Lots of commotion at the Manitoba Scotties, where an alleged rock-burning incident has cast a shadow on Jennifer Jones and her team. The former world champ has come off looking like a bully against a younger opponent. She seems to have broken the unwritten code in curling and in the process has tarnished her reputation.
From the media reports I’ve read, here’s what happened: Kerri Flett’s team was down three in the fourth and the skip needed a raise to the four foot against four Jennifer Jones’ counters. Along the way, her shooter had to slip past a guard. In the process of sweeping the shot, lead Brenna Philp was alleged to have moved the guard, allowing the moving stone to slip past. The shot ended up being made.
But here’s where things get grey. Apparently Jones and her third, Cathy Overton-Clapham felt Philp – who was sparing for Flett – burned the rock and went straight out and accused her of it. When Philp denied that, Jones called an official over and said that Philp had burned the guard and if not, the moving stone would have wrecked.
The official reportedly grilled Philp and got something short of a confession but still pulled the shooter off, giving Jones four points. With Flett being the home town gal, the boos rained down on Jones.
Honestly, if you’re Philp and some official and Jennifer Jones are beating you up, you might break a little too. But from what I can tell she only said that she might have brushed up against the stationary stone, never moved it, which isn't breaking any rules. But if reports are right, then thanks to this official it’s almost as if she was being water-boarded.
"Admit it, you burned that rock, admit it. . . admit it. . . or I'll put you back in the box.
Since the incident, Philp has categorically denied burning the guard, in print and on radio.
And if you're the official, who are you going to side with? Let's face it -- officials in curling are no different than say, the NBA. The calls are going to go in favour of the stars. Still, there are reports that this is an experienced official who should know.
So there’s a lot of head-scratching going on here. First, I always thought that the offending team had to call the penalty on themselves (silly me, that’s when curling was still a gentleperson’s game). In this case, it seems that Jones initiated the call. And let’s be honest here: if you thought your opponent had burned a rock, you probably would have said something, even just stared the person down, right? I don’t blame Jones if she sincerely believed the rock had moved. How she handled it, however, is another matter. Anyone who has curled has probably run into this situation. When it’s happened to me, I might say something in a loud voice so the opponents know what I think, but you never call someone a cheater/rule-breaker, especially when you’re a world champion and the person you’re accusing is a university student. And you also don’t do it right in front of a packed crowd.
I remember when I played for John Kawaja and a similar incident occurred. He asked the sweeper if he burned the rock (note I said asked, not accused), the sweeper denied it and that was the end of it. Except that JK cut a death stare through this guy for about four ends and although the guy never admitted burning the rock, everyone in the arena knew.
Second, I would have figured that the official would work on the basis of having some evidence. Did he? If Philp says she didn’t burn the rock (although a post on curlingzone.com said fans saw the rock burned) and the official didn’t see it then that’s where it should end, right? Sorry Jennifer, but without evidence, this case gets thrown out of court.
And, really, there shouldn’t have even been an appeal. Jones may wish to confront Philp, but if Philp denies it, as a curler, you accept that. Jones apparently couldn’t from the reports.
And in this situation, it seems as if it didn’t end there, which is why something isn’t right. The official essentially overruled Philp, if you believe Philp denied burning the stone. If this was the case in all games, then in any close situation, I could just accuse my opponent of burning a rock and no matter what he said, that rock would come off. As long as I whined long enough, apparently.
Here’s the part I really wonder about. Jones has said nothing in her defence, at least nothing I could find. She hasn’t explained her side of the story and so far, no one has disputed what Philp has said, that she didn’t burn the stone. Something doesn't add up here.
Then there’s the official. Anyone heard from him? Not that I could find.
Right now, Jennifer Jones looks like a bully and most definitely, someone who forgot the code. Maybe there’s more to the story, maybe Jones is in the right, but so far she hasn’t chosen to defend herself. And really, she should in a situation such as this. For herself and also for Philp.
I wasn’t in Gimli to witness this incident, but it sure stinks. Jones and the official could help to freshen the smell if the so desired. Come on, you two. Start blabbering.
UPDATE: A fine article by Paul Wiecik on the incident is here.