Fixing The Slams
I meant to post this a few days earlier but life, as usual, throws you the odd curveball now and then. Besides, I’m hanging with my daughter. And she’s waaay more fun than you folks. However, I did decide I should get this done and dragged my ass out of bed at 4am to finish it-just for you. So thank God for coffee. Insert polite, appreciative applause here please.
Remember the 3 main problems with the GSOC from the previous blog? Here they are again:
- Unnecessarily long in length and trying to out Brier the Brier
- Creating a false class distinction based on supposedly superior team ability
- Owned by a TV network, not the players
So, how can we fix them? Make the WCT and the GSOC a kinder, gentler place? Well, it might be easier than you think..
Let’s deal with the last issue first: Sportsnet’s ownership of the GSOC. Ideally we would buy the GSOC back from them. But, let’s be honest, that ain’t happening. Even if the WCT actually had money (sorry, needed a five-minute break to stop laughing at that one. When was the last time the WCT released a financial statement?), Sportsnet isn’t stupid. And even if the rumors floating around Cranbrook are true; that Sportsnet incurs losses in the 7 figure range covering the GSOC, curling does to many good things for them. They’d want too much for it and they have the right to ask it.
So if we can’t buy it back then we have to get them to buy into making changes which still fill their needs. In short, we become sneaky bastards playing on their greed. You know, act like businesspeople.
Three changes and we give Sportsnet what they need and take care of those other two pesky problems while improving the Slams for the majority of competitive curlers, other cash spiels and the fans out there. The changes are:
- Cut the number of Slams from 8 to 4 events each and alternate them
- Reduce their initial CTRS value
- Change the event format, increase the field size and qualify half the field
First, cut the number of Grand Slams from 8 Men’s and Ladies events to 4 each and alternate them.
Now, let’s repeat the Mantra: Cashspiel, not the Brier (seriously, sometimes I feel like Woody in that scene from Toy Story 1 where he loses it with Buzz and screams; ‘You! Are! A! Toy!’). Focus on being the best representation of cashspiels and you end up promoting and improving not just the Slams, but all the events on the tour. Because the Slams are not the only tour events.(want to do something really cool as a spectator? Then go watch a tour event at your local club. The seats are better, the beer cheaper and you’ll have way more fun than sitting in a hockey arena)
Fewer Slams, not more, will increase their value to the players and viewers. Right now it’s like the PGA calling every weekend tournament a Grand Slam. They’re not special as a result and if you want to attach the title ‘Grand Slam’ then the event better be special.
Look: regular tour events are the Sunday to Friday dinners you eat. Something a little different every night and they’re great but on Saturday night you step out for that special treat, dinner at a nice restaurant. The Slams are Saturday night. Special and rare. And they should be. But go to a restaurant 7 days a week and the specialness disappears and it gets boring. Hopefully you get this. I’m running out of analogies to throw at you.
And we really don’t need Men’s and Women’s events occurring simultaneously. You can argue the Ladies won’t draw as well and I concede some validity to the that point. But, you can offset that simply by using a smaller arena for the Ladies. And remember; the real goal for Sportsnet is the ratings. The Women do very well on their own in that department. There might be an initial, small drop in ratings. But I predict they’d increase in a short period of time. Plus, the trick isn’t how many seats to fill, its filling the seats you have. A full, 2,000 seat arena looks twice as big on TV compared to a half empty 4,000 seater.
So, step one reduces the numbers of events, gives them a special cachet and luster they lack and still gives Sportsnet the 8 weeks of prime time, solid ratings filler they need. Meanwhile, we’ve also saved teams from both sexes 4 Slams worth of costs. Freeing up time and money for them to play in other tour events, probably more than before since it can be validly argued that one slam has the same time and money costs of 2 regular tour events so you could call in 8 events worth.
On to step 2.
Second, reduce the base CTRS value on these events.
Why? To create a better balance with the other non-Slam events and thus support the smaller cashspiels to help promote more participation.
Doubt me on this? Did you know that you can play in a Slam, have an overall losing record and earn more points than a team that just slugged out in a cashspiel with more teams, more games and won $15,000.00? Want details? here’s a link to a most excellent blog that breaks it down and shows you the facts:
I’d write it myself but that’d be plagiarizing and I’d bore you. There’s also a suggested solution to the problem as a great starting point to discuss a reformed, simpler and more logical CTRS.
Otherwise you have teams weighing choices. Go in events A and B for slightly less prize money and fewer points if they win versus posting a 2-3 record in a Slam, losing in the Quarter final and bringing home more points than winning or placing in the top four of events A and B.
Reforming the CTRS won’t hurt the Slams. As long as they remain the highest paying events on the tour, they will still attract the top teams. Talent always follows the money.
Now for the real fun as Step 3 stirs up the hornet’s nest and shows how you can have more top teams playing in a Slam, run them in a shorter period of time, pay more teams more money and still make the great TV god happy.
Third, and most important, change the format and increase the field size of the Slams.
Here’s a very simple fact from Cranbrook: Instead of two separate, 15 teams Men’s and Women’s events, there could have been 1, 30 team event, for each gender. They had 10 sheets, they had the teams and the prize money. Truth is, they actually ran a 30 team event (short one game). So the logistics isn’t an issue here. Therefore, it can and, IMO, should be done.
The presumed superiority of the regular Slam teams is a very thin, if non-existent, veil of separation. Given this illusion, then having any second Tier event is nonsense-if not a little insulting. Seriously, it’s akin to the PGA hosting Nike and regular tour events on the same course simultaneously and watching the supposedly superior golfers shoot worse scores while the Nike guys post better numbers under the same conditions.
And you guys in Tier one? No offense, but if you’re really that much better than the rest of us you should have no concerns playing us little guys. The scoreboard will prove you right. So what’s the big worry? You’re not actually worried about having to play little old Team Schneider are you?
Lastly, remember my restaurant analogy earlier? Well, currently the GSOC is a restaurant with very few choices or variety on the menu. And a steady diet of Jacobs, Gushue, Edin and Jones gets pretty boring too. Toss in a few underdogs and unknowns and you wake up those viewer taste buds.
Now let’s look at the format.
With 10 sheets minimum (5 arena and 5 club sheets) you can easily hold a 24-32 team TKO with playoffs over 4 days (Thursday to Sunday). That’s 3 draws/day and easy work for the ice crew. The maximum a team will play is 5 preliminary games (or 40 ends) over the course of two to three days followed by playoffs (four game max over 1-2 days).
(Impossible, you say? Did I mention that I play around with writing draws for fun? Have for years and I’m good at it. So if I tell you that it works it’s because I’ve sat down with pen and paper and mapped it out. Both scenarios work just as I state.)
Any team in any decent type of physical condition should be capable of handling that. This then allows you to play the first two or three playoff rounds on Saturday with your last two (or one) on Sunday
It’s also time to put this argument to rest: A round robin gives spectators the choice of watching their favorite teams because they know when they play and a TKO is just too difficult for fans to follow.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is pure bullshit and always has been. Fans are not so dumb that they can’t follow a draw board. Yes, there will be larger crowds for evening games than days. But that’s because people, generally, have to work for a living. Stop promoting just a few teams and games as exciting, they’re all exciting. Make everyone a star, not just a few.
But the real important change here is the field size. Going to 24-32 teams for 4 events with a purse between $100-150,000 will fill. We just had 30 teams play for a total of $150,000. Stretching that by two more teams would have been child’s play. And there’s more than enough money to go around.
And I cannot stress the following enough: we must begin to pay money to more teams in every event. PGA events typically qualify half the field, ensuring that at least 50% of the pros earn something towards their costs. We should be no different. In fairness to this event, they did just that and I applaud them for it. We have to see this trickle down into every cashspiel on the tour and the Slams need to lead the way on this.
Most tour events only qualify 25-38% of the field. Now 30 years ago when hotels, airfare and food were cheaper this was acceptable, but not today. There aren’t decent rooms for $40/night anymore, super cheap airfare or breakfasts for $5.00. We need all events to hit 50% so at the very least half the teams can put some sort of dent in their costs. Even if this means reducing the top money to the eventual winner of an event.
I also game planned this scenario. Based on the combined Tier 1 and 2 purses of Cranbrook there would have been a $150,000 prize money pool. That’s tons of money for 16 qualifiers and you can still pay money/win during the preliminary round. How much do you give out? Well, that depends on how you distribute the pot.
In fact, this very scenario sees only 4 out of 32 teams earning the big zero. For those math freaks, that means 87.5% of teams will earn some money and that number is where we need to aim as a sport.
So that’s 3 very simple, straightforward and common sense changes to make the Slams what they should be; exciting to play and watch, special through uniqueness, accessible to more teams and growers of the sport overall.
Told you it was easy.