Favorite Reporter

Favorite Reporter

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Strange Smells on an Airplane


So – I find myself on a long late night flight home from Vancouver, so why not write a blog.

Forgive me if this blog sounds a bit incoherent, I am writing while watching the Baywatch remake on Air Canada’s crappy in-flight entertainment system. This may well be the worst movie ever made. Not even the slow-mo bikini shots can save this movie.

But the forced confinement of a long flight has given me a burst of creative energy. Not sure if it’s the thin, recycled cabin air or the wafting smell of farts from some unknown culprit sitting around me, but I am feeling especially creative. Here in no particular order, are some thoughts on the upcoming season and curling in general;
  •       The big event this year will be the Olympic Trials. Honestly, I think the Trials finals are more exciting (and probably harder to win) than the actual Olympics. Looking forward to it.
  •          So who will Canada send to the Olympics? Gushue looks indestructible. They are absolutely the team to beat heading into the Olympic qualifying this year. Other teams are good, but Gushue is perfect. This guy keeps tossing 100% games like they are nothing. Cheering for McEwen though.
  •          The pre-trials should also be fun in early November. The pre-trials are a 14-Team event that qualifies 2 teams to be in the final 9 at the Olympic Trials. My 2 picks to make it through to the pre-trials: Simmons and Ménard. Last Olympics, 2 of the teams that made it through the pre-trials ended up in the Trials finals: Jacobs and Cotter. That will not happen this time.
  •          Very anxious to see the carnage on the big teams this year once the Olympic dreams die for all but one team. The nation’s top teams are all now forced to stick together for most of an Olympic cycle, so once the Olympic dream fades for all but one of the Big Teams, they will break up faster than teenagers after the prom.
  •          I hope Quebec women’s curling can get better. We saw some signs of life last year, with a strong team performing well at the Scotties. I hope we can build off this, and maybe have a Quebec Scotties with more than a handful of teams in attendance. Eve lost the semis at the tough Shorty Jenkins spiel last week – and Quebec juniors Laurie St-Georges actually qualified! I do not remember the last time a Quebec junior girls team even played in an event that big, let alone qualified! Promising.
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Me on a Podcast

Hey Mom, I’m famous now! I was asked to be on the From the Hack Curling Podcast with fellow curling humorist John Cullen. Thanks to Frank for the invite!
John and I randomly opine on what it’s like to be a lowly Tier 2 competitive curler.
Curling Podcasts are the new thing. The From the Hack Podcast, as well as 2 Girls and a Game are providing some much-needed story-telling and discussion for the game in an easily digestible format. Here is the link:


We play this weekend in Ottawa at the RCMP in the Moosehead Fall Open. Its supposed to be 30 and sunny all weekend and I will happily be in a curling club. 
We start Friday against some unknown Quebec team named Ménard. Should be an easy one.
Here is the link for results:


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So my 9-year-old daughter wants to try curling. Finally. 




 I have not pushed my 12 year-old son into the game (he is more into hockey, golf and soccer so far), so this will be the first year where one of my kids actually tries curling. I am excited to see how it works out – to see someone start on a path that I have been on for so many years. 
Will she like it? Will she be good? Will she toe-tuck? Will she want to compete? Will I be one of those crazy curling parents yelling from behind the glass? The journey begins.
Who knows what will come – but it surely will make for a good blog or two!!! I am just blissfully happy that I no longer have to try to pretend to understand the rules of ringuette. 


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Confession: I was actually the guy who was farting on the airplane. #hewhosmeltitdealtit

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Burned my Stones

So, as promised, I said I would blog a bit from our tournaments. So here I sit in our Airbnb at midnight, after lots of curling, awaiting our C game tomorrow in the Stu Sells Oakville Classic against Kyle Smith from Scotland.

How is it going? Well we are a solid 2-2, having played 4 teams that are higher ranked than us so far.
We beat Tom Brewster from Scotland, lost to Pat Simmons, beat Dayna Deruelle than lost to Greg Balsdon. All in all not bad, given that all of these teams are theoretically higher ranked than us. But we need 2 more big wins tomorrow to bring home some cash.

This a cool event. There are teams from Korea, Denmark, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, China, Scotland, the US, Sweden, Russia, Japan, Switzerland and possibly even Canada, with many teams prepping for the upcoming winter Olympics.

So what have I learned curling with Olympic hopefuls from around the world?

  • I learned that we need an Entourage. It is no longer enough to be a Team of 4. You need a Coach, a nutritionist, a physiotherapist, a masseuse, a psychologist, a videographer, an animal trainer, a court jester, a driver, a biographer, a public relations specialist and an equipment manager. Seriously, teams from around the world do not travel light. Team Fournier will be accepting job applications (volunteer of course!). We already have a coach, but the masseuse position is open!
  • I learned that apparently stretching is important. It is so weird to be walking into the curling club, and to see 4 or 5 teams stretching outside, doing calisthenics, with a coach. If I had been caught doing that 20 years ago outside a curling club, I can’t imagine the derision and mockery I would have endured, both from my teammates and the opposition.   
  • I learned that I really do not like fusion jazz.
  • I learned that there are more and more teams taking curling to a new level now. They have coaches, and discuss each performance in great detail, revisiting every choice thanks to video cameras and iPads recording every moment of every game. Very intense.
  • I learned that when your teammate lends you his special muscle rub cream to put on an aching leg, make sure to wash your hands before touching your more sensitive areas. #burnedstones

Anyway, hoping we can pull out a couple of wins tomorrow.


***

Sorry to hear of the passing of Marco Ferraro last week. My condolences to his family.
Marco represented Quebec at the 1989 Brier in Chicoutimi, and at a senior national a few years back. He was the head of Curling Quebec for a number of years. But he will best be remembered for being a man of ideas.
While I did not always see eye to eye with Marco in his days as head of Curling Quebec (you can look in my archives and find a few angry blogs with his name in the title),  I always respected the creative genius that he brought to our game.
Curlers do not remember the days of sliding from holes in the ice that often got icy and slippery. Marco invented the modern hack, which of course bears his name. He always looked for ways to make the game more exciting, more marketable and more accessible.
Marco was always full of ideas, passion and love for the game. He is one of the great characters that always pushed the envelope and challenged the status quo. You had to admire him for that.
He will be missed.

***


So I watched a bit of the Everest thing on TV last week. I have to say, as a curler it was painful. Apart from Gushue, everybody looked in very early season form. Games were won more on misses than made shots, and the cheesy “I love my new temporary team” moments were awkward. Although they were playing for a winner-take-all $200K purse, consensus seems to be that there was likely some behind-the-scenes split of this among participating teams. So basically, this was a televised early season training game and cash grab for the top 4 men’s and women’s teams in the country. Blech. Truly painful to see an earnest corporate sponsor putting their money into curling, but in such a contrived way.

Also for a game that is increasingly trying to market itself to younger curlers, it is rather troubling that all of the event sponsors were either funeral services, reverse-mortgages or home insurance. Next we will have the Acorn Stair Climber Invitational followed by the Cialis/Viagra Hurry Hard Classic.
Seriously though, I have a hard time watching a new sponsor pour that much money into the game with so little benefit for the game.

***

So one interesting thing that did come out of the Everest thingee was the 2 point-pin shot. For this event, they introduced a rule that if your rocks covered the screw hole (the very middle of the circles) it was worth 2 POINTS. This might not sound like much of a change to non-curlers - like a three point shot in basketball – but it totally changes the game.
While I am always open to changes that could make the game more interesting, this one seems like a no-go. It is just too much of a change. So much of the game is managing the scoreboard at the end of a game – controlling the hammer. But this rule makes that impossible.
It did make it more interesting for the Everest event, likely because there were a lot of misses anyway, but I am thinking that this rule might encourage the best teams to keep it even more open, and then draw for a risk-free 2 every end. Or not. Who knows? Just seems like a wildly radical rule change.
Changes like the 5-rock rule are made to encourage more offence – but the game stays fundamentally the same. Seems saner to me than introducing a bonus point for the bulls-eye.


***

Update from Monday:


Well that sucked. We lost to Kyle Smith, and came home at 2-3 for the weekend. Not a horrible showing, but short of the money.
Next up, Ottawa at the RCMP curling club in a few weeks.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Televised Curling In August? WTF

Hello curling fans! Welcome back from your summer away from the game!
What’s that you say? It’s still summer? WRONG
It’s curling season.
This week TSN will feature the Everest Curling Challenge; A mixed format event where they handpicked some men’s and women’s teams and will awkwardly force them to play with each other for a weekend  for some actual cash.
I honestly wonder how some people sat in a room and thought: “what does curling need? How about a random event in AUGUST before Labour Day where we throw a pile of money at elite curlers to have them play in an event that they surely will not give a rat’s ass about - except for the $$$?”

I am sorry – I am really trying hard to not be cynical here. But here is a thought:

Let’s say you have a pile of corporate cash to give away and you want to run an event in Fredericton. Why wouldn’t you run something like the old McCain Superspiel? A sorely-missed event that actually brought a lot of teams, money and interest to curling in New Brunswick? There is a huge lack of money and competition in East-Coast curling in general. Elite curlers in the Maritimes are an increasingly rare commodity, and are forced into ridiculous travel schedules to try to stay competitive. Why not have a spiel with enough money to draw the best teams in the country East, while giving East Coast teams the opportunity to play an elite event without having to get on an airplane? It seems criminal to me to hold an event in the East Coast without involving a single team from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. (and maybe don't hold it in August) Did we really need another Continental Cup?

But alas this is the new way of curling. The notion of having a large base of competitive curlers across the country is a bygone notion, destined for the dusty shelves along with corn brooms and wool sweaters. Curling is about the elite: those who are chasing the Olympic Rings and often are not bound by such trivialities as day jobs. Days of 64-team events are as dead as the idea of sitting down with your opponents after a game.

Sigh. I sound like an old communist. 

(btw - if you are on Twitter - worth following @cullentheculer if you do not already - a stand-up comedian/curler and with a refreshingly honest and similar view)



On a brighter note, my season kicks off on Labour Day weekend in Toronto! We step on the ice – careful to remember to put the grippy foot down first, and start playing immediately against the Olympic silver medalists from Scotland. Not surprisingly, practice ice in Montreal is hard to come by this time of year, so this will be our first time on the ice.
Few clubs seem to have the infrastructure needed to have ice when it is still hot outside, and I am not sure the demand would be there anyway. Still need to keep buying 6/49 tickets so as to be able to build my own basement curling club.

So what to expect from the upcoming season in Quebec?

Ferly and Ménard are back with the same squads, (as tempting as it is to float rumours about them changing teams!) and a few minor changes to some of the other top teams. I will update once I start seeing teams on the ice again!


So I was looking back at my blogs from last year…and I did not blog much! Will have to change that this year. Will try posting shorter and more frequent blogs – and maybe even from spiels!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cloning, Double Rye and Coke and Investing with a Porpoise

Okay…have not blogged in forever. My apologies. I could make an excuse about work/kids/busy blah blah, but the truth is that my heart just has not been in it. I started a lot of blogs, but never seemed to finish them. Was a little heartbroken after provincials this year – so took a bit of a mental break from watching or caring too much about the game. But watching the Brier on TV, and playing at the Club has gotten me back in it! So here goes.

Random comments on the Scotties/Brier.
  • Ménard was awesome at the Brier. They are clearly the best amateur team in Canada. The fact is that the 4 teams who finished above Quebec (McEwen, Gushue, Jacobs and Koe) are full time, pro curlers. Some might have day jobs, but for the most part, they are guys with nothing else to do but curl ! They play all the slams, 20-25 events and make enough $$$ to make a decent living. The fact that Ménard can compete with these guys while holding down a life and a job is actually pretty remarkable.
  • Gushue winning in St-John’s was perfect. Imagine the scene if Gushue’s draw comes up a foot shorter. Would have been a travesty. Not that Koe did not deserve it after having played a crazy game, but it would have been the ultimate shitty ending to something great. Like the Soprano’s fading to black. No doubt that Gushue is the best curling team in the world right now. Period.  
  • The Brier in St-John’s, as expected was a big success. Newfoundlanders are proud of their province and are generally the most hospitable people on the planet. I am assuming it will not be that long before it returns.   
  • Looking forward to following the Newfoundland Tankard next year! With Gushue coming back as Team Canada, Newfoundland will see another team at the Brier. So who will emerge from the Rock? I am sure there are decent curlers there somewhere, just have not seen any out and about in a while. I think these guys have a shot:
Newfoundland Curling Team
  • The sweeping seems to be back to “normal”. The mustard-yellow fabric solution seems universally accepted, and teams are back to disliking each other for far healthier reasons than sweeping choices - like excessive celebrations!
  • Rachel Homan is by far the best woman’s team on the planet right now. As I write this, she is 9-0 at worlds, despite struggling with rocks and ice and apparently breathing in Beijing. You read it here first; she is a lock to go to the next winter Olympics. #boldprediction
  • The Scotties was remarkably entertaining – including the epic final. Homan is quickly becoming one of the greatest clutch shot makers in the game.
  • Great job by Team Bélisle at the Scotties. Going 7-4 and missing the playoffs was a shitty outcome following a good week. There is still room to improve, but they were playing some solid curling from what I watched.
  • If I was not a happily married man – I must say I would be intrigued by a toe-tucking curler with an arm-sleeve tattoo and multiple piercings. #katecameronfanclub
  • Man I hate losing at Quebec Provincials. My team was kind of shitty this year, posting a far worse result than we had hoped for. Not sure what happened. It was as if we all decided to be mediocre for a few games at the same time. #betterlucknextyear
  • Losing at Provs. is especially tough because it happens in Quebec in the FIRST WEEK OF JANUARY. So I will go 9 months before playing a single game of curling that I really care about. That is a crazy long time. It also sucks for Ménard, who basically sat on his butt for 2 months waiting for the Brier - then started 0-2 (albeit against 2 monster teams).  Made me think we need to get a Quebec Curling Tour event happening in early February – something so that curling does not end in January. The fact is the top teams in the world keep getting better for 4 months, while in Quebec we play in nothing but drinking spiels after Jan 15th. I might have to reconsider my aversion to Mixed Doubles, just to have something to do until the end of the winter. #Iwillhaveadoubleryeandcokeplease


There have been a few team changes in Quebec worth discussing:

  • First of all, we changed leads! Mig is taking a year off, so we picked up JF Trépanier to play lead. We are glad to have him on board – if only because he uses the coolest sliding broom this side of Manitoba. #tuckersrule
  • Desjardins has reunited with JS Roy. JS is a shooter, and understands the game very well, and Bob is pound for pound, the top shot-maker in the province. Should be an interesting mix, however their team was already complicated, and is now even more so. So Pierre-Luc will call the game, throw second rocks (I guess). Bob will surely throw skip rocks, and sweep. JS will throw 3rd rocks, and sweep. I think if they can figure out whose turn it is to throw they will be good! And I am assuming Bob is still working on a way to sweep his own rocks, while timing them. This is probably a good interim team for Bob, as he continues to work on cloning himself 3 times to make his ideal squad. #sendintheclones
  • Not sure what else is going on. I am assuming that Jean Michel and Martin Ferly’s teams are sticking together, although I think I should make up another breakup/retirement rumor about JM’s team:  I hear Martin Crete is retiring from competitive curling to coach this young singer as she perfects her craft. Martin's vocal skills will come in handy here:
Martin Crete singing prodigy
  •  The changes with JS and  JF will surely result in a lot of movement from other teams – but I am way out of the loop on these.


MIXED DOUBLES

Congrats to my teammate Felix Asselin and Jill Routledge on winning the mixed Doubles provincials! They will head to Nationals in April in Saskatoon.
For those of you not familiar with Mixed Doubles, it is a two-on-two 8-end curling game where each team throws 5 rocks each, and the ends all start with rocks already in play in pre-set situations. Amazingly it has been admitted as an Olympic discipline, making its debut in Korea in 2018. Canada will send one team of two.
I admit that I have made a lot of fun of Mixed Doubles in the past in this blog, and still I still think it looks more like a mini-golf version of the game I love, but if this is what it takes to get more millennials into the game, then so be it. The games are shorter, quicker, still involve a lot of sweeping and in the end come down to shot-making. They appeal to an ADD, short attention span crowd that can’t stomach the idea of watching baseball, or anything that last longer than 20 minutes.
I mean look at the sports that have gained prominence in the last 10 years: Ultimate fighting (which lasts 15 minutes – max), rugby Sevens instead of full rugby, Futsal soccer instead of a 90 minute game (although when I play soccer I always feel like 90 minutes goes by too fast). Even going to the gym is faster; everybody I know is doing cross-fit, which apparently involves completing as many chore-like exercises as possible in the space of 20-25 minutes, packaged as the WOD (workout of the day). Cross-fit people generally spend more time talking about about cross-fit then they spend doing it! Golf courses are closing – but golf activity centers are the new trend - where you sit on a couch and then drive balls into targets.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not disparaging any of these new sports, but they all have a common theme:  don’t waste my time with long, drawn out strategy or games requiring patience, let’s get this over with quickly. Within this context, Mixed Doubles makes sense. It is quick, fast-paced and active; everything a 10-end curling game is not. It seems like a perfect fit for the couple looking to curl and make it back in time for the babysitter. Its like Tinder for curling!

Anyway, I still have not been converted yet. I am still a dinosaur: I like long relaxing rounds of golf, a three hour 10-end curling game and a good baseball game on a lazy summer afternoon. But all the best to Felix and Jill at Nationals!!!


Random Grievance not related to curling:

I have been on a lot of Air Canada flights lately, and my new least favorite person in the world is Som Seif. Anyone who has flown on an Air Canada flight knows that Som Seif is the douchebag president of Purpose Investments who makes you watch his commercial before every single freaking movie they show on Air Canada flights. He basically walks around and tells you that he will invest your money with PURPOSE (as opposed the usual investment firm strategy of randomly burying your money in bags in your back yard). Maybe Som is the new Warren Buffett and some sort of financial wizard, but given that their marketing strategy seems to be to make you suffer through their cheesy commercials to watch a friggin’ movie – I think I will stick to my current Freedom 85 approach of randomly hiding rolled up $20s in my sock drawer.