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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Jennifer Jones vs Cathy Overton-Clapham: Let's move on, please.

Okay, it's done.  Thank goodness.

Cathy Overton-Clapham and her Team Manitoba won the big grudge match against her former team, led by skip Jennifer Jones.

Now, let me translate that statement into the unspoken language of the media feeding frenzy that surrounded this game:

Poor Cathy Overton-Clapham and her second-choice Team Manitoba kicked butt in the big grudge match against her mean former teammates, led by that evil b***h, skip Jennifer Jones.

Clearly the crowd was in Cathy's corner. So was the media. So was the Twitter-sphere.

And it's not hard to understand why. Being fired from her team - reports make it clear that the other three players made the decision among themselves - came as a nasty shock to Cathy O. There goes her chance to be part of Team Canada, play in the Continental Cup, receive funding - all of that, gone. And all because Jennifer Jones decided the team needed someone else, someone with better knees, someone who was not Cathy.

So yes, we feel sorry for her.


A curling team is like any other relationship. There's a lot that goes on behind closed doors that we aren't privy to. Disagreements, attitudes, incidents. Who knows what really went on in the Jones team? Only Jennifer, Cathy, Jill and Dawn.

The media grabbed this story and ran with it because the drama was just too good to miss.  The fans embraced it too, perhaps helped along by the media. Who can blame them?

So the game has finally taken place: Team Canada against Team Manitoba. Jennifer against Cathy. And Cathy won, to the delight of the loudly cheering fans.

But this is what bothers me:

When have you ever seen a game at the Scotties where the fans were not just cheering FOR one team, they were doing so in order to cheer AGAINST another?

Jennifer Jones isn't my favourite curler, but she's a fierce competitor who plays to win. I respect her. I've seen her haul games back into her control and win them, when it looked as if all was lost. She's a fighter, and when she's on the world stage with the Maple Leaf on her back, she does us proud.

But the Scotties crowd - helped by the media - were not behind her in tonight's game. They weren't even politely tolerant of her. They were against her, and they made that loudly and abundantly clear.

The whole thing was ugly, and I'm glad it's over. Let's move on, please.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Scotties: Why didn't Jennifer Jones play her last shot against PEI?

Some action on Twitter suggests that people are not happy with Jennifer Jones for bailing on her last shot in Monday night's game against PEI.

She should have thrown it, tried the triple, made a go of it (think some people).  Why would she just give up? Don't the paying customers deserve to see her at least try?

All good points.

But the way I see it:

She analyzed the situation - and we all know, no one can analyze a game like JJ can - and saw no hope. The triple was not there. She's a curler, not a circus performer. She's there to win (or lose) a game, and move on to the next one.

If JJ says there was no shot, there was no shot. Game over.

With class, and with respect for her opponents, she acknowledge defeat, turned and shook hands. Her team was completely in support.

And the crowd - those paying customers - went home happy.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Curling in the news: Not

I'm feeling pretty cranky this morning.

This weekend saw two fantastically exciting games in the M&M Canadian Junior Curling Championships. Team Saskatchewan (skip Trish Paulsen, third Kari Kennedy, second Kari Paulsen and lead Natalie Yanko) won the Junior Ladies' title on a steal when Alberta's Nadine Chyz's last shot rolled out. Team Saskatchewan (skip Braeden Moskowy, third Kirk Muyres, second Colton Flasch, and lead Matt Langwon the Junior Men's title on a measure - in an extra end, no less.

Both games were exciting, well-played and terrific harbingers of what's to come at the highest levels of the sport. I mean, if the kids can curl like this now, what are they going to be like when they hit the Big Leagues in a year or two?

But this excitement - and the significance of these teams' achievements - was entirely ignored by the press, yet again. My morning Globe & Mail didn't even list the event on its results page. A quick search of the National Post reveals the same.  Yes, the Super Bowl and NHL stories require their coverage - no problem there.

But curling isn't an obscure sport. In Canada, particularly, you can find curling events on television pretty well any weekend after Christmas, and daily during national championships. Think back, way back, to the Olympics. Do I really need to remind anyone about the rabid, raucous, rowdy fans? Curling was cool. Curling was everywhere.

The Globe, "Canada's National Newspaper", however, would rather lift four reports (four!) from the Times of London about cricket, soccer, auto racing and golf rather than file a home-grown report on exciting sporting events played by Canadians, in Canada.

I'd love to hear from our American curling friends about what the press did during their recent Junior Championship. The sport is surging in The States - what's the coverage like there?  Or are you, as we are, marginalized and ignored - unless someone is winning a gold medal or lots of cash?

Yes, I'm cranky. Curlers - time to write some letters. And if you're interested, here's an address to start with:

Friday, February 4, 2011

Jennifer Jones v Cathy Overton-Clapham: Chill, People!

Okay, I know many curling fans are wondering what's going to happen when Team Canada meets Team Manitoba on February 23 in the evening draw at the Scotties.  We all know the story - which I blogged about, here, and which curling writers, including The Globe's Bob Weeks, have covered with enthusiasm. After all, it's fun to watch real-life drama unfold before your eyes, isn't it?

But I think it's time to step away from the drama and let the curlers curl.

The curling world in Canada is its own small (but growing) community. Everyone knows everything about everybody. When teams break up (remember the Gushue-Korab thing? Remember Kevin Martin after the Salt Lake Olympics? What about Jeff Stoughton and the revolving door at third? And then there's Colleen Jones' winning team splintering into Colleen Jones - and her winning team going elsewhere) it's news on Twitter and the blogosphere, in the forums and around the rinks.  It happens. It happened to Jennifer and Cathy. It was ugly, especially for Cathy - and no one blames her for the hurt feelings. She lost a lot in the deal, and there's never a good time to tell somewhere "You're out. We don't want you. Good-bye."

But these elite curlers are, for all intents and purposes, pros. Stuff happens. My prediction is that Team Canada and Team Manitoba will be so focused on their game - and beating each other - that like true pros, they will filter the crappy past out.  They will shake hands before and after, they will curl their brains out, and someone will lose.

And they will move on to the next game...

That is, unless the media and fans go nuts and try to turn this into a degrading celebrity cat fight.

Chill, people.  They're both great teams who deserve to be there. Let the curlers do what they do best.  Curl.