As I write this, the 2011 Brier is taking place in London, and that means my TV is on in the background when I’m working at home. And it’s on at the office (okay, I confess) where I’m live-streaming the games while sitting at my desk. Distracting? Maybe a little, but I just can’t stand the thought of missing that highlight reel shot or any of the drama on the ice.
Watching the Brier – or the Scotties, a week ago – is a highlight of the curling season. We Canadians just love watching the Big Kids play. Whether you’re an armchair skip calling the game your way, an aspiring elite curler, or just a recreational curler and committed fan, our national championships draw us in.
And according to action on Twitter, our neighbours to the south are drawn in, too. The number of tweets thanking TSN for live-streaming the Brier attest to the growing number of curling fans in the United States, or “South Canada” as one tweeter called it.
What’s the draw? Is it just that we love to watch good curling, or is it more? Here’s my take on the big attraction of our national curling championships.
The cult of celebrity
Television coverage has turned our top curlers into celebrities – at least in the curlingsphere. We love to watch them in action. We want to hear everything they say to each other during games, and thanks to those microphones, we do. The good and the bad. It’s fascinating to listen in as they discuss strategy or react to a bad throw. Stir in the post-game scrums, now available online for viewing, as well as blogs, tweets, and general media coverage, and it’s easy to get hooked. Let’s face it, in this country, curlers are celebrities, and at the Scotties and Brier, we get to see a whole whack of celebrities in action, all at once.
For anyone who’s attended a Brier, the action on the ice can be almost overwhelming. Four sheets, eight teams, all those colours, all that movement. One minute the action is slow, then it’s suddenly frantic. The curling fan faces the dilemma of deciding whether it’s better to pick one game to follow, or systematically check in on all of them. And it’s not just the curling you need to watch: there’s so much more going on. Teams huddling after difficult ends where you just know the tone is intense. Joking between opposing front ends. The low-fiving ritual of Team Quebec. And how about the respect shown, game after game, win or lose, between teams. The on-ice action is intoxicating.
Of course, the off-ice Brier action can be somewhat intoxicating, too. Especially if it involves visiting The Patch. (Enough said: What happens in the The Patch, stays in The Patch). But of course it’s also about friendly rivalries between partisan fans in the stands. Cue the flags, signs, moose callers, cow bells – you get the picture. And when you’re sitting in the stands, you’re also part of the show. One minute, everyone is hushed, watching a rock creep its way towards perfection on the four-foot. The next, you’re cheering wildly – sometimes for a player or shot that isn’t even on your “must win” radar. You may never be one of those Big Kids, and your game will only be played at your local club or in a friendly bonspiel, but when you’re at a Brier, you’re part of the action, and it feels good.
For recreational curlers, our national championships give us a chance to watch the country’s best teams in action on the ice and meet them, beer in hand, after the game. And if you’re watching it on TV, you not only get to watch the game, you’re also privy to very human stories: that close-up of a skip’s face when the rocks just aren’t curling, or that wisecracking exchange between two gasping sweepers when they’ve just saved the end by dragging a rock one inch further than the opponent’s.
Whether we’re sitting in the stands or tuning in at home, we get the best of both worlds when we watch the Big Kids play. And guess what? The World Championships are just around the corner…