The Women's World Curling Championships have just ended. I watched them intently, and not just because I knew someone who was participating...
And wow! Was it ever exciting! Canada has a rough start to the week, but recovered and made it all the way to the final.... only to be beaten by the machine that was Sweden. And there were so many other stories - Deb McCormick and Eve Muirhead as alternates (and frequent participants!) for the USA and Scotland respectively, the great success of China and Denmark - too numerous to mention.
And now, we're up to the time of Men's Worlds, which started last Saturday. Whereas the women had to travel to the faraway land of Denmark (a country I hope to visit someday, as my lovely girlfriend has), the men are going to be right next door, in Canada! Regina, Saskatchewan hosts Worlds this year, and it promises to be a great one.
And yet, I am having trouble getting into this great tournament, which is already steeped in drama and intrigue... and HANDLE CONTROVERSY! Involving my favorite Norwegian team! Why can't I? I could think of three reasons - one universal in this country, one specific to curlers here, and one intensely personal to me. I will share all three now.
First of all, media coverage of this particular tournament in particular, and curling in the United States in general, is awful. (I originally wrote "Media coverage in the US sucks", to let you know how I actually feel). The only coverage in the United States is on a network called Universal Sports. Generally a digital cable upper-tier channel, if it is offered at all, they make their broadcasts available online. Which would be great, except that they are only showing two preliminary round matches.... involving the US team. Team Fenson. 2006 Olympic Bronze Medalists. And certainly not a favorite to win it all (as of this writing, that rink is sitting at 2-4, and are a long shot to make the page playoff). So, if you pay their fee to watch the semifinal and final matches - that's right, this availability isn't free - chances are you aren't going to see the team that you're paying to see. And those preliminary-round matches? Commentary-free. Really, only for the true curling enthusiast, and no way to pull in the casual fan.
So I turn to Canadian coverage. Which works OK.... through a proxy. And is very Canada-centric. Which usually wouldn't be so bad, but I am not exactly a fan of Team Stoughton. To his rink's credit, they are absolutely dominating the tournament this week, even more so than they did at the Brier. Which is really boring to watch. No drama.
I have had limited success in turning to other countries to watch curling. Frankly, I've had a lot of trouble getting to tsn.ca this week as well. However, I hope my worldwide fans are enjoying the Eurosport coverage, which is usually pretty good.
My second reason is the one that is personal to American curlers. I could be there. The qualification process in the United States to go to Nationals is a tough road - with regional playdowns and a knockout round - but an accessible one. Several of my friends participated in playdowns this year, with a former skip of mine - Bryan Wight - making it to the men's knockout round.
As an aside, Mr. Wight is unknowingly responsible for this reason. In the draw I played with Bryan as skip, he taught me an awful lot. He's one of the main reasons I didn't quit curling in my first year. He is one of the best curlers I've ever played with. He is certainly the most driven curler I've ever played with. And because of him, I am a slightly more aggressive skip than I normally would have been, because Bryan believed that I could make a better shot than I did. And he was usually right.
Anyway, because of this, I keep holding on to this idea that somehow, someday, I'll get a team together that will be good enough to go to playdowns, and go to Nationals, and get to Worlds. Will it ever happen? Maybe not.
My last reason is rather personal. I should be here, at this tournament. Most of you know about my work on that little Facebook page. Well, I also have a very good relationship with Loudmouth Golf, and in February, after my little journey to Oshawa (which you can read about in this very blog), we discussed bringing me to Worlds for a few days, for a mutually beneficial trip. Well, they tried to get me there, and because Regina is a small town, the problem was finding a hotel room.
So, no trip to Worlds for me. I would like to thank Larry Jackson and Adam Lecky for trying - and I know they tried. Great, stand-up company, and I haven't met a bad person there. Not a single one. I'm still holding out hope that they're going to find a way to get me to at least see the finals, and if they don't, I know they're going to feel like they need to make it up to me. And they will.
But for now, I'm still going to try to get into these Worlds, because it is the best men's curling tournament on the planet. It's just a little harder this time.