I’m at my wits end with those who seek continually to change the game purely to suit their own selfish needs and ambitions.
Not that I’m against change. Far from it, I’m highly in favor of it. But only when its for the good of the sport and all those who play and are involved . Too much lately hasn’t been for the good-although it gets slickly packaged and promoted as such-but for the benefit of a very small group.
Change, like any type of science, must be controlled and implemented carefully. Otherwise it is not change, it’s chaos. And almost no one ever benefits from chaos.
What set me off? A post by Curling Zone owner Gerry Guerts in reply to a forum thread I started on his website. I asked a very simple, two part question dealing with the growing problem of residency for provincial playdowns. The substance of which will most likely become a future blog entry of its own.
While a few answered the questions as asked, the thread quickly degenerated into the posting of personal opinions with thoughts both intelligent and stupid showing up. You, know, the usual, typical (and increasingly boring) norm on any Internet bulletin board.
Until Gerry quite unexpectedly showed up and made a post, the first sentence of which caused the bile to rise in my throat.
In short, and I am paraphrasing here, Gerry stated that Canada was the only country in the world that didn’t allow its top teams to compete in their National Championships. He then went on to partially blame our current format as the culprit in our recent failure in Korea.
That made my blood boil. Not only is that incorrect, it’s misleading, disrespectful and a flat out lie.
In short, what Gerry said was horseshit.
It’s also the exact opposite of reality.
Canada has the single, fairest and most equal National Championship format and rules of any country that belongs to the WCF. Not a single team or athlete is excluded or not allowed to compete.
How so? Because all you have to do compete in our National Championship is put in an entry and pay the fee.
That’s right. Whether you live in Toronto or Tofino, Newfoundland or Nunavut, play every weekend on the tour or once a week in a club league, the only criteria you need to fill is 4 bodies and an entry fee.
True, there are some minor requirements; like be a resident or a member in good standing at a club in the area you play out of. Those are easily accommodated and overcome but ones I’ll come back to, since there’s a few elites out there demanding special privileges where these are concerned.
In the end though, can you envision a simpler, fairer and more equal format for all? Because truthfully, I can’t. Look at the States-where you can beat everyone in your country and be declared not good enough because you can’t afford to pay cashspiel entry fees, or the European countries who go with coach selected teams. Canada is, bar none, the one country that allows anyone to play, win and wear the Maple Leaf proudly on the back of their jacket.
So tell me Gerry, after reading that, just how do we ‘exclude’ teams? What’s that I hear? Oh yeah, crickets.
So how then, does Guerts get the notion that somehow the ‘top’ teams are excluded?
It’s pretty simple really. Gerry has a lot of fingers in a lot of pies. And most of those pies are full of corporate money. Corporate money which wants greater return from its investment. Which translates into more say in how the game is run.
I get it, it is their money after all. But it falls on us to say no, then explain why nicely (dealing with sponsors who don’t know the sport is kinda like herding cats), so they understand and stay involved.
For example, how do you think Capitol One, SLAM series title sponsor, feels when they see a lot of emptiness in those arena stands and only mediocre TV numbers for those 8 events they pony up for?
One way to get both of those numbers up? Make those events even more important than they are. And the quickest, and easiest, way to accomplish that is to erase the current national championship playdown format and replace it with…wait for it, The SLAMS.
And that, ladies and gents, is IMO the sneaky, underlying message hidden in Gerry’s post. That it’s truly only the best teams competing in this little private cashspiel circuit and they are the only ones who deserve to be competing at the Brier or Tournament of Hearts.
To a certain extent, and right under your noses, this was accomplished partly this year with the new, horrible Brier and TOH formats and the pity spot (known as the ‘Wild Card’ team) for the highest CTRS team that didn’t (or couldn’t) win a provincial berth.
And the questions the folks in power don’t want to hear are: ‘Just a moment. If these so-called professional, top teams are so dog gone better than everyone else, how come they didn’t capture every provincial/territory championship? And seeing as our Olympic teams, chosen mainly through the CTRS and the SLAMS, didn’t medal in Korea, shouldn’t we be looking at that whole, lengthy Olympic Trials process (which Gerry had a big hand in creating) instead?’
They definitely don’t want the grass roots asking those questions because the answer is simple. SLAM teams are good. No one denies their talents. But, as most know , they are not the only good teams out there. What tends to separate them from the other teams is, also common knowledge, they have more money.
Money. Money for travel, entry fees, hotels, food, to afford the massive amounts of time off from a real job and cover the loss of a real income. That’s what some teams have and it’s a huge advantage people choose to ignore and not address.
Do I have a problem with money? Not at all. In fact I tip my chapeau to any foursome that can raise the capital needed to play in a single SLAM event. I do, after all, have firsthand experience in how expensive it is to play in the damn things. So a big golf clap to all the teams who’ve got the dollars.
But should you demand special privileges, or proclaim superiority because of that war chest?
No. Money does not equal talent. Ability to pay does not translate into the ability to play and guaranteed victory. If it did, Merv Bodnarchuk would have won 3 Briers instead of a lengthy stay in the hoosegow.
Look at this year’s Brier and Tournament of Hearts field. Was it the top 14 ranked teams on the CTRS or the WCT? Nope. A whole bunch of SLAM teams didn’t win their province/territory.
Which brings us back to our existing National Championship system. Which does not begin at the Brier or your Provincial/Territorial finals. It starts at your humble, initial level of playdowns. Call it zones, area, districts or whatever. That’s where the road begins with entry open to all. No pre-requisite accomplishments, no big budget or even matching jackets, just 4 guys with heartbeats.
And that’s why our system is the fairest, and most equal, in the world.
So why do some people want it differently?
Because-due largely to money-of a miss-placed sense of self-entitlement that they should have special privileges. It’s called elitism folks, and we need to guard against it happening in our sport. Because they’ve gotten greedy.
How greedy? Just look at the changes made already to appease them: the pity berth in the Brier and TOH (really bad), most provincial championships offering berths to their top CTRS teams(good), federal funding to several teams(so-so, goes to too many teams), grandfathering points(bad) on the CTRS and WCTRS instead of a fresh slate each season (also bad) and that’s just to name a few.
One can also make an argument for the 5 rock rule (good) and the fact that the WCF (as I predicted last year in a blog entry) is now discussing reducing the length of the game to 8 ends to appease TV (bad-although I do believe it will mean pebble integrity in the final ends of the game).
So with all these advantages being handed to them on a silver platter, is it necessary to cave in further and give the rich few a free ride to the National Championships based on cashspiel results? Because that’s what they want and what will happen if we don’t say no.
Teams argue residency rules restrict them from entering playdowns with whomever they wish. This too, is a lie. Teams are now allowed one out-of-area athlete and there is more than one team out there with multiple, not single, athletes to whom Curling Canada is turning a blind eye.
BTW, is there a rule in the book that stops teams and athletes from relocating?
Because, if you really believe you’re a professional athlete and there’s 4 of you from different areas who want, say, an easy out by entering playdowns in the Yukon, then why aren’t you moving there? You’re a pro, right? Isn’t that what pros do?
Did the Sedin twins fly home to Stockholm after every Canucks game? Of course not. They settled in the city they play in, became part of the community. At the very least, pro team athletes live in their city for the duration of their season. That’s what real professionals do. So if you want to call yourself a pro, act like one. Stop bitching, relocate. A residency rule should be of zero concern to any Team Moneybags.
So do you smell what I’m selling here? A lot of changes made to make a very few, wealthy teams happy. What’s been done for the average Joe Curler? Squat. And now you have people like Mr. Curlingzone crying ‘Unfair! Exclusion!’ about our National championships in an attempt to grab even more for those few by taking away the only fair, equal and accessible avenue for the majority of curlers.
Which is why I say; enough is enough. They all need to step down. They’ve forgotten their own grass roots beginnings. They’ve forgotten how their dreams were fuelled by the simple fact that all they had to do was enter a team and how it’s still true today with kids and adults who decide to take a chance.
They’ve forgotten that the ability to take that chance, as an equal, to enter that playdown, is where greatness begins. They’ve forgotten how much fun it is to dream and play. And now there are some who want to take that all away.
All because of money. Enough is enough you guys. Back off and leave the game be. Play against all of us as it is meant to be. If you truly are as good as you say, you’ll win. But prove it, on the ice, against us.