Tuesday, 6 March 2018

#Brier2018 Midterm Grades

#BetweenTheSheets: Brier Midterm Grades
Who is making the cut, barely passing and failing?

The annual tradition of crowning our national men's curling championship is well under way in my hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan.  The games have been a mixture of high quality shot making and lopsided scores.  The crowds have been supportive of great shots with an extra feeling of anxiety/excitement whenever #TeamGreen steps onto the ice.  And the weather.....oh the weather!

#TwineTime has been in attendance since the Friday Hot Shots competition and taking in every draw, analyzing the shots on the ice and looking at how teams are performing....all with the big red marker at my side.

The blog tradition continues. Time to hand out the midterm grades for Brier 2018!

A: #BigBoys - Heading into the competition, even with the new format, all eyes were squarely focused on the "Big Boys" namely Team Gushue, Team Carruthers, Team Jacobs, Team McEwen (after their wild wildcard win on Friday night).  Team Laycock and Team Epping were also in the discussion as playoff contenders.  And as we approach elimination day on Wednesday, all of these teams are looking comfortable to advance.  Collectively they sit with a 22-6 record after Tuesday morning's draw.  Of course most of those losses came at the hands of fellow "Big Boy" competition, as expected.  The only outlier was the opening draw loss by Laycock at the hands of Quebec's Team Fournier.  These teams are starting to pull away which may add less excitement for the opening pool structure but those championship pool draws on Thursday and Friday are going to be INTENSE!!

B: #TeamEnergy - Newfoundland and Labrodor's skip Greg Smith may be the youngest skip in the field but he certainly is not lacking excitement.  From the jumps on the ice to the interesting back contortionist moves to the high octane yelling, the mostly curling conservative crowds in Saskatchewan were not sure how to take Smith on opening day.  By Sunday people were slowly falling in love with the on-ice antics.  By Monday people were starting to anticipate what he would do next and get ready....camera's out folks!  In walking around the arena and talking to fans, many have become #TeamEnergy fans and love the enthusiasm the young blood brings to the competition.  "We cannot wait to see what he is going to do next" and "I just love how animated he is.  At least he is having fun and enjoying the moment regardless of wins or losses" are just some of the comments I received on Monday.  This is what we need more of in curling folks.  Players who can be themselves on and off the ice and show emotion.  Show passion.  And create a comfort level with fans embracing a player showing who they are.  Plus, Smith is a great role model for the LGBTQ community and hopefully helps continue to bring the message of sports equality!

C: #TeamGreen - Ok can we sit down and have the difficult conversation Saskatchewan fans.  Lets be honest with one another.  We love Team Laycock right?  We love these guys and will support them until the end, regardless of results on the ice.  But have all of us also been wavering back and forth on how they have been performing?  Are we more nervous than we expected?  The opening draw loss to Quebec certainly was a slight gut punch to the Brandt Centre fans who came out ready to cheer on #TeamGreen to victory.  They played an almost must-win game vs PEI Monday afternoon and needed the extra end to secure the win.  Now no disrespect to either of these teams but you all made the same assumption I did right?  They should win those games and comfortably qualify for the Championship Pool.  The flashes of greatness were on display Tuesday morning when they dominated Northern Ontario, scoring big ends of 4 and 3 en route to the victory.  The question here is consistency.  We see ends of brilliance.  We see ends of struggles.  Sasky fans are hanging on the edge of their seats every game just wanting to bust out the "Sask-at-chewan" chants.  Can the boys ride a momentum wave after their big W over Jacobs and finally find the consistency we were all hoping for?  Sure they have had an average season but they have been playing well since the 2018 calendar turned over.  The green fans in the stands are still hopeful to see a replicate result of last year's Brier with a home province win and end the championship drought (37 years....same age as this very blogger!).  We saw the Riders win a Grey Cup at home why not a #TeamGreen Brier victory now?

D: #FormatFrustration - Now I have been pretty neutral on the new format wanting to see how it plays out and being a change management supporter did not want to quickly dismiss the concept.  However I am finding more and more people pushing me into the minority on this topic.  Many fans I have talked to are not huge fans of the format.  They all present the same rationale responses we have heard since the Scotties and they are valid concerns/complaints.  Yes we are seeing some "dud draws" with more blowout games.  Fans are getting a bit frustrated early but I think we still need to show some patience here.  The Thursday and Friday Championship Pool draws are going to be intense.  Blowout games are not unheard of at the Brier.  They happen every year.  We have seen them even with some of the best teams in the competition fall on the losing side of a lopsided loss every once and awhile.  Plus the scheduled is more advantageous for the curlers.  In the past there were stretches were a team may play 4 draws in a row.  Not under this format.  The structure is relatively fixed.  Two games one day.  One game the next.  Never back to back.  It seems like this is easier on the curling athlete body and mind....not to mention any player who falls ill during the event.  The question should more focus on continued #growthesport movement.  Are we doing enough to continue building the sport for the next generation of athletes across the country?  Is the current funding model, marketing strategy and long-term vision of the sport working?  I am not saying yay or nay quite yet but there are bigger questions in play than simple #FormatFrustrations folks.  The potential elimination of all provincial/territorial representatives (as many have been pushing for and suggesting) would cause a greater divide among the sport across the country I still believe.  Plus, attending a Brier or Scotties live, one of the best parts is the fans in the stands.  The costumes.  The signs.  The waving of your provincial/territorial flag every time your team steps on the ice.  This is just as prominent part of the event as the actual games on the ice.  People are taking pictures with fellow fans from competing provinces.  It truly is a united front of Canadian curling fans...and this is what I would not want to see change nor go away in the future!

Photo Cred: Regina Leader-Post
F: #Snowmaggedon - Really Mother Nature?  Really?  We did not need 48 hours of non-stop snow Sunday and Monday.  This is not the welcoming message Regina was looking to send to guests.  The snow was no joke folks.  People were stuck in the parking lot.  Highways were closed.  People who were hoping to attend games could not make the drive into the city...or even to the arena from home.  People who maybe did attend the full slate of games on Sunday were left finding last minute rides or accommodations Sunday night because they couldn't get their car out or couldn't get on the highway to head home.  It was a mess!  Yes I realize weather has played a factor in Brier events of the past.  We certainly remember the wind factor of last year too.  And yes we have been semi-lucky here in that the temperature has not dropped significantly.  It hasn't been super cold nor really windy.  But still....go away snow!  I did not really want to shovel snow this morning and help push people out of a ditch on my way to the Brandt Centre.  No I don't mean I didn't want to help some other poor soul I just would rather we all get to our destinations with no issues.  But hey I guess it adds an extra element and story to everyone's experience right?  Yeah lets go with that....

Continue to follow along on twitter folks as I try to bring you live coverage of all sheets in play each draw.  Plus very special guest, my brother Nick, has been joining in on the fun and offering up his own takes on the games through his #Nickism comments.  I may be biased here but they are pretty darn hilarious!  Some of the best:

"Does the N-O on the back of their shirts mean NO you can't beat us"
"Thought the goal was to be Team Canada next year? All these scores are the same. Are they playing the same game?"
"If only Bobby Heanan was alive still. He could be on the bench and manage #TheIslanders"

Settle in folks...these next few days are going to be fun as we slide closer to crowning our 2018 Tim Hortons Brier Champion and the next #TeamCanada.


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