This week my illustrious ex-third Alanna Routledge shared a photo from our 2012-13 mixed team that reminded me just how much I miss curling. (And reminded me of that unfortunate trend to wear crazy pants.)
This was the Canadian Mixed in Montreal, which honestly still ranks as one of the top weeks of my curling life. It was an absolute blast from start to finish, and reminded me of what I cherish deeply about the sport. It was competitive, but it was social. I feel like I have friends from across the country because of that week. It was inclusive. It was immersive. Thinking about it still makes me smile.
It has also reminded me of how much I miss curling. I have done nothing but practice since March, as ’spiel after ’spiel has fallen victim to this damn pandemic. I get it, and I know it will end someday.
I have also been relatively quiet on the blog lately. Much in the way you don’t want to pull off a band-aid on a wound that you know is still festering, I have not wanted to think about all that I am missing so much. Yes, I have been practicing – a lot - but without any tournaments to play in, it feels like going to the driving range without the feeling of ever getting out on the golf course.
But this week has brought news... about the 2021 Brier! And a Scotties and a Mixed Doubles, and some Grand Slams. Curling Canada has pulled a rabbit from their hats, and created a Season of Champions to be held in March in what will be a Calgary bubble, at the 1988 Olympic site.
This is honestly an impressive feat. Curling is not the NHL or the NBA. While I am sure the potential of sellable TV content is appealing, the cost of running something like this, both in dollars and coordination, is immense. I am honestly blown away that CC has been able to pull this off. Big kudos to the folks at Curling Canada.
Of course, this will not come without controversy.
The first question, of course, will be how to pick the teams that will attend. With curling shut down in all but a few provinces, how will provincial associations be able to run events to select a champion? For sure, many provinces will find themselves unable to hold a provincial championship, so they will be in the unenviable position of having to pick a winner to send into the bubble.
So how do you decide how to pick a team to go to the Brier? I see three possible models:
1) Send last year’s winner, as the Americans recently decided to do. Amazingly, this option is supported by 100% of last year’s winners.
2) A beauty contest: You line up your teams, and you have some appointed judges pick a winner. I guess the trick is in appointing the right judges.
3) American Idol: Have some sort of vote, presumably of the players and/or curling associations. Let the people decide!
Solution one is pretty clear cut, but presents problems when last year’s winning team is no longer curling together (as is the case for the 2020 Quebec women’s team). Also, if last year's winner was an upset, many of the provincial favorites will be left out.
The next two solutions become problematic due to politics.
Either way, teams will have to lobby to get to the Brier. This is a new skill set for many teams, who used to try to get there by actually practicing and getting better at curling. I don't remember a chapter on lobbying for support in my copy of Curling to Win. In option three, you would have to pander for votes, and cries of "voter fraud" from south of the border might make their way north.
Either way, this will be messy and controversial. I think making this work will require acceptance of the fact that these are all crappy solutions, and eventually we will have to go with the least crappy one.
I sincerely hope the pandemic eases up and we get to play in some form of a limited provincial. Those who know me know how much I value a trip to the Brier. I am a purist, a lover of the sport, so there is something about giving anyone a free pass for what I have worked so hard towards in the past just feels wrong.
However, if in Quebec it comes down to option two – the beauty contest – then Team Fournier will sport our swimsuits and walk the runway in hopes of getting the judges to give us the tiara. Wish us luck, or happy lobbying, I guess.