by Kimberly Tuck
LONDON – Today was an important day: Sandra Schmirler Day at the Brier.
All day today the Sandra Schmirler Telethon was in operation, raising money for the neo-natal care of babies in crisis. Working the phones live from London were two-time world champion skip Marilyn Bodogh, her 1986 teammate Cathy Chittley-Young, Sask curling dynamo Bernadette McIntyre, former Anne Merklinger third Theresa Breen, BC's Lindsay Sparkes and Jan Betker and Marcia Gudereit from the original Team Schmirler, just to name a few.
This is such an important foundation – here is the website – and it presents an opportunity curlers and fans of the game can give back, to uphold a legacy that started with the three-time world champion and 1998 Olympic champion, the late Sandra Schmirler. The number to call to make a donation is 1-866-210-6011 so as the Sunday evening Brier matches wind down, please call... every penny helps.
One of the best parts about sitting on the media bench is not just the great view of the games, but a fantastic view of the fans. What makes playing in an event like this so much fun is the energy you can pull from your respective fan base. Of course there are fans that are truly dedicated to their teams but, overall, this has proved to be a very knowledgeable crowd that is very respective of the efforts of all the players on the ice.
Roars are erupting from every corner of the JLC as they cheer the makes, and groan with the misses. It's a great atmosphere that you can't really get a feel for on television.
Looking out over the sea of people, I see that every team has their cheering section. There's the Quebec corner, the Nova Scotia corner, the Saskatchewan group... and although they are sitting quite close to Nova Scotia (and their hats are yellow too) you can't mistake the enormous cowboy headgear of the Alberta fans.
There's Jack Cox who, in his 80th year, still runs the Ontario flag across the away end after every Ontario point. Go Jack Go!
Then there's the ladies who I think might be cheering for Ontario but as their shirts give away, they are cheering the experience, the good time and camaraderie that we who are all passionate about this game enjoy so much.
For what other sport can you go out and do battle for three-plus hours, and then meet up in the bar afterward for a drink... at which the winner buys the first beverage (to be reciprocated) and regardless of how the game went (in most cases) the two squads sit together and have a good time?
Cat has your tongue, right?
There is just something about curling that brings people together, the connection that we all share, kind of like NASCAR but on a less scary (and less toxic fume) scale.
So when you make your way to the JLC to catch a game this week for those of you that can, just take a moment and watch the people. I can guarantee you it will bring a smile to your face, and give you a sense of belonging.
Here's a neat column by London Free Press reporter Morris Dalla Costa that ran a couple of days ago... and the opening paragraphs spell it all out:
So you're one of those sports fans who can take curling or leave it. There are times when you like it, and other times when it just doesn't cut it for you. But as a sports fan, you'll watch an event when the best of the best are participating because you know you'll get to see more of what you like than what you don't. Then this Brier is the one you want to see.