances with his wife at the Patch.

We left it all out there. It’s not so bad if you can honestly say that. I can tell you there is not one thing we would change. I’d never prepared for anything so much in my life.

Second stone Garry VanDenBerghe, almost jovial, at the Patch:

I told Jonny that if he gets down on himself for this I’ll kick his ass. Nobody played better than him. Nobody.

Some of the best reads today include Jim Bender, who points out that Mead may retire before some fans get their wish to see him fired, Bender again, Jonesy, then twice, and finally thrice, Bender’s opponent Paul Wiecek in Winnipeg (subscription only), Toronto’s Dave Perkins, Robin Short of St. John’s, who broke the story of Maureen Gushue’s battle with cancer, and who also arranged an e-mail address where fans can send congratulations to the champs: ... and finally Calgary’s Al Cameron (subscription only) who has a nice piece on the tattoo dilemma of Team Kleibrink and who also quotes Russ as such:

I can't imagine there's too many (Olympians) older than me. Hopefully they're curling against us if there are.

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