House Call: Avoid the Seasonal Curling Zombie Virus

We all love the time of year when the Scotties and the Brier dominate our TV watching schedules for weeks on end. The players are great sweepers and throwers, the shot-making is superb, and the strategy is rich with complexity.The commentators add a touch of glamour to the game by offering interesting insights into why the players are making the calls they make. This time of year is great! And it is also cursed. Each year I watch smart, promising rookie and intermediate curlers succumb to what I have come to call the Seasonal Curling Zombie Virus (SCZV). It generally strikes this time of year and is highly contagious. Beware! It is as though the virus is spread when a curler views competitive curling championships on television. The virus may remain dormant until the infected individual arrives at the curling club for his or her weekly recreational game. A glazed look then appears in the eye and the infected individual will have no regard for past experience, basic logic, or keeping it simple. Players will find themselves casually saying things like, “Well, when Glenn Howard called the in-off double raise he took ice about here and I believe he threw hack weight… seems like the best option we have… nah, I don’t like the open draw…”  They will have no idea the open draw really is the best, easiest, most-promising call. The virus takes hold and suppresses all reason and logic.

It sure looked easy when Glenn Howard called it… (Photo CCA/Michael Burns)

Be careful! The virus is easily transferred amongst teammates in particular. Players casually reminisce about the incredible game they watched on TV the night prior and before you know it, a triple raise, double take-out seems like the obvious call when a simple hit and stick would do. Don’t let yourself be sucked in by the opposition either. If you notice them slowing their game to a snails’ pace; debating the merits of each and every shot as though colour commentators are standing by with baited breath, just waiting, to sing the praises of such sophisticated strategy, take a deep breath, ignore them, and do your best to keep your own team moving along at a nice clip. You can sometimes tell if your game has turned into a zombie curling match by the reactions from spectators up in the lounge. If there is a lot of groaning (think mind-numb-zombie-rumbling groan) and gnashing of teeth your sheet may have been infected. If there’s a cranky-looking ice tech waiting to clean your sheet because your game has taken two-and-a-half hours and you’re still in the sixth or seventh end, your sheet has likely been infected. If you realize you or your entire sheet has been infected there’s still hope. Shock tactics often work best. Ask yourself this prior to deciding which shot to call or turn to play: “Am I giving myself the hardest shot I can?” If you can answer “yes,” you’ve probably been infected. Also, try asking yourself: “Am I calling shots I know my players can’t easily make?” And finally, ask yourself this… and be honest: “Has my game slowed down a great deal so I can find the most obscure, complicated, unlikely, but-mind-blowingly-awesome-if-I-can-just-have-Kevin-Martin-come-throw-it-for-me-and-make-it shot?”  If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, you have likely been infected. If the shock tactics fail to snap you out of your zombie trance, run to the change room, splash cold water on your face, turn in a circle three times counter clock-wise, look at yourself in the mirror and repeat, “Keep it simple… Keep it simple… Keep it simple…” until it sinks in and you go back to calling the game you used to call before the madness of the Seasonal Curling Zombie Virus set in. Remember, the Scotties and the Brier are for our viewing pleasure. Unless you practice as much as Jennifer Jones does (we’re talkin’ like hours, and hours of game-play and good old-fashioned practice every single week), keep your game simple, and try to make your opposition play the difficult shots.