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Sunday, January 16, 2011

The World is Flat(ened)

 I’m looking for the words to describe the victory by North America in the 2011 version of the Continental Cup.  Premature?  Anti-climax?  Dominatri…, er, I mean Dominance.
Despite the format of loading more points towards Saturday and Sunday, the outcome appeared inevitable after Friday night’s sweep by North America, heading into Saturday morning Skins with a 90 to 18 lead.  By the time John Morris dropped his draw to the button on the pin for a 9 point skin, the outcome was never in doubt.  Thankfully, the Jennifer Jones rink scored a devastating 22 point carry-over, and saved us all from potential questions such as, to NA: “how will you be able to sleep on such a large lead, won’t you be nervous”, to World: Given you are so far behind, do you see an advantage 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 3 weeks (quick, how many points did North America score in the 2007 Continental Cup?), our memories should include:

  • The great job by the City of St. Albert (and Edmonton). The volunteers and fans who overpaid and ventured out in 10 cm of snowfall (at -34C) showed us 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 would change our impressions (including sponsors).
  • Team North America were almost too impressive, reminding us all that though the game has become an Olympic sport and many governments are funding hand chosen players in an effort to usurp Canada, there is still a long way to go.  
  • The wild Olympic cheering which surprised all of us regular curling fans cannot and perhaps will not be duplicated.  Several efforts were attempted, and with some level of success, but the age and soberness of the fans limited their ability to reach Vancouver decibel levels.
  • Skills competition (Singles), though different, should not be a “regular draw”.  I sat beside a man and his grandmother.  Confused by what was happening, she kept asking him why they weren’t curling.  Unfortunate for her but Saturday afternoon was her one chance to take in the Continental Cup and for $30 she got to watch a really neat practice. One volunteer had trouble looking up from her Sudoku during this portion of the event.  The lack of excitement is evident and, even if you’re following the points, there aren’t enough at this stage of the competition to even matter.  Every time the announcer called out the results, it didn’t seem to mean anything.  “4 points for NA” lacks excitement when they already have 133. 
  • Staying with the Singles, perhaps they could move it to the beginning of the competition and make it no charge, in an effort to increase sales.  Possibly a Wednesday night event and include a private party with the teams for those who purchase special weekend packages.
  • Only two games over the first two days were close (and one was Mixed Doubles).  That’s a whopping 11% of excitement. 
  • 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 7th end.  This was incorrect strategy.  If they get a deuce, NA gains 6 points.  A conservative end should reduce chance for a steal but increase the possibility of a carry-over, in which case Team World gets hammer in the final end with a possible 15 skins. If NA gives up a steal, they still have hammer and a chance at 9 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 7th end.  Likely John was following a reasonable logic of trying to win the game, something this format doesn’t always require.
If you were cheering for Cana…(sorry), North America, then perhaps you are left with fond memories and pleased with the outcome of the 2011 Continental Cup.  I do believe there is room on the calendar for this event and many reasons why we should all want it to succeed.  Unfortunately, the results this year won’t help that cause.  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.  Until they are able to host this across the pond in Europe, that may simply not be possible.

…and isn’t North America actually part of “The World”?  


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