A Curling Fan's Guide to this Year's Brier:
The Brier kicks off today in Calgary. Sadly, I am not there.
So instead I will put my feet up, set up the PVR (so i do not have to watch 6000 Tim Horton's commercials!).
This should be a compelling Brier. Looking through the field, I cannot see a weak team. Maybe New Brunswick – and only because I do not really know them.
So here is my primer to who is playing – in the order they are likely to finish.
Brad Jacobs (Northern Ontario): Team Muscle, our Olympic Gold Medal winners will once again bring their brand of workout video, bro-love to the National stage. There will be fist pumps. There will be homo-erotic chest pumps, there will be grunting, there will be posing. They will once again “change the face of curling”, because they apparently invented the concept that having a muscular front end is a good thing. They have certainly changed the way I curl: I now buy all my curling shirts at Baby Gap, to better show off my sick guns.
Jean-Michel Menard (Qc): aka Damn bastard who beat me in the Quebec final. Bold prediction: they will be playing next Sunday on TV. They will be disrespected by TSN, who will pretend to be shocked when they finish 2nd or 3rd, and say what an upset it is. They will say that they are not used to facing good competition. They will say they are not as physically fit as Jacobs. They will imply that JM’s 2006 Brier win was the curling equivalent of the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team’s Miracle on Ice. But they will be playing next Sunday.
Brad Gushue (NL): The one they have dubbed Gouchebag has quietly become the 2nd best team in the country (the best team in the land is not at the Brier! – more on that later). Gushue has been solid all season, and has survived a grueling 2-team Provincial championship in Newfoundland to qualify for the Brier.
Kevin Koe (Alta): Koe and his newly-assembled squad of Kevin Martinites + Brett Laing have failed to display a lot of chemistry so far this season. But there is so much experience and talent, it is hard to see them not winning 7-8 games in the Round Robin.
John Morris – Team Canada: yes, the Brier now has a Team Canada. Oh joyous day! I am so overjoyed to see that this semi-retired, reassembled cast of characters will fill in the field at the Brier. I predict (and hope) that they will finish out of the playoffs. Not that I do not like these guys – I just don’t like the notion that Nova Scotia will be sent home, but these guys get to play and lose. If there was any justice in the world – they will start with a couple of losses, get demoralized, go 1-10 and end up getting relegated. (what happens if Team Canada finishes last? Does that mean the defending champion next year would have to go through the relegation round? Things that make you go Hmmmm)
Reid Caruthers (Man.): This former Stoughton disciple pulled of a big upset, defeating World #1 Mike McEwen in the Manitoba provincial final. Mike has now officially become the Buffalo Bills, Phil Mickelson, Josée Chouinard of curling all rolled into one. He will have to wait another long year to shed the King Kong sized monkey off his back and make it to his 1st elusive Brier. Strangely, I think it will be easier for him to win the next Olympics than make it to the Brier next year. (but don’t worry Mike, Warren Hansen at the CCA says the Brier is not important anyway!) Reid Caruthers is a solid team with real playoff potential. Hope they do well.
Mark Kean (Ontario): Good young team from Ontario. They will win some, and they will lose some. Would be surprised if they made the playoffs, but not shocked.
Welcome back Cotter (BC), is back but this time without Johnny Mo skipping and throwing 3rd rocks. Probably a middle of the pack team without Johnny Mo.
Jamie Koe: Jamie will win the Patch, if not the Brier. (for those of you who do not get this reference, the Patch refers to the giant bar/party area located next to the playing venue. Jamie is an old-school curler that believes in the work-hard/ play harder style of play. This used to be the norm among the top teams in the country, back in the day when curling was a game, as opposed to a high-level athletic pursuit performed by elite, protein-shake drinking über-curlers who would rather hit the gym than have a beer with the other team. Jamie made the semi-finals a few years ago – would love to see him there again but not likely.
Steve Laycock (Sask): (btw – not a good idea to do a search of Lay Cock trying to find an image to include!) A solid team with some Slam experience. They will be tough to beat.
Jeremy Mallais – from NB: They will be in tough. First Brier with a very tough field – they are definitely most likely to get relegated. Anything above last would be a big victory for these guys.
Adam Casey or Bob Smallwood: I am writing this before knowing which of these two teams will qualify. I am assuming it will be Adam – in theory they are a better team. But who knows. This is the shittiest game in the world to play in. Loser gets a bag of turds and a plane ticket home, the winner gets to play in the Brier. As tough as it was losing a provincial final this year, I can guarantee you this game would be worse to lose.
A few words on the fetid, vomit-inducing concept that is Relegation:
I have written more than a few words on what I think about relegation in the past.
Okay – so what do I think now that relegation has happened? Blech. It was worse than I thought.
The teams were treated like crap, and forced to play in a demeaning mini-round robin before sending Nova Scotia Home on a shootout. By 2cm. Are you kidding me? Guys work hard all year practicing, traveling, practicing some more – working hard for the dream of representing their province at the Brier. And they get sent home after 2 games? On a damn shootout measure? Are you kidding me?
Meanwhile, we include a Team Canada – a bunch of indifferent (albeit nice guys) who were going to retire after last year. For Glen MacLeod, this would have been a life-changing week. He would have gained experience on the big stage, and could hope to bring that experience home with him to make curling better in Nova Scotia. Instead he gets to go home and apologize to the Nova Scotia curling community, who will of course insist that he does not owe them one. For John Morris and team, this is just another spiel that they could have done without.
I still am in shock that curlers would do this to curlers. All in the name of adding a Team Canada, and creating an opportunity for Nunavut to decline to play.
Coincidentally, the CCA has launched a slick marketing re-brand of itself this week as Curling Canada. They presumably paid some glitzy marketing firm a pile of cash to put lipstick on a pig. Here is a thought: you can’t put this picture on your webpage (below is a pic of the 1st Brier winners from Nova Scotia), the same week you tell Nova Scotians that they are not invited to the Brier.
Seriously – CCA, Or Curling Canada or whatever you want to call yourself – fix this now!