Thursday, December 29, 2011

A look back at 2011

Herewith are the highlights and lowlights of my year in curling:

Game of the year: An easy one, really. The Scotties round-robin matchup between Cathy O and Jennifer Jones. Jones, of course, dropped Overton-Clapham at the end of the previous year after winning the Scotties, following which Cathy O put together her own team and won Manitoba. The game didn’t really mean anything other than bragging rights but it was clear who the fans were cheering for – the dumpee not the dumper. Overton-Clapham won the game and the fans loved it.

Fun-spoiler of the year: Every year for as long as I can remember, 79-year-old Jack Cox has run around Brier rinks and waved the Ontario flag at the top of a ball retriever, shouting “ON-TAR-I-OOOOO.” But the cranks at the John Labatt Centre told he couldn’t do it because of liability issues. Boo!

Much Ado About Nothing: The cowbell controversy, it turns out, was also about an over-zealous security guard. At the Canada Cup, Amber Holland’s cheering section was told to put away their cowbells or get punted from the rink. Al Cameron unearthed the fact that the CCA had a Fan Code of Conduct that basically stated that everyone has a right to watch the game in peace. But it turns out cowbells are OK; the facility in Cranbrook was the culprit, not the CCA.

Product of the Year: Developed out of the Olympic Games’ research, the EQ brush head proved wildly successful for most elite teams and club curlers everywhere. It made it easier to sweep, keep rocks straight and carry them farther. How popular were they? The top three finishers at the Scotties all used them. And by year’s end, several companies were offering knock-offs of the product licensed exclusively by Balance Plus. Expect some legal undertakings soon. 

Worst addition of the year: The CCA added bronze-medal games to both the Brier and Scotties, dragging out rinks that had just suffered the ends to their dreams to play a meaningless game. With a straight face, CCA officials emphatically stated that it wasn’t about adding another draw to the schedule and selling more tickets.

Best addition of the year: A number of fake curler Twitter accounts popped up during the year, providing a few laughs for those who know the real players. While some of the comments were, um, not suitable for family reading, here are a few examples:
Fake Kevin Martin: Practised a bit last night. Good news; I'm still the best.
Fake Amy Nixon:
Back from China with a piece of the Great Wall, possible case of typhoid and a child I smuggled in my suitcase.

Sad passages: Jim Sullivan left us too soon. Neil McCarl was one of the great curling writers of his era.

Looking forward to in 2012: The five-rock rule debuted at the Grand Slam in Kingston and was met with encouragement. Most of the top players are interested in trying it again. Most of the fans seemed to approve too as it meant exciting finishes.

Best curling headline of the year: In the Winnipeg Free Press on its relationships column: Is Curling Really Worth Your Marriage? Here's the story behind it.

Best use of curling in a commercial: No doubt about this one. . . it's Bic.

Best shot of the year by a guy weighing less than 110 pounds: Have to admit. . . this was pretty special. And he called it, right?

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