Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Continental Cup, RIP

The Continental Cup finally seemed to generate some excitement this time around. Even a guy like me who has always had problems with the event had to admit that there was some great curling, some genuine edge-of-the-seat stuff. There were reports of Kevin Martin running about behind the ice, pumping fists. Here’s what he told the Great Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun:
"It doesn't get any better than that!" he enthused.
"I mean, that was amazing! Sports doesn't get any better than that! Any sport! I don't care what sport you're talking.It was within a centimetre on every single sheet!"

And yes, there was all that nonsense of the lineup problems that just goes to show you how silly the rules are – I mean, if you have a rule stating that Americans have to play a certain number of games, what does that say about the Americans? It’s a slap in the face. Even the official WCF release on the event more or less buried the embarrassing controversy.
But I digress. As I said, I was intrigued by the play too. Those draws to the button were spectacular. As for the rest of it, well. . .
To me the Continental Cup was never properly set up. It’s a good idea that got twisted and turned into the event it is, something that doesn’t have the significance it should.
So what’s wrong? Well for starters, holding it every year is too much. It’s too much for the players, for the fans and, most importantly, for the build up of the event. It loses any sense of being something special, of being important. The Ryder Cup isn’t held every year and that allows for a build-up of the us-versus-them stuff, so necessary to making this work. Every second year would make sense.
Second are the formats being used. And I concede that this event is a great place to try things out, to test innovation. As well, for television, it can be interesting to do something different. But sometimes they work and sometimes the don’t and you have to admit that.
I’m OK with the regular games. And the Skins. Mixed skins? OK, but maybe too much of the same.
Mixed Doubles? Sorry, I just don’t buy this, especially after they got rid of the designated sweepers last year. Seeing great curlers like Carter Rycroft get up and run after his rock to sweep it looks like amateur hour. I used to do that in junior.
Singles? Maybe, and just maybe. But at least make the shots somewhat difficult. I mean that draw through the port – you could have driven a truck through that “port.” It’s entertaining but it’s not really curling, is it? It’s like having long-driving and closest-to-the-pin competitions at the Presidents Cup but I’ll give on this one.
The one event that’s missing is a two-team competition, once the staple of championship curling. Two teams, say a men’s and a women’s, play their opposite numbers in regular curling games and the total score counts.
So here’s the way I’d set it up. Day 1: Singles in the morning, followed by regular games in the afternoon; Day 2: Two-team in the morning and skins in the afternoon; Day 3: regular games in the morning and skins in the afternoon.
Third – and this is the biggest for me -- is the scoring. It’s just plain goofy and for the average fan, way too hard to follow. Maybe that’s why nowhere on the web site is the point allocation spelled out. Certain events are worth more than others skins games have different values depending on when they’re held. And there’s absolutely no consistency. For example, the first regular games are worth six points each. Teams play eight ends for a possible six points. Yet the singles, which is a grand total of six shots, is worth four points. Does that seem right? One skins game is worth 20 points and another is valued at 55.
I’m sure there must be an easier way to work the scoring into a simple easy-to-understand format while still allowing it all to come down to the final day.
Of course all this could be moot because it would appear the Continental Cup is dead or at least on life support. Right now, there’s no title sponsor for the event (however, there was a good lineup of lower-tier sponsors) and while there is a scheduled year off in 2009 owing to Olympic Trials, the future is somewhat bleak.
In truth, the event has been slipping. The purse went from $200,000 in the first year down to just under $90,000 the last two years; the winners got $2,000 while the runners-up took home $1,400 (that includes the coaches and captains, by the way).
I’d love to see the Continental Cup survive because I think it could even thrive under the right circumstances, but to me, this was an event that missed too many possibilities and opportunities.

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