The World is Flat(tened)

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NEVER A DOUBT: CCA photo by Michael Burns

NEVER A DOUBT: CCA photo by Michael Burns

by Kevin Palmer

ST. ALBERT – I’m looking for the words to describe the victory by North America in the 2011 version of the Continental Cup. Premature? Anti-climactic? Dominatri… er, I mean Dominating? After all, this editorial has been written on the final Sunday morning, with lots of curling still to come.

Despite the format of loading more points towards the weekend, the outcome appeared inevitable after Friday night’s sweep by North America which gave them a huge 90-18 points lead.

And when Jennifer Jones and John Morris led their squads to victory on Saturday night, we were all spared the sight of answers to tough media questions in our morning newspapers, such as (to North America): “How will you be able to sleep on such a large lead, won’t you be nervous?”… and (to The World): “Given that you are so far behind, do you see any advantage simply because you have nothing to lose?”

It may take some time for all of this to sink in. Assuming we still remember the event in three weeks – quick, how many points did North America score in the 2007 Continental Cup? – our memories should include:

1. The great job by the City of St. Albert (and Edmonton). The volunteers and fans who overpaid and ventured out in some 10 centimetres of snow (at -34C) and showed how a small arena can make an event appear important on television (even if it probably isn’t). Take note WCT: perhaps a Grand Slam in a smaller venue with full stands – like that second Quebec Slam – would change some impressions.

2. Team North America were almost too impressive, reminding us all that although the game has become an Olympic sport and many governments are funding hand-picked players in an effort to usurp Canada, there is still a long way to go.

3. Oh, and the Americans played great, too.

4. The wild Vancouver 2010 Olympic spectator cheerfest which surprised all regular curling fans cannot, and perhaps will not, be duplicated. Several efforts were attempted, and with some level of success, but the advanced age and sobriety of the typical curling fan seems to limit their ability to reach Vancouver levels of face paint, pompoms, decibels etc.

5. The skills competition, aka Singles, though different, should not be a “regular draw”. On Saturday, I sat beside a man and his grandmother. Confused by what was happening, she kept asking him why they weren’t curling. How unfortunate for her that this Saturday afternoon was her one chance to take in the Continental Cup and for $30 she got to watch, well, a really neat practice session. Meanwhile, I spotted a volunteer who was having trouble looking up from her Sudoku game.

The lack of excitement is evident and even if you’re following the points there aren’t enough on the line at this stage of the competition to even matter. Each time the announcer called out the results, it didn’t seem to mean much. “Four points for North America” kind of lacks excitement when they already have 133.

(Ed note: Warren Hansen of the CCA would agree with you re. the Skills moniker and possible other tweaks, as this Edmonton Sun story reveals)

Still with the Singles, perhaps they could move it to the beginning of the competition and make it a no-charge attraction in an effort to increase sales…? Possibly a Wednesday night event, immediately before or after the opening banquet, offering more bang for the sponsors and their hospitality dollar? TSN could then start off their Thursday broadcasts with a scoring update with highlights, just as awards shows highlight award winners who actually recieved their trophies earlier in the day, or even the week.

6. Only two games over the first two days were close – and one was Mixed Doubles. As the official Curling Math Guy, I shall point out that this constitutes a whopping 11 per cent of excitement.

7. John Morris also appeared to be confused by the format. I won’t fault him, few fans can follow it either. While skipping during Saturday night’s Mixed Skins, he repeatedly mentioned they were playing for a “conservative” deuce in the seventh end. This was incorrect strategy.

If they scored a deuce, North America would gain six points. A conservative end should reduce the chances for a steal but also increase the possibility of a carryover, in which case Team World would get the hammer in the final end, with a possible 15 skins up for grabs. If NA gave up a steal, they would still have hammer and a chance at nine points.

I’ll skip the math formulas, but given where NA was at the time, the preferred approach is to go all out for the deuce in the seventh end. It is likely that Johnny Mo was following a reasonable logic of trying to win the game, something this format doesn’t always require.

And there you have it – my personal thoughts. I do believe there is room on the calendar for this event, and that there are many reasons why we should all want it to succeed. Unfortunately, the 2011 results might not help that cause.

And here are two more thoughts, just for fun, written by supposed experts (ie. the media) first from Edmonton – all offense – and from Calgary – all defense (what is this, a hockey game?).

It will be interesting to see the final television numbers, although the real opportunity is for this event to reach beyond a Canadian audience and help market the game around the world. And on that note, it’s worth mentioning that for the first time ever, the Canadian TV coverage (TSN) was available for online webviewing around the world... what were the numbers? Was the stream easy to find? What’s the verdict?

Which begs the question: when will the powers that be actually host this event across the pond?

And hey… isn’t North America actually part of “The World”? Just wondering.