Saturday, January 10, 2009

It's all about the players

I wonder if the CCA was watching and listening and viewing Thursday and Friday? If it was, then it would have seen what was probably the biggest onslaught of curling media in Canada’s largest city in some time.
Kevin Martin and Jennifer Jones, and to a lesser extent, Randy Ferbey and Glenn Howard, were everywhere, in promotion of the Casino Rama Skins Game. And in this city, that’s an achievement. They made all the papers – Sun, Star, Globe, Post. The were on Prime Time sports with Bob McCown, which is the most-listened-to sports radio show in the country, they were on Off the Record and also over on Sportsnet.
Now you might think this is all just the media clamoring to get some time with the curling stars, that they suspected they were coming into town and so called them up and booked interview time. But you would be wrong in this assumption, my friends.
The media tour was put in place by Martin’s agent, Lorraine Quartaro. She doggedly called up the ink-stained wretches and talking poodles, and made the arrangements (of course, it helped that TSN put Jones in the field against the boys, giving a good hook for the attention). And from what I understand, it wasn’t that hard – there was a lot of interest in talking to the two world champs. I was the first on Thursday morning and Jennifer told me she thought they had 12 appearances that day.
The reason I ask if the CCA was taking notice is two-fold: for years, the CCA has resisted using the players to market the events. Local organizing committees have used players (i.e. Jones on the front of a sailboat for this year’s Scotties in Victoria, John Morris pumping a curling-themed barbell for this year’s Timmies) but the CCA has always resisted that tact, saying the event itself is what sells, not the players (to be fair, this has loosened up a bit in recent years).
It’s also of note because this is Toronto, where curling participation is supposedly on the decline, at least that was the topic of an interesting front page story in The Curling News recently. But if Martin and Jones can stir up the Toronto media, then there is at least still interest in the roaring game in this town, if not as much actual rock-tossing.
And that bodes well for two things. The first is the Grand Slam slated for next fall at the Air Canada Centre (although we keep hearing rumours it’s going to move to the Ricoh Coliseum). That event will be the first major curling showcase in Toronto since the 1986 world championships. It’s unfortunate that it looks as if it will come during a nasty recession meaning the corporate involvement may be limited. Still, there’s interest here, at least from a media standpoint.
The second is that brass ring – a Brier in Toronto. The CCA would love to do that but it wants to make sure it will succeed. It can’t afford another Hamilton, financially speaking.
So what does this all come down to? It’s about the players, pure and simple. They make the events, they make the games, they make the broadcasts. Without them, there’s nothing. They are the stars and everyone needs to realize that.

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