I don’t know about anyone else, but I always find it very difficult to support one team. It was easier in olden times when teams represented ice rinks and comprised typically local players. The Torrance rink was from Hamilton and the Hay rink from Perth; if the skips name was Adam or Horton, chances were that they were from Glasgow and the Hendersons were Aberdeen born and bred. So, if you went to Dundee or Perth or Kirkcaldy, there to watch the Scottish Championship finals in February, you had “your” team.
Now – it’s a nightmare! Four of us decided to sit in the bleachers and concentrate on the Ewan MacDonald v David Edwards 3 v 4 page play-off game. We dutifully walked twixt one end and the other, better to see the head at close quarters. I will tell you that the other three were Bob Kelly, Bob Cowan and Ken Horton. Alan Durno, who had taken his customary place close to the bar servery up the stairs, saw this sorrowful, stooped and regular procession and immediately christened us “the four coffin dodgers”; a bit harsh, I thought, but there we were. Back and forth we went, talking about old times, chewing on various cuds and watching a splendid game of curling.
So who was I supporting? Well, I know, like and respect all eight of the players we were watching. Some I know better than others, but to be honest, I did not want to appear heavily in favour of one team or the other, so I just applauded everyone and everything and thought to myself “may the best team win” on the day. Which really didn’t help the atmosphere too much. You don’t want a bunch of neutrals in a sports crowd!
Now – do I want to go back to the old days where, believe this or believe it not, entries to the Scottish Championships were controlled by ice rink managers? Obviously not; it was a ludicrous situation. But, on the other hand, we have lost something of the “partisan” support that goes so much to defining the atmosphere at the Canadian Brier or Scotties Championships, for example and that used to be such a feature of the Scottish Championships, when crowds of well over a thousand keen curling fans packed the old ice rink arenas and supported their favourites.
I do think that the Scottish is a defining championship for both men and ladies; as I have written before, it sorts out the men from the boys (with apologies to the ladies – but you get what I mean). That is why it is so distressing to me that the entries were so low this year – especially in the ladies competition. It seems to me that the high up-front cost of entry stops a lot of teams that might consider throwing their hat into the ring from doing so. Also to be considered is the amount of time that most competitors need to take as holiday. The competition has grown arms and legs and (perhaps this is an unfortunate analogy given the subject matter) but it has grown like topsy into a competition on steroids! A whole week, for goodness sake.
A rethink of the format is required so that teams can dip their toes in the water without risking literally hundreds of pounds. I know that a number of people have thoughts on this and some ideas will be aired in the near future. I will not steal their thunder, but change there has to be.
As to the winners of the two competitions, both teams will represent their countries with pride, passion, commitment and no little skill. Whether they medal or not will depend on all of those facets as well as a liberal dose of lady luck’s gifts. There are no minnows now at World Championship level and both teams will need to be at the peak of their form to win. Winning is in both of their pedigrees though, so good luck to them both and safe travels to Halifax (men) and Sapporo (women).
Anyone need some negotiating consultancy help in either venue, by the way? I’m your man! Usual fees apply.