Brier Bits #5 – The Final Chapter

Posted: March 15, 2011 in Curling, Sports
Tags: , , , ,

It has only been two days, but I already miss the Brier.

I miss the big shots.  I miss the tight draws.  I miss the intricacies of strategy that underly every shot.

But most of all, I miss the festive and friendly atmosphere of the general curling fan.

The curling fan is a unique breed.  They are not like the rowdy drunks you might see at any given NFL game or the hooligans that populate soccer stadiums worldwide.  They are polite and respectful, but also loyal and passionate.  The roar that Glenn Howard received when he was introduced before the Championship final can be directly contrasted with the silence that accompanies Howard as he slides from the hack to deliver his final rock.

Each and every fan has their favourite players or teams, but all are united in their love for the Roaring Game.

During my time watching curling this past week I met many new people, likely who I will never see again, but that displayed exactly what it means to be a curling fan.  There was the elderly lady who, with no qualms whatsoever, talked to me like I was a long-lost grandson.  There was the 20-something who was there to spend time with her mother.  There was the young mother who left her kid with the babysitter so she could enjoy a night out with her girlfriends.  There was the young fiance there watching his first curling game with his bride-to-be and her sister.

All of them came from different walks of life and each engaged the game it their own way.  The elderly lady was content to sit back and watch casually.  The 20-something talked the finer points of the game.  The young mother just wanted to get drunk.  The fiance wanted to bring a little bit of the NFL rowdiness.  What united them all was that they all just wanted to watch some men slide 45-pound stones down a sheet of ice.

These are the people that made my week so enjoyable and why it is so hard to return to the real world and all it holds.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t give some commentary on the Championship game.  It was a close game up until the sixth end when Howard missed his draw against two of Jeff Stoughton’s yellow stones.  From there on out it was only a matter of when and not if Stoughton would win his third Brier – and Manitoba’s 27th.  Not only was Stoughton’s team on fire in the final, but the top teams do not let you back in the game.  They have enough tactical nous to close down a game and not allow the opposition to score three or four points to get back in the game.

After the game, many have criticized Howard for his reaction to the missed draw.  Howard blamed the ice straightening out, and, while I would rather the first thing out of the losing skip’s mouth not to be an excuse, he was somewhat justified in doing so.  Simply put, no one misses the broom by that much at the highest level.  To be almost a foot off the proper ice is something you’re more likely to see in your local beer league than on national television.  However, as a top level skip, the onus is on Howard to read the ice properly and be aware of the way that the ice can fluctuate end-to-end.  That he failed to do so is entirely his fault.

Another point of interest for me after the final was the Hec Gervais award for the playoff MVP.  Manitoba’s vice Jon Mead won the award and, as you might expect from my previous posts on the Brier, I was severely disappointed that Richard Hart was overlooked.  While the two were tied in shooting percentage for the round robin, Hart clearly out-curled Mead in the playoffs.  In the three games Hart played, he missed maybe three or four shots.  He was the primary reason why Team Ontario made the finals after losing to Alberta in the final draw and having to claw their way up from the 3v4 game.

Don’t get me wrong, Jon Mead curled very well in Manitoba’s two playoff wins, but he was not the driving force that Hart was.  Giving the award to Mead, as good as he may have played, seems to me to be giving it to someone from the winning team just because they won and that kind of system is why I have very little respect for the NBA MVP award.

Now that it’s all over, I’m back to the real world.  Back to the hustle and bustle of university life and away from the simple pleasures of curling.

I’ll feel the pangs of withdrawal for a little while yet, but I can always sleep easy knowing that the Men’s World Championships are just around the corner.


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