My Car, Another Former Schneider Teammate, Team China Again and a Falafel Footlong
After a short social visit with Team Geall, Stephen and I headed to his place. Our quarter-final game against Wes Johnson was at 9 Sunday morning so we wanted to be home and lights out before 1am. As usual I was up first and into the shower, moving quickly-in addition to the regular routine, I also had to pack up. Regardless of how far we advanced in the final round, I was headed back to Vernon when we were done.
My car had been parked at Stephen’s since Thursday enjoying, if cars do, a few days bathing in Lower Mainland rain. A quick word about my little beast. It’s a 2005 Toyota Corolla CE with over 240,000 kilometers on it. It’s had a few, lol, rock chips and dings in its time, but this thing is a virtual tank. I’m on a pretty tight budget so what maintenance it get’s is strictly the mechanical parts. Yet everyday she fires up like a champ, doesn’t burn oil, sips fuel like a teetotaler and gets me and my kids wherever we need to go safely. Say what you like about other manufacturers, for my money no one engineers tougher power trains than Toyota.
As Stephen was shambling into the shower, I headed out just before 8am, grabbing a Timmy’s breakfast on the way. Halfway there I heard a little snap and thunk under the Corolla. Nothing to worry about, I thought. Probably just a rock hitting the bottom of the car. Or so I believed.
Everything was fine until I began to slow for a stoplight just before the club. As I decelerated a rattle began in the rear and persisted as I sat idling t the light. It continued as I pulled away and made the turn into the club.
After parking I dove under the car to try and spot the problem. I’m no mechanic but the last thing I needed was to be stranded in Vancouver with a potentially expensive repair. I got lucky. The sound I’d heard was a small bolt letting go and falling off. It was responsible for holding up one end of a small heat shield between the exhaust pipe and the gas tank. The reason for no rattling on the highway? Simple. Air flow under the body at higher speeds was strong enough to push the plate up and away from the exhaust. A repair could wait until I got home.
Automotive crisis temporarily solved, it was on to the more pressing matter of the quarter final.
Competitive curling is not the large community it once was. It’s shrunk dramatically in the past 15 years (for reasons so numerous they’re best addressed in a future blog of its own). Those left now revolve in a somewhat incestuous circle. A few new players come in as a few old farts depart. But generally the core group remains pretty static. The result is you’re likely to play with just about everyone in your area at least once. Which also means you end up facing a lot of former teammates as opponents. There’s pluses and minuses to this. You know their tendencies, strengths and weaknesses-an advantage because generally people don’t work as hard as they should improving their weak areas. But, they’re also well aware of your own foibles and will do the same as you; try to use them to win.
Where am I going with this?
Well, 4 years ago Stephen picked up Wes to play on his team. He’s a decent player, originally from Alberta now living in Seattle. Like I said, it’s rare to see anyone carry any true malice towards former teammates. It happens, but not too often. The important information from Stephen’s experience though was the knowledge that Wes loves to throw takeouts-preferably up weight ones. We would try to make him face soft shots and draws as much as possible.
The game was well played by both teams (won my 5th consecutive coin toss). Up 2-1 after 4 ends with hammer, we gave up a steal of two when Stephen’s last stone draw was inches heavy. We rebounded in the 6th with two and then forced Wes to take a single point in the 7th, giving us last rock in the final end with the score tied at 4-4.
Initially the 8th wasn’t going our way. When I sat in the hack for my first stone, Johnson was lying two in the four foot circle, protected by four guards in a cluster on the center line. I the threw two peels, removing two guards each time, but Wes was still throwing a guard on his first stone to protect his own shot rocks and preserve a very likely looking steal. We got lucky. His guard over curled and left Stephen a quiet tap back for shot-which he promptly made. We even rolled under Wes’s guard a bit, giving us more protection.
All Wes could do was try and duplicate Stephen’s shot with a quiet tap of his own. We had set him up to throw a shot he didn’t prefer-something quiet. It’s little things like this that sometimes win you games. Wes came close with his last rock, but it didn’t curl enough, just moving our stone onto his own in the back of the four foot circle. Still shot rock, we didn’t have to throw our last stone. The official final score was 5-4, we added $300.00 to our winnings and headed to a semi-final rematch against the Chinese.
As nice as it would have been to get payback for our earlier, 9-1 loss to China it just wasn’t meant to be. I finally lost a coin toss (5-1 record, pretty good) and we gave up 2 in the first end. We took one in the second and then China blanked the 3rd. With last rock in the 4th, their skip made a nice last stone to score 3 for a 5-1 lead. We narrowed the score to 5-3 with a skips pair in the 5th thanks to a strategy error by the Chinese and two very nice stones by Stephen. Unfortunately we were playing 8 end, not 10 end games so we were now in a position where time was against us.
Quite simply, instead of having 5 ends left to play and use, we only had 3. A 10 end game would have, theoretically, given us back the hammer twice-presuming we could force the Chinese to take single points in the 6th and 8th. If we then (again theoretically) were able to score deuces, or more, in the 7th and 9th ends we would at least be tied at 7-7 coming home with a chance to win the game by stealing the 10th.
In our position in an 8 end game, we could try to force them to take one, hopefully score 2 of our own in the 7th and then have to steal two successive ends to tie the game and then win in an extra end (that’s curling overtime for you non rock chuckers). It’s doable, but the odds are better in the 10 end scenario. Or you try to steal 3 straight ends.
We chose that option, hoping for at least a force or even a blank to keep the score in reach if we didn’t get the steal. Unfortunately we gave up a score of two for a 7-3 deficit. We played the 7th of course. With the 4 rock Free Guard Zone rule there is always the possibility of a 3 or larger score. But they executed perfectly, Stephens last rock didn’t curl enough and they stole another point for the 8-3 handshake.
Hat’s off to the Chinese. They played well-I don’t think their skip missed a shot the entire game and that includes the strategy error in the 5th. After beating us, they went on to win the spiel, taking down Kelowna’s Adam Cseke 6-4. Cseke had a nice showing with his team, serving notice that there’s someone new to think about in BC. With a last name pronunciation of “Checka” however, we couldn’t resist a pun and named the final match a game of-wait for it-‘Chinese Csekers’
I’m sure some of you zealous PCer’s will call that racist. But whatever, if I don’t offend at least someone with each blog I don’t consider it a success.
So Cloverdale ended with a 3-3 overall record and $1,000.00. Not a lot of cash but then we weren’t in this spiel for money. We got some badly needed early games, performed well, faced a must-win situation against Sean Geall and executed (something lacking at times last season), won a tough quarter-final and adjusted to the new equipment rules without issues. Overall? A pretty decent effort. Not an ‘A’ but a definite solid ‘B+’ in my book.
We changed into our civvies and prepared to head out. I hung out for an extra twenty minutes to watch my pal Grace MacInnes wrap up their semi-final game (she’s the 3rd for Team Gushaluk and they would go on to win the women’s side ) before bidding the boys farewell and hitting the road. I would’ve liked to stay and watch the finals but home was over 4 hours away in a car that was now making a pesky rattle. If anything bad was going to happen, I wanted it to take place during daylight.
My concerns were unfounded. 4.5 hours and one pee break later I pulled into the Subway a few blocks from my place just after 7pm, treating myself to a Falafel footlong. That’s right, I love falafel and damn proud of it. What’s that?, you say, not treating yourself to a post-spiel beer?
Nope. Because that’s another thing this final season. No alcohol. Not just for curling and not because it’s a problem but for many other reasons (and for you wits out there who know me, no-Hell has not frozen over). However, that’s another story for another time-if I choose to tell it. Meanwhile, its back to reality with 2 weeks before our next event, right here at home; The Vernon Prestige Inns Curling Classic.
To fill the gap? Broomgate. C’mon, don’t look surprised. You all knew this was coming…