Monday, February 25, 2008

Rocking the boat

What an interesting Canadian women’s championship that was.

One year ago, a curling journalist summed up the women’s game by tearing an unexpected strip off virtually the entire gender. This was most surprising given the writer wasn’t really a writer... he was a competitor, a peer beloved by virtually all who play this roaring game. And he’s the last person we would expect to see “rock the boat.”

He said:

Ladies teams have coaches, psychologists, nutritionists et cetera. Fire them all and take responsibility for your own results and nothing is better than throwing a ton of granite.

I am sick of hearing that the men have better sweeping and are more powerful at clearing the guards out front. That is a fact, but you ladies have great deliveries and flexibility. You don’t have to be able to make triples and have your rocks swept 12 feet to win at this game. You should, however, be willing and able to make the simple shots with confidence.

I am so tired of hearing the pet phrases “risk and reward.” You are going to be in games where if you miss a certain shot, you are going to lose and if you make a certain shot, you are going to win. It can be that simple.

You ladies have to toughen up. How many times do you hear after a complete miss... “That’s okay.” “Nice try.” Geez Louise! It is not okay!

I am not advocating dirty looks and broom slamming, but quit celebrating misses. When players miss, they should be less than happy with themselves and the way to show it is by bearing down and making their next shot.

This year, if Neil “Harry” Harrison were still scribbing for SWEEP!, we suspect he would now be nodding his head in some satisfaction. Generally speaking, the bulk of the field seemed to play a better game of curling this time around. More rocks in play, a little more killer instinct, a style based more on winning than the fear of losing.

And that meant a better show, whether you were yelling in person from the Brandt Centre seats, crouched over your computer screen at work, or settled into the sofa watching plasma.

That’s a very general comment. Of course there were episodes of sheer madness – one writer shook his head all week over some suspect Quebec strategy – and over a nine-day rockfest everybody has an opinion. Winnipeg’s Jim Bender mused Saturday about eventual champ Jennifer Jones (Kruger Products photo by Andrew Klaver, above) possibly scaling things back, and, well, look where she is today (coming in to land right about now, actually). As for quantification, we certainly did not bother to look up CurlingZone’s in-depth numbers to analyze the differences between Lethbridge 07 and Regina 08.

But overall, we think Harry would be happy. Perhaps we’ll ring him up and find out..?

Some final Scotties thoughts – at least until you read the March issue of TCN:

– Is there a more up-and-down Canadian women’s skip than Suzanne Gaudet?

– News Talk 980’s Mitchell Blair was a busy fellow, but still wonders “Why didn’t I?

– It looks like Regina organizers can relax for a while, but Victoria dare not ...

– Did you know that the closing Scotties banquet, the “social event of the curling season”, didn’t happen?

– And here’s a blog devoted to Michelle Englot, who made it through a rolling sea of emotions at the STOH.

And furthermore ...

• Something new for the debate about curling’s TV commentators. A Canadian amateur sport bigwig, Diana Davis Duerkop, was thoroughly unimpressed with CBC’s Mike Harris during Saturday’s semifinal telecast, and likewise during the final.

After accusing Harris of favouring Ontario in the semi, she herself shows favouratism to Joan McCusker. Meanwhile, the majority of curling fans we regularly hear from – including Bob Weeks – seem to prefer, or at least tend to agree with, Mr. Harris.

So does sports media observer Chris Zelkovich of the Toronto Star, the fellow who broke the reality-TV curling hullaballoo. Zelko seems to like everything that both commentators have to offer, and believes they both hush up at the right times.


Davis Duerkop also takes CBC to task for ignoring the Albertans once the final rock was thrown. And we agree with that criticism.

Townie Bastard isn’t strong on the Scotties Newfoundland skip, but he is himself a curling champion this morning. Now is that the legitimately big curling news, or is there more to come?

• Speaking of the hullaballoo, Jef Spaleta is begging for a Rockstar Curling audition in Fairbanks, Alaska ...

• The Montreal Gazette came out with a strong review for Doug Clark’s book, The Roaring Game ...

• Six other international champions were declared over the weekend. In the United States, Craig Brown won his first American men’s title in eight years while Deb McCormick made history by capturing her third women’s crown in a row.

In Scotland, it was Euroking David Murdoch over defending champ Warwick Smith in men’s play but the women’s side produced a surprise in new champion Gail Munroe. Who is Gail, you might ask? Well, apart from riding a grand streak of wins over the past month or so – including a 4-0 record over the vanquished Kelly Wood in recent times – she happens to be Hammy McMillan’s sister!

And in Switzerland, Mirjam Ott clubbed former Olympic skip Luzia Ebnoether 12-5 in the women’s final, while the brand-new pairing of Claudio Pescia and 1998 Olympic champ Patrick Huerlimann – playing third – shocked Ralph Stoeckli 7-6 in the men’s final. To see a video report, click here and again on the blue “News” box.

Watch for an unusual photo of the Swiss champs in the March issue of The Curling News!

• Outdoor curling gets a third feature treatment in the aforementioned March issue (subscribe today!). Today’s Rochester Democrat & Chronicle throws a spotlight on 200 happy outdoor rockers, and there’s this video, too ...

Amanda went ...

• We, too salute this curling hero, Jack Lockhart of North Bay, Ontario ...

• And finally, the memory of Sandra Schmirler – very topical given the recent 10th anniversary of the first women’s Olympic gold – is often disconnected from her husband and their children... who are now old enough to ask questions about mom and her legacy. Rob Vanstone of the Regina Leader-Post goes in depth with widower Shannon England, and it results in a lengthy but facinating read ...

1 comment:

towniebastard said...

There is legitimately big curling news, they just won't let me announce it. It's driving me nuts, but all the details haven't been worked out yet. Thus I must go quietly mad.