The Roaring Game

The last three-and-a-half weeks have seen me engrossed in (some might say obsessed with) the Scotties Tournament of Hearts and the Tim Hortons Brier.  Those are the women’s and men’s national curling championships in Canada. Yes, I am a curling fan, having come to the sport by happenstance on spring break in Toronto in 2000. Thanks to the Wild West of the Internet (before geo-blocking came to truly exist), I was able to watch matches straight from the CBC and TSN websites after my curiosity had been piqued on that trip.  I’d watch matches on TV from the 2006 Winter Olympics after getting home from working overnight (live sports action at 5 in the morning, bring it on!). During this “season of change” in my life, I have come to invest more mentally in following the World Curling Tour (yes, there is such a thing) and thinking about issues in the game and solutions to them (you know me, the problem solver).  So why curling, and what might this sport and its culture be able to afford an on-the-sidelines sports administrator who is looking for what the next chapter in the journey might bring?

With apologies to my new curling compadre Tony (whose excellent explanation of his fandom for the sport can be found here),  curling is a thinking person’s sport, where the strategy of the game is just as if not more important than the physical movement of playing. The ability to forecast or plan three or four moves ahead (like one does in chess or checkers) based on what you see in front of you fascinates me, in the vernacular of “if I do *this*, then he’s going do *that*, leaving me [a specific action] to blank the end/get X points/force him to take one point/steal X points” (the four potential scoring outcomes of an end). Following matches via live scoring (i.e., no video) from places near and far on the world map can be almost as exciting as seeing the action itself, because if you understand the basics of match and shot scoring, you’re capable of playing out mentally how a game is going, and that is how I came to delve deeper into the sport (thanks to CurlingZone for a well-done scoreboard page).

Beyond the strategy and game play, what hooks me as a sports fan is that the athletes are, well, human, with normal jobs and off-ice pursuits and personalities. I have yet to attend a top-level curling tournament, but based on the pictures and stories I’ve read and heard from others at this year’s Scotties and Brier, the fan/athlete interaction is higher than you’d find in any major league sport in the US (one example of that athlete normalcy is this video from the Karuizawa tournament this past December). I root for certain teams and players more than others (some of who are fairly successful in the curling world, others less-so), and it’s not all skips…in fact, four of my favorites across men’s and women’s curling are seconds and a fifth is a former second who won Brier, world, and Olympic titles at that position before moving to third with his current team. The family-like team concept (each team has four players) make it a bit of a hybrid between the individual battles of tennis or golf and most team sports one would envision (baseball, basketball, soccer, etc.) and is another thing that attracts me to the sport.

As I look to emerge from this season of change that has followed my shelving of Milwaukee United Soccer Club, I have come to define what I want my next chapter to have. I still believe that women’s sport is the place where my passion and skills can do the greatest good. I want to be able to use those skills, that passion, and my abilities and creativity to bring greater access to playing and competitive pursuit of sport for women. I want to be able to “be on the inside” of sport, where the interaction between the athletes and management/administration is more organic and less of the “I play, you manage, we don’t talk” that I dealt with in my previous posts. I want to be part of a structure that will give me freedom to tackle BIG things in sport using what I bring to the table without having to be in charge of everything or build that structure from the ground level. Could my fandom for curling and my skills/abilities/experience mesh somehow? Would there even BE an opportunity in the game for me to pursue? That’s the question, and that’s what I need to find out.

Quick post-script: I am playing around with a couple of mental projects related to the game (a complete restructure of the Scotties and Brier that would replace the pre-qualifier and main draw after 2017; a 32 or 64-team women’s bonspiel that would involve pool play and full-participation flights). The first one is sketched out on paper and is in outline/notes form (complete with spreadsheet of draws), the second I will start working on today. If you’re interested in the Scotties/Brier reconstruct, drop me an email or DM me on Twitter.

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