Dumb Moves Galore, Mojitos and Why John Schuster is the Best Thing to Happen to Curling in a Long Time…

First off, apologies. I have been in blog hibernation since the last entry. Call it too busy with Christmas, two jobs and enduring 6 weeks straight of mixed graveyard and evening shifts. To paraphrase Danny Glover: ‘I might be getting too old for this shit…’

What has roused me from my slumber to once again regale you with wit and wisdom regarding the roaring game? Well, not one thing in particular. Oh no, there’s a veritable plethora of stuff that has the hair on the back of my neck standing up.

So many bizarre moves in fact, that I can barely keep up with them and find myself weeping for our species. No sooner does one occur then another takes place before I can even draw a bead on blunder number one.

My only solution therefore, is to hit them all briefly in chronological order just to get up to date before something-because it will-goes sideways this week at the Brier. So without further ado, let’s start with:

  1. Canada vs. Brazil (or: gee Glen, we’re real sorry about the Pre-Trials)-You all know what happened to Glen Howard and Charlie Thomas at the Pre-Trials and how they got the royal rip. So when Canada had to face the all powerful Brazilians in a best of 5 for a berth at this year’s Worlds (because as the host country, the USA gets a free pass), who did the CCA anoint as our savior? the top CTRS team? the Trials runner-up? or our current defending champ, Brad Gushue? Nope. Gushue was too busy playing in the made for TV Continental Cup and the CCA saw an opportunity for some post Pre-Trials sucking up to Glenn Howard. So, in an obvious political sop, they asked Howard to wear the Maple Leaf and I imagine they had Thomas on speed dial if he’d have said go pound sand. Howard said yes-because he has more class than the CCA-kicked Brazil back to the various Canadian cities they all live in, all whilst enjoying several Mojitos (a very tasty rum/lime/mint concoction that is sort of Brazil’s national cocktail-I recommend trying several) on the CCA tab.
  2. The Mixed Doubles Olympic Trials-if you thought the Pre-Trials playoff format was stupid, you ain’t seen nothing yet. 18 teams pretty much appointed by the CCA (I don’t recall any announcement about playdowns, do you?) and the WCT playing a two Pool, 9 team round robin to eliminate 6 teams, followed by a second round of 12 teams in competition to play off for 4 finalists. An entire week to decide something that could have been-because these are 6 rock, 6 end games-completed in 4 days with a more sensible format. One has to wonder if they came up with this gem after too many post game Mojitos with Howard…
  3. Mixed Doubles? In the Olympics? It has about as much business being an Olympic Medal Sport as a Long Drive contest has in deciding who wins the Masters. What would have been wrong with full mixed teams playing regular rules in 8 end games? I really would have been okay with this had we played 6 rock, 6 end games with real rules. Yet instead we get this mash-up of curling and bumper pool (you know, that table game in your grandparent’s basement that no one plays-unless they’re totally smashed on Mojitos) with dumb rules that panders to countries with paper curling associations and maybe two actual curlers in the entire country. And then the Russian guy who won bronze, hilariously, gets tested positive for a banned substance. Kudos to the few Sports reporters who had the balls to call this event what it is; a joke. But, seeing as it’s the only curling medal we won, look for it to continue getting hype while real mixed curling-with its own real world championship-suffers.
  4. Team Homan Part 1, CCA Meddling-So one of the best Canadian Women’s teams wins the Olympic Trials. Does the CCA let them go off to Olympic glory while smartly staying out of the way? No siree Bubba. After what must have been many, many Mojitos they came up with a whole new plan for Team Homan. They made them take a new coach they’d never worked with: Renee Sonenberg, and forced them to dump their 5th player-Cheryl Kreviazuk-for of all people: Cheryl Bernard. The CCA’s reasoning? God knows why long time coach Earle Morris was given the cold shoulder, but apparently Kreviazuk didn’t meet their criteria for a 5th, yet somehow a senior curler did and was the best replacement available. Are you kidding me? Bernard is a nice person with a Silver Medal from 2010 but she’s not going to be able to fill in at lead and sweep for 10 ends. So she replaced Kreviazuk, who worked with the team, traveled to the Trials and then got told to piss off. Does Homan channel her inner Eddy Werenich, do the right thing and tell the CCA to get stuffed? No. Homan made politically correct noises in the media about the changes, but if reports from my spies are accurate, these CCA moves created issues within the team that showed up later on when they hit the ice. It defies logic that the CCA would mess with the chemistry of any team that just won the right to wear the Maple Leaf. As I mentioned earlier, I suspect Mojitos were involved.
  5. Team Homan Part 2, CCA Goes Spineless Over Burnt Stone-trailing Denmark, Homan removes a Danish stone after one of their sweepers owns up to burning the stone. Now, the rule is very clear on what happens when this occurs. It is the right of the non-offending team to either allow the play to stand or remove the burnt rock. For whatever reason, Homan gets pilloried for removing the stone. This included the whiny Danish skip getting all sniffly and self-righteous with media by claiming foul when it was her teammate who actually broke the rule. However, the real villain was the CCA support team. Not one official attached to the team stood up to the media and Denmark and told them to piss off. They should have been behind Homan 200% and called out the Danes. One strong statement of support for this team might have turned their week around. Instead the CCA was gutless and IMO it was the start of them hanging this team out to dry. Maybe a few rum/mint/lime cocktails would have given the CCA the Dutch courage they obviously needed to take on the…wait for it…Dutch.
  6. Team Homan Part 3, Gutless and Ignorant Internet Trolls-with the burnt stone incident and the team struggling, Curling Zone was abuzz with ridiculous, insulting, Mojito-fueled comments showing complete ignorance about the rule. For the record, years ago the rule was changed to prevent teams from burning a stone on purpose. Back then a burnt stone, regardless of the situation , was removed from play. Hence you had teams, lots of them, claiming burnt stones if they were about to miss a shot and end up improving their opposition’s situation. Within the rules of the time, but pretty much cheating. The solution was simple: admit to burning the stone but you have to let the play continue until rocks stop moving. Then it’s the non-offending team’s choice. And no matter what they choose to do, you have no right of complaint because YOU broke the rule. So do fellow Canadian’s accept the decision and back their own team? Nope. Out of their slimy holes come the haters and trolls jumping on the anti-Homan bandwagon calling them every name in the book. It was disgusting and undeserved. But seeing as this is my blog, I get the last word to these idiots: you’re assholes, and ignorant ones at that. You’re also hypocrites because 99% of you would have done exactly as she did.
  7. The New National Championship Format-well, what can I say? So convoluted and confusing that several Mojitos are required before you can understand it. A wild card pity game for two rich kid teams not good enough to win their provinces, two preliminary pools with more teams than necessary followed by Championship and Pity pools and a governing body that doesn’t listen to players or fans. Almost every player at the STOH hated the new format and believe that there’s no need for: two pools, a wild card team and there should be only one team representing the Yukon, NWT and Nunavut (who combined have fewer clubs and curlers than Vancouver Island). Noise is also starting to be made about the length of the event and whether the defending champ (Team Canada) is even necessary-Brad Gushue made a comment to this effect in an interview just before the start of the Brier. Will the CCA listen? Fat chance.

So that’s the end of the bad stuff. For now at least. But this entry does get to close on an optimistic, feel good vibe and no Mojitos were injured, consumed or abused during its writing. I am, of course, referring to the Yankee Gold Medal triumph…

Will John Schuster Save the Game?

The absolute feel good story of Curling at the Winter Games. These guys defied the odds (an annoying but endearing American trait) and won hearts by being total underdogs. If Disney hasn’t already offered them millions for the movie rights they better get moving. I suggest Chris Pratt as John Schuster. He’s box office gold and even looks a little like Schuster.

You cannot write a better story than this: four guys abandoned by their national governing body, a skip who’s struggles led his last name to become synonymous on the Urban Dictionary as a way to screw up (as in: he really Schustered that one). They manage to come together as a team of outcasts, win the US Olympic Trials, are predicted to finish dead last, start poorly and then, when elimination seems certain, pull it out with a desperate, heroic, epic run to take the gold.

Are you kidding me? It was like John Wayne rewrote history and won the Battle of the Alamo with a single right hand hook to the jaw.

And now? well we will not get a better chance to grow the game in the USA than we just got. Because nothing sells in the States like Olympic Gold. And the timing couldn’t be better with the Men’s Worlds being held in Vegas in a few weeks time.

I’ve said this for decades: our one true hope of real professionalism lies in the United States, not Canada, because that’s where the money and population are. This is the game’s best chance for growth and exposure in America, thanks to Schuster. This team should be on every talk show promoting themselves and the game. The CCA should even consider sending funding money to US groups looking to start clubs or build facilities. And if the WCT is smart, it announces during Vegas that at least two SLAM events will be held down south next season.

We have to move quickly to capitalize on this opportunity because memories can be short. So whatever you’re going to do, do it fast, Strike while the iron is hot gentlemen. This may be the only real chance you ever get.

Now, where did I put that rum…

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