Thursday, March 29, 2012

Anchorman 2

Sorry but couldn't resist this. News is there will be an Anchorman 2, which reminded me of the time Ron Burgundy tried out for SportsCentre. Here's the tape:

Monday, March 26, 2012

Grand Slam moves to Global

After failing to get the last Grand Slam of Curling on the air, iSport Media has inked a deal with Shaw Media (Global) to show both the men’s and women’s finals from the Players Championship in Summerside, PEI.

“We’re excited,” said Kevin Albrecht, the head of iSport. “It’s one of the major networks in Canada.”

The Grand Slam events had been on CBC TV up until this year, but the broadcaster pulled the plug at the end of January just days before The National in Dawson Creek, B.C.

The year’s final and the tour’s biggest event will now air on Global from coast to coast.

Unlike the previous arrangement, iSport is producing the broadcast itself, hiring Aquila Productions out of Edmonton to run things. Veteran producer Curtis Saville will handle the production.

“This will give us a chance to try some of the things we’ve wanted to do for a long time,” Albrecht said. “It’s really a great opportunity to really showcase the curlers.”

Two thirds of the announcing crew has been confirmed. The legendary Don Duguid will be back on the air alongside Olympic silver medalist Cheryl Bernard to provide colour commentary. A play-by-play person is still to be finalized but Albrecht said a decision on that will be made soon.

Albrecht said that so far, this show on Global is a one-time affair, but he’s hoping to talk with the network about continuing next year. He said that Global likes the combination of curling with PGA Tour coverage that it already has.

As for the struggles with CBC, Albrecht said that not much has happened on that front as both sides continue to disagree. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Brier TV numbers

Curling continues to provide huge numbers for TSN, putting it on the same level as the network’s coverage of CFL and NHL.

This year’s Brier final between Ontario and Alberta drew an audience of 1,135,000, just ahead of the women’s final. I actually would have expected a slightly larger audience considering a team from audience-rich Ontario was in the mix.

The preview show (which was very well done, I thought), had an audience of 408,000, also a solid number.

The bronze medal game had 330,000 viewers, which is large considering it was on TSN2, the network that doesn’t have nearly the reach of TSN. The women’s bronze game picked up 630,000 but it was on the main network.

Some final Brier thoughts

Final Brier Thoughts:

When I asked Glenn Howard at the start of the year what the difference in having Wayne Middaugh in the lineup compared to Richard Hart, he said that it might be Middaugh’s ability to through the high, hard one. That was clear in the final (and all week really) as Middaugh used that weapon time and again to rid the house of Alberta stones. Taking nothing away from Hart, but I don’t think many people throw takeouts as hard and as accurately as Middaugh.

A few records were broken with yesterday’s win. First up was Middaugh, who became the first person to win the Brier at three different positions. He also became the fourth curler to win a Brier at skip and then a subsequent Brier at a lower position (joining Howard “Pappy” Wood Sr., Jimmy Congalton and Pat Ryan). And, to me the most impressive, Howard now has the mark for longest time between Brier victories – 25 years. Talk about longevity.

I’m not saying that the players don’t take the bronze medal game that seriously but the Tweet from Jamie Koe about his participation in the ridiculous game between Y/NWT and Manitobat says it all:

Lost bronze medal game on #45 min of sleep. Guess I needed an hour.” 
Unless the CCA wants to move to a true playoff system of two semi-finals and a final, the bronze medal game is nothing but a cash-grab (even if they tell me it’s not, which they have).

I remember when Wayne Middaugh was coming up as a top-flight junior and earned the name as Quick Draw Middagh for how fast he played. Last night it seemed there were times he was already in his delivery motion before the other team’s rocks had come to rest. Gotta love that don’t ya?

I just don’t understand how Kevin Koe’s squad managed to end up with bad rocks in a final. When you have all the stats about rock performance during the week, can take stones from any sheet and have the ability to match stones in practice how do you end up with duds as Pat Simmons did yesterday? In my humble opinion, that was a significant factor in the result yesterday. I’d love to know if there was a reason this happened. It just seems so strange that you’d think there’s more to the story.

So was the game last night a classic? No, not really. The performance of the Howard team was jaw-dropping and the misses by Koe’s foursome stunning and unexpected, but this was a pretty one-sided game despite the final score. I give Koe credit for getting to the final stone. It will be remembered for just how amazing the Howard team played, lead through skip. And it will be remembered for Howard and Middaugh getting their fourth Brier wins, tying them with the great Richardsons.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Against Team Canada

Should the Brier winner get a bye the following year?

That’s what the Canadian Curling Association is pondering these days as it looks to change to the men’s and women’s national championships. Donna Spencer of Canadian Press has this article on the possible alterations to the Brier and the Scotties.

My personal opinion is, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

First, a little history lesson here. When the Scotties added Team Canada to its lineup, it was because the event was having trouble drawing audiences, both live and on television. Women’s teams weren’t well known as they are these days with Jennifer Jones and Colleen Jones et al. It was before television covered the event wall to wall and so organizers felt it needed a hook on which to hang its marketing hat. So starting with the 1985 championship, it brought the winner back as Team Canada.

I can tell you that the move was controversial and I was among many who thought it was a bad idea. The marketing side I got, the free pass I never did and still don’t.

To add this to the Brier, I believe, would be a massive mistake. One of the great charms of the Brier is the fact that everyone has to earn their way there, no passes, no byes. It’s shocking when a team such as Jeff Stoughton’s doesn’t get back, yes, but shows just how tough it is to win and makes it that much sweeter for the champions.

I also don’t buy Warren Hansen’s quote in this article about needing a team to market.

"It makes sense to me that both those championship should look the same," Hansen said. "To have a team a year ahead for both events that we can use in marketing those events is huge.
Um, maybe Warren didn’t see the ads for this year Brier that were running, but they had Stoughton, Martin and Howard’s mugs all over them. The CCA already uses top curlers images and quotes to sell tickets, even if they aren’t assured of being there. And when was the last time there was a Brier that didn’t feature a recognizable name?

Oh and how often has the Brier lost money? (I mean other than when it’s in Hamilton?) So you need a Team Canada to market for what reason precisely? 

I don’t have research to back this up, but I would posit that there are two main types of ticket buyers for a Brier or Scotties. The first group buys because of the event. They know there will be good curling, a Patch and more. These folks buy any time.

The second buys to see specific teams and won’t get a ducket until the teams are selected. They might want to go and see Glenn Howard or Brad Gushue or Kevin Koe. They buy on strength of field, not one specific team.

I would suggest that the former group is significantly larger than the latter, providing even less reason to add a Team Canada to the Brier. How many more tickets would have been sold to this year's event because Jeff Stoughton would have been in the field. No disrespect to the Stoughton four, but I don't think it would have been that many. 

Now certainly the Brier has changed over the years. In the early days, there were teams representing Toronto and Montreal and over the years, provinces and regions such as Newfoundland and Labrador and the Territories have been added. Change is inevitable, the relegation system likely but I think adding Team Canada to a Brier solely for marketing reasons then you’re doing it for the very, very wrong reason. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

Gushue and Koe -- a hard road a-travelled

It’s interesting that on the same night that Jamie Koe led his Territories team to the playoffs, there’s a fine piece in the Globe by Darrell Davis about the disappointment of Brad Gushue’s Brier.

For most of their history in the championship, the Territories and Newfoundland and Labrador have been the doormats of the competition (followed closely by PEI and NB). N+L, have had some blips of success including what is perhaps the greatest underdog tale in the championship, the Jack MacDuff story. And Don Twa almost did the same in 1975 when he tied for first in the days before playoffs. There were three teams at 8-1 and he and his rink eventually lost a playoff that served as a semi-final.

But more often than not, these teams have had trouble getting wins. Heck, the Territories has only had winning round-robin records in four years, including this year.

The Globe story does a good job at pointing out how difficult it is for Gushue to build a strong team, being so far removed from the mainstream curling centres. He has to try to entice people to move to his fair province, which is definitely a commitment.

Same can be said for Koe, whose provincial playdowns against the gang from Whitehorse are 1,100 kms apart. A flight to almost anywhere runs roughly $1,000 so playing the Tour out of Yellowknife is next to impossible.

And if the CCA brings in relegation to the men’s and women’s national finals, it could be even more difficult for the teams that are perennial bottom feeders. Who wants to move to an area where there’s yet another level required to reach the Brier?

Yet when one of these teams does perform, it proves why the Brier is something special in Canadian sport. When MacDuff won the Brier, he had his curling shoes bronzed. When Gushue won Olympic gold, he shut down a province. When Jamie Koe won last night to secure a playoff spot, the folks in Saskatoon shook the building to its foundation.

There will always be haves and have-nots in curling and there’s no really good way to avoid that. Better to just revel in the possibilities of what can happen and enjoy the spectacle when it does.
Brad Gushue has delivered that in the past. Jamie Koe is providing it now. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Rocumentary will be revealing

After a long time in development, an interesting documentary on curling airs on Sunday. Actually, it’s being called a “rockumentary” which is a good handle. It’s a look behind the scenes at Team Howard over the course of a year giving insight into what the team does off the ice as well as on. The documentary covers the 2010-11 season including the loss in last year's Brier.

There’s a trailer here that gives you a glimpse of what you’ll see.

Howard’s team of Richard Hart (replaced this year by Wayne Middaugh), Brent Laing and Craig Savill are one of the more close-knit foursome on the circuit and that's part of the reason they've been so successful. They are also one of the more progressive and open teams, (as evidenced by this clip), which is why this program should be intriguing, revealing and probably hilarious at times. I've spent some off-the-record time with these guys over the years and they definitely like to have fun. 

During the taping process, the team was given a veto over what went in and as Howard pointed out  in this story by Murray McCormick, they never used it.

"If there was something really glaring that we didn't want in there, he would take it out," Howard said. "Truth be known, we didn't (remove anything). He put it in, we thought it was fine and away we went. It's tough especially when you suffer a big loss and the camera is in your face. Still, he has to capture that. It's hard and there are the odd F-bombs. It's not in the clip, but it is reality and it's what we do."

The show airs Sunday evening on TSN and again during the Brier.


Saskatchewan curlers have had success on the women’s side of things but they’ve come up short when it comes to the men’s game. Darrell Davis, who will handle coverage for the Globe this year, has an interestinglook at the perennial hopes of the Green Province team and the pressures that come from representing a curling-mad region.

He quotes Eugene Hritzuk as saying that the Scott Manners team will need to step it up if they hope to end the drought that’s existed since 1980.

“I think they’ve worked harder on their game than any other team in Saskatchewan,” Hritzuk said about Manners and his teammates. “But the curling will be at a different level at the Brier than what we saw at the provincials. The precision with which they curled in Assiniboia is not the precision they’ll need to make the playoffs at the Brier. I’m not saying they won’t make the playoffs, I’m just saying they have to bring it up a notch."


Can’t have a Brier without a Patch and this year, the beer is even local. Yup, Sasky beer in the Patch, but don’t worry, it’s not green.


Did you know there’s a Brier for clergymen? Yup, it’s called the Friar’s Brier. Here’s the story.


Alberta’s Amy Nixon has confirmed that she’s moving on to form her own squad, parting ways with Shannon Kleibrink, according to this story from Al Cameron. 

“It’s real hard; I feel like I’ve kind of jumped off a cliff and I’m not sure how I’m going to land. But I do think it’s the right time to blaze my own path and try something new.”
Nixon said much of the reason for her decision was the fact that she couldn’t commit to the arduous schedule needed to make it to the 2014 Olympics, a goal for the Kleibrink team. Her new team – which has yet to be formed – will likely play around Alberta next year.