Monday, April 25, 2005

Why Does Curling Get So Little Respect?

As readers of this blog know, we have had many links to us, but a few were more of the "Isn't this funny?" or "Isn't this quaint?" type of link rather than, "Hey, about time!" Here is further evidence that curling gets very little respect.

Go to That's right, the Canadian site for e-bay. Then, down along the left side, click on "Sporting Goods" to see all the categories listed (it looks as if there must be a couple of hundred.

Now click on "Curling".

What's that? Can't find it? Neither could I.

Maybe we can find "Curling" if we click on "Show all Sporting Goods Categories". There are maybe a thousand sub-categories there.

Nope. Not there, either.

However, if you type "curling" in the overall search, you get nearly a thousand hits. Unfortunately, most of them are for curling irons and what-not, but there are more than just a few curling pins and books.

I sure am glad Rodney Dangerfield never made a movie about curling...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Trivial Pursuit
International Edition

A friend who writes his own blog as "The Emirates Economist" sent this tidbit.

One of the categories for the International Edition of Trivial Pursuit is "Continents". He tells me he recently came across the following question for "Europe":
What was the United Kingdom’s only gold medal in the 2002 Winter Olympics?
I guess there is no need to turn off the comments and say, "E-mail answers only", given the subject of this blog.

And no, it wasn't Eddie the Eagle. He competed in ski-jumping, in 1988 in Calgary, and definitely did not win.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Scheduling Curling Championships

I am fairly confident that I am missing something, but I am confused by the following information from the Canadian Curling Associatin website:

2006 Winter Olympics
February 10-26, 2006

Scott Tournament of Hearts
February 25 - March 5, 2006
London, ON

Does this schedule mean that if the Canadian Olympic women's curling team does well in Italy and is in the competition right up to the end, they will not be able to get back to London, Ontario, in time to compete in the Scott Tournament of Hearts? [and, consequently, will not be in the Ford Women's World Championship for 2006 either?]

Or will the women's Olympic curling gold-medal game be concluded several days before the 26th?

Friday, April 15, 2005

National Point Standings and the US Olympic Teams

I found this at the US Curling Association Web Site - why does it not surprise me that they have this updated before anyone else I could track down?

Men's points standings

Top 9 qualify plus Italy as host

  1. Canada 32

  2. Norway 22

  3. Scotland** 20.5

  4. Sweden 20

  5. Germany 19.5

  6. Switzerland 18.5

  7. Finland 12.5

  8. USA 10.5

  9. New Zealand 7.5

  10. Italy 0 (host nation)

  11. Denmark 6.5

  12. France 2

  13. Korea 1.5

  14. Australia 1

** Scotland represents Great Britain at Olympic Games

Women's field for 2006 Olympics

  1. USA 29

  2. Canada 29

  3. Sweden 25

  4. Norway 25

  5. Switzerland 17.5

  6. Scotland 14

  7. Russia 9

  8. Japan 8.5

  9. Denmark 7

  10. Italy (host nation) 5.5

Take note! The US and Canada are tied for top in the women's.

Moreover, we know who will be representing the USA in Turin in 2006
The Cassie Johnson and Pete Fenson rinks will represent the USA at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy, Feb. 10-26. Johnson and teammates Jamie Johnson (Bemidji, Minn.), Jessica Schultz (Duluth, Minn.), Maureen Brunt (Portage, Wis.) and Courtney George (Duluth, Minn.) finished second at the 2005 World Championships. Fenson (Bemidji, Minn.) and teammates Shawn Rojeski (Chisholm, Minn.), Joe Polo (Cass Lake, Minn.), John Shuster (Chisholm, Minn.) and Scott Baird (Bemidji, Minn.) finished with an 8-4 record at the 2005 Worlds in Victoria, British Columbia.

They were selected by a process described here - basically a playdown.
The contrast with Britain could not be greater; the unit of selection is the team and the winning team even gets to pick its own coach (subject to a certification level in the coaching program). Administrators describe the rules of play, and get out of the way so the teams can compete.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

How Much Better Are Martin or Ferbey
Compared with Howard or Middaugh?

One way to answer this question is to look at how much money they won during the past season. I realize that money winnings are not the only measure of a team's quality, in part because not all teams enter all the big-money events, but they are probably a pretty good indicator: in general, it is reasonable to expect the better teams to win more money. Here is a table of winnings from

RANK - TEAM - 2004/05 $$$
1 Kevin Martin $309,560
2 Randy Ferbey $256,545
3 Glenn Howard $137,550
4 Wayne Middaugh $104,195
5 Jeff Stoughton $85,050
6 Brad Gushue $82,400
7 Pat Simmons $79,038
8 Shawn Adams $78,750
9 Jean-Michel Menard $78,454
10 Mark Dacey $59,107

Note, too, that these numbers do not include endorsements or sponsorships of any type.

Given that the Martin and Ferbey rinks have won roughly double or more the amounts won by Howard and Middaugh, it is reasonable to conclude than they are better.

But not twice as good. The economics of tournament theory implies that rewards for the best team would be considerably larger than for the next best team for many reasons, not the least of which is to induce teams and players to work harder to improve and perform better. The result is that the best team might be only slightly better than the second-best team but win a lot more money.

Why doesn't this apply to the top two teams in Canadian curling? Because they often curl in different tournaments these days.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Looking forward to the Olympics - British Selection Process

With the main events of this season now in the past it is time to look forward to the next major events. In Canada, the next big one, and it will be big, will be the selection bonspiel for the 2006 Olymnpics.
I thought it would be interesting to find out what other countries were doing in preparation and started with Great Britain.
Immediately I learned one thing - how the ten teams playing in Turin in 2006 are to be determined from the British Curling Association (BCA) :

"Qualification for these Olympic events can only be determined by Scotland’s ranking at the World Curling Championships (WCC), 2003, 2004 and 2005. Under the World Curling Federation Olympic Qualifying process points will be awarded to each of the 10 participating nations in 2003 and 2004, and the top 10 from 12 participants in 2005 according to final rankings as follows: 12 – 10 – 8 – 7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1. When two or more Nations are ranked in the same position, and no tiebreak games are played to decide a clear ranking, these Nations will be given an equal share of the accumulated points. The 9 Nations with the most accumulated points over the 3 years are eligible to join Italy (guaranteed place as host nation) in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games curling competition for men and women."
Note the part in bold. The British Curling Association site also contains the current standings through 2004; it is clear that Great Britain's men and women will qualify.

With that settled, I thought, well, how is it determined which of the British rinks will represent Scotland, er, Great Britain? It appears this question is ill-formed, in that it appears there is no reason to think the rink selected will be an existing one.

A selection committee will choose individual players to make up the rink. The first cut occurred back in December; it appears that the candidate pool for the men's and women's teams are down to 10 in size.

The news at the BCA site features :

"The following 10 athletes have been named as the initial squad from
which the Women's Olympic curling team for the Winter Olympic Games in
Torino, Italy, in February 2006 will be chosen: Karen Addison, Lyn
Cameron, Debbie Knox, Anne Laird, Jackie Lockhart, Rhona Martin, Clair
Milne, Janice Rankin, Lorna Vevers and Kelly Wood.

The following 10 athletes have been named as the initial squad from which
the Men's Olympic curling team for the Winter Olympic Games in Torino,
Italy, in February 2006 will be chosen: Ron Brewster, Tom Brewster, Euan
Byers, Colin Campbell, Graeme Connal, Ewan MacDonald, David Murdoch, Neil
Murdoch, Warwick Smith and Craig Wilson."

This group was chosen by a selection committee. The site features more interesting material on the selection process:
"Where possible selection will be based on the following objective measures:
  • track record at major international championships
  • WCT tour rankings
  • results against world top performers on arena ice conditions
  • track record in national championships
  • team and individual performance statistics

In addition, the opinion of selectors that a player has the potential to achieve a ‘medal zone’ performance at the Games will be given strong consideration."

My first concern is that all the criteria above involve team against team and there is clearly no fundamental assumption that the teams (rinks) will be kept intact. I wonder how the players feel about this.

Also, selection committees are a wonderful way for sport administrators to maintain power over athletes. National sport organizations all have a fundamental tension between the interests of the players and the interests of the administrators (who usually call it "the interest of the sport"). There are really two basic models for determining who competes for a country in the Olympics in any given sport. One system simply sets up some criteria for performance in a playoff of some sort, and awards the role to the winner. The other involves selection by a committee. Of course there are mixed models as well.

For example in track and field, the United States simply sends the top three in the Olympic trials, assuming they have met Olympic standards. Canada has a trials competition as well, but leaves open considerable discretion for selectors to exert some power. The effect is that the United States often cannot send some of their top athletes, who find themselves injured at the time of the Trials. But it is a profound motivator for an athlete to learn to perform on a given day. Canadian athletes feel much less of that pressure.

The administrative approach allows more sloppiness. It also usually favours established athletes with a reputation at the expense of promising newcomers. And of course there is the question of those athletes in combat with their sport organizations.

In any case this British procedure seems to be completely administrative. Moreover this piece of the criteria makes the power of the selectors clear.
"In order to gather an appropriate level of current information prior to Squad selection players may be asked to make themselves available for individual testing both on and off ice."

To my surprise some players appear not to be distressed:

"Wood, 23, is one of 10 players being considered for five spots on the Great Britain Olympic team. The list includes mostly skips as the nation looks to repeat the gold medal won by Rhona Martin in 2002 at Salt Lake City.

'I'm hoping to be there, and I'd be happy to play any position,' Wood said. 'At the moment it's about who would be the strongest at each position, and I think I'm quite flexible in what position I can play.'

It's certainly an unusual selection process by Canadian standards but not that uncommon in European curling circles.

"It's a positive step forward, and they are trying to go about it in the right way," Wood said."

Of course it may not be helpful for an athlete to publicly question the system.

Well, I am certainly glad Canada is not trying an approach like this. It would deprive us of our Trials - I am already looking forward to them. I also do not think, having watched many of our best rinks over the years, that a team of, say, Mark Dacey, Wayne Middaugh, Dave Nedohin, and Kevin Martin, would seem like a real Canadian representative (not to mention the nightmare thought of figuring out how they would come to play as a team).

It will be very interesting watch the British teams in Turin. Only in December this year is the candidate list down to 6, and at that point, team coaches and such are going to create a team one way or another. I wonder if they did this for 2002? I had the feeling watching the Rhona Martin rink that it was a preexisting rink and this article asserts at least that they all play out of the same club in Scotland.

There is an element here as well of the managerial vs the laissez-faire competitive approach that plays an interesting role as well.

Well, what is the next country to study?

Monday, April 11, 2005

More on the Economics of the CCA-CBC Deal

An exercise in marginal/incremental studies:

The 2004 -5 curling season is now over, with Canada having soundly defeated Scotland in the finals of the World Championship on Sunday with a record-breaking two five-enders.

I would like to take some time, now, to explore more about the outrage so many curling fans felt about the television deal made between the Canadian Curling Association and the CBC.

At most championships, there are three draws (games) each day for the round-robin portions of the tournaments. In the past few years, the Canadian sports network, TSN, had televised all three of the daily draws during the week, leaving the semi-finals and the finals to CBC on the weekend.

This season, when fans began trying to watch the early games of the round-robin tournament for the The Scott Tournament of Hearts, we were stunned to learn that the Canadian Curling Association had signed a contract with CBC allowing CBC to telecast only two games per day; further, CBC decided to broadcast some of the evening games on a digital channel that not many people subscribed to. Fans were livid. At the time, I wrote:

I couldn't believe it! I was so distressed, I fired off the following letter to the Curling Canada Association:
Okay, folks. Whose wise idea was it to show curling on CBC's extremely lame "Country Canada"???? We don't get it where we live, and we will now miss a LOT of curling. I sure hope CBC paid somebody a lot of the taxpayers money to make sure that fewer Canadians now have less access to watching curling on television.

I was wrong; we can get Country Canada here if we sign up for digital cable. And so this morning, we committed ourselves to spend a lot extra over the next few years to get digital cable boxes so we can watch curling. As I said, I was furious.
I have since learned that when TSN made a bid to for the broadcast rights to all the championship series, their bid was also for only two games per day, rather than all the round-robin games. The reason both TSN and CBC made such an offer to the Canadian Curling Association was, I suspect, a strictly marginal one:
The expected marginal revenue of carrying the third game each day (ordinarily, but not always, a game not involving Canada's team, since each team usually had only two games per day) was likely to be quite low, especially if the third game to be carried would have been the morning draw. Meanwhile, the expected marginal costs of carrying a third game each day were considerably higher (on a per-game basis) than the those of carrying the second game each day. Carrying a third game would involve dramatic overtime expenses for the broadcasters and crew or necessitate having a complete second team in place to telecast the third game each day. Either way the marginal costs of carrying the third game skyrocketed in comparison with the first two games.
The above is not the explanation offered, but it seems plausible. Neither network wanted to carry all three games each day.

But the Canadian Curling Association [the CCA] is still displeased with the deal they negotiated with the CBC. See here for details and additional links.

My take: It looks as if the CCA should consider suing its lawyers for lack of due diligence if, in fact, the CBC made decisions that the CCA would have opposed but were not covered in the terms of the contract. That, or it should be asking serious questions of its own negotiators.

[a similar piece is posted on the Sports Economist]

Paal Trulsen and the Olympics

Paal Trulsen's rink from Norway won the Olympic curling event in 2002. During yesterday's Canada-Scotland match Trulsen was interviewed about possible participation in next year's Olympics.
Part of his interview was quite relevant to a post this morning in The Eclectic Econoclast.
Trulsen suffers terrible knee pain and he commented ruefully that the drug he was using to control the pain had just been removed from the market. Were he extremely ambitious, one can try to imagine his time preference in this situation.
But one of his comments, seemingly a little playful, was that he WAS interested in returning, as a spectator. "How could it be better than last time?", he asked. His words were ambiguous enough that he did not make clear whether he would play in 2006 but one sensed no burning need to prove himself again.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Canada champions

Scots concede after some trading of rocks in the eighth and scoring only 1.

One cannot help feeling for the Scots - it is not hard from what I have seen to get into a situation where you are scrambling to prevent the other guys from running up a big score, and some of those times you find everything you do makes it worse. This happened to them twice today. And the Canadians this time, uncharacteristically this week, had no mercy.

Well, I am glad we don't have extra ends - time to go watch the Masters. (In fact I get more golf with he early end!)

Canada - Scotland end 8

Interesting interview with Heather Nedohin - one key point is that David Nedohin had the flu at the start of the tournament, which makes some sense of the recent history. She emphasizes strongly as well that his great shots would not happen without the rest of the team.

Canada-Scotland 7th end

House filling with Canadian rocks again - 5 in the house and an exposed Scottish rock after first Scottish skip rock. Nedohin removes the exposed stone.
Murdoch drawing against four Canadian stones.
Result is not too bad sits partly buried behind a couple of Canadian rocks - could keep the damage to 1.
Nedohin trying to remove it (not trivial). And he gets it - another 5 for Canada.
11-3 Canada after 7.
Well, they brought everything to this one!

Canada - Scotland : Canada blanks 6th end

Nedohin throws his last rock through an empty house - still Canada 6-3.

Canada-Scotland midway

Scotland blanked the fourth and wsa forced to take 1 in 5. Canada has the hammer and leads 6-3.
In the mid-game interview Murdoch agrees he has no choice but to play aggressively now. (There is a hidden smily there.)
Nobody should be counting chickens after some of the matches earlier this week. On hte other hand Ferbey's rink has not shown soem of it earlier vulnerability so far.

Canada-Scotland end 3

Wow - Pfeifer makes an amazing delicate shot to remove an almost-buried Scotland rock.
House filling with Canadian rocks.
Scottish third buries a rock behind one of the guards, and Ferbey removes the Scottish guard AND that stone with a perfect runback (he had to thread through the three Canadian stones too).
A Scottish attempt to freeze to a back Canadian rock falls short but is partially buried. Nedohin pokes it out of the house, threading between two Canadian rocks (where were these guys last week?).
TV commentary thinks the Scots are contemplating a shot that would keep the damage to 3. The (largely Canadian) crowd smells blood and is getting quite loud.
Scots want to freeze to that Nedohin rock in the six-foot. The freeze is heavy but they bounce into some coverage behind the guard. Nedohin has the same shot as before for 5. Perfect shot.
Canada lead 6-2.
I have to do some work so I will stop now until there is the prospect of a Scottish comeback.

Canada-Scotland after two ends

Scotland up 2-1, having yielded a steal of 1 in the first end and followed by taking two. Key shot in each end was a skip stone attempt to come off an opponent's stone, into another opponent's stone, each shot barely missing the latter stone.

German Curlers and High Variance

When the German team at the Men's 2005 World Championships was good, they were very good! And when they were off, they were not so good. It seemed to me that they would have received the prize for "high variance" team, though I am not quite sure how to measure or test that hypothesis.

One possible explanation for their high variance might have been what Alan refers to as "odd tactical choices", and I agree with him about some of those decisions.

If the explanation isn't in strategy, I wonder about how to measure the variance in shot-making performances. One possibility might be simply to calculate the variance of shooting percentages over the course of the tournament, and maybe look at those or at the co-efficients of variation.

Now that the season is (nearly) over, maybe this will be a good summer project. Does anyone know where one can collect detailed data on shooting percentages?

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Canada vs Scotland for the championship.

I feel a little sorry for the German team. But they did make some odd tactical choices this afternoon, especially in the last end.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Germany and Scotland tonight

This evening's game was the one that resolved the ties that existed after the Round Robin.

The first game of the play-off is between Germany and Scotland, tonight, at 10:30 EDT on The Score. No, I'm not staying up to live-blog that game!

Canada faces the loser of tonight's game tomorrow afternoon at 2pm EDT, and the winner of that game goes on to face the winner of tonight's game in the final on Sunday.

I won't be able to live-blog any of the rest of the games, unfortunately.

But wait 'til next year!!!!

Canada vs. Norway - End 10

btw, thanks to Birkel at ACC Basketblog for the link.

Canada needed to steal in order to win. That's not likely against Norway.

Canada set up guards; Norway missed the second tick shot attempt. This miss could really affect the outcome.... let's see what happens.
Pfeiffer drew to the top 8, and Norway's peel sent another rock into the rings by mistake. Pfeiffer set up another guard; Norway peeled.
Ferbey guarded; Norway peeled..... geez, this is beginning to sound like the old-time matches of the 1980s before the free-guard rule.

Nedohin guarded with his first stone, leaving Trulsen a difficult peel. He made it, and took out a secondary Canada stone as well.

Nedohin tried a bump back of Canada's rock to the button, leaving Norway with either an in-off or an attempt at a double. Norway missed the double! Canada steals! Trulsen wobbled again on the hack.

Norway 6, Canada 7; Canada wins and will be in the semi-finals tomorrow.

Wow! What an exciting game!

Canada vs. Norway - End 9

Canada needs to score two. They start with a guard, and Norway had three in the rings.
Pfeiffer made a nice hit & roll on his 2nd shot, so Norway peeled the guard. Ferbey guarded; Norway peeled. Ferby guarded; Trulsen peeled. Nedohin guarded; Trulsen made a spectacular freeze to Canada's rock and might even have been sitting shot.

Canada was in a difficult position. Nedohin made an equally spectacular raise take-out. Canada scores 2.

Norway 6, Canada 6; but Norway has the hammer coming home.

Canada vs. Norway - End 8

Starting the 8th end, Canada set up two centre-line guards, while Norway buried two in the rings behind them. But Pfeiffer got in and tapped one back. Great double-peel of the guards by Norway's second.

A litany of guard and peel led to a great freeze by Ferbey to one of two Norwegian rocks in the four-foot.

Trulsen wobbled as he came out of the hack on his first shot. Made a nice double, but left himself with little hope of scoring two. But Nedohin's tap was a bit weak, so Trulsen had a draw to the 4-foot for two. Just a bit light, so Norway scores only 1.

Norway 6, Canada 4; Canada gets the hammer back.

Canada vs. Norway - End 7

Wouldn't you like to break the neck of that loud-mouth who rants about breaking the neck of some beer bottle? It's unfortunate that obnoxious ads seem to sell products so well.

Plan B for Norway's lead as they took out a Canadian rock and rolled behind the guard, but Pfeiffer removed their rock. Norway's 3rd got a nice hit and roll to lie three. A tough shot by Ferbey caught something on the ice. Norway was sitting three and called a time out.

Norway removed a guard and block a route for a Canuck freeze. Ferbey drew through the port, but just a bit heavy, leaving Trulsen an attempt to plug the hole. Nedohin countered with a raise take-out, not quite getting the double.

Trulsen's last shot over-curled, but still left a difficult draw for Nedohin. Ferbey gave him about 5 feet of ice. Beautiful call, beautiful throw, beautiful sweeping. Canada scores 1, but still trails.

Norway 5, Canada 4; Norway has the hammer.

[one reader wanted a link for the pornography conference]

Canada vs. Norway - End 6

This is getting tense for my wife and me. At this point we usually go for a walk or check to see what else is on tv.
Overcurl, undercurl; roll too far, not roll at all. All decent shots, but not great. A straight run-back take-out by Ferbey was just off the nose but got the job done. Norway curled around the guard, and Ferbey had a nice takeout and roll to the 4-foot.

Norway took out the Canadian rock, but couldn't save their shooter. But then Nedohin's draw came up just short despite very hard sweeping. Trulsen drew around the guard to sit shot. Nedohin followed him but was a bit light -- can't really tell who is shot, but it didn't matter. Trulsen followed the path to tap Canada's rock out and sit for two.

Norway 5, Canada 3. Canada has the hammer.

[question for all our readers: which would you rather be doing: watching curling or attending a conference on pornography?]

Canada vs. Norway - Midway wrap up

At the half-way mark, Canada and Norway are tied at three apiece. Both teams have curled really well. In my mind, the most spectacular shot was Pfeiffer's shot through a narrow gap to remove two Norwegian rocks from the rings.

I've done some baseball sportscasting in a previous life, but this is the first time I have tried live blogging. It sure makes one concentrate on the curling and less on the snack food and e-mail!

Another note. I see that our postings are about 4-5 minutes ahead of the scores on curlcast, which seems really odd to me. I wonder why. [If that link doesn't work, go to the CCA website and click on Curlcast].

Canada vs. Norway - End 5

Amusing that just as the announcers say "another full house", the tv shot shows about ten empty seats. And then during the leads' stones, we see Ferbey's eyes closed and then he rubs them a bit. As I mentioned in an earlier post, the Canadian team has done a LOT of curling this season, and many people suspect they are tired.

After the leads' and seconds' rocks, Norway sat three. Ferbey took out two and was shot. Norway nosed the Canadian rock, leaving a hit and roll for Ferbey. Trulsen nosed the expose shot, followed by a nose of his rock by Nedohin.

Alan's comment is right: the shot-making has been superb so far.

Norway left two in the outer 12 that couldn't be removed, so Nedohin drew for one (great sweeping, again), leaving the game tied.

Norway 3; Canada 3. Norway has the hammer after the break.

Canada vs. Norway - End 4

A nasty pick by Pfeifer's first -- the last time I saw a rock catch something on the ice that emphatically was when Kevin Martin was using corn brooms!

Good shooting by Norway, followed by another instance of Canada not quite sweeping enough, and Norway is in very good shape. But then the Norwegian attempt to peel two guards knocked a Canuck rock into shot, frozen against a Norwegian rock.

Great calls and great hits by Ferbey and Nedohin left Canada sitting three and no red rocks in sight. Trulsen countered with a perfect hit & roll. Nedohin counter-countered with a perfect raise take-out, followed by a perfect draw to the button by Trulsen for one point.

The key to the end was early on when the seconds both had tough outcomes: Pfeiffer's rock picked up something from the ice and went sideways, and Norway's double peel sent a Canadian rock to the button.

Norway 3; Canada 2. Canada has the hammer.

Canada vs. Norway - End 3

Rocque's second stone for Canada was a nice draw around the centre guard, snuggled up to a Norway stone next to the button, but it was followed by a Norwegian stone frozen right up to Canada's rock.

No more complaining about Pfeifer, please! a terrific double through the port to take out the two red rocks in the rings. But Norway followed with another freeze to the button. And then a tough rub with Pfeifer's second stone when the sweepers may have been called off a tad too early. A nice in-off by Norway set up a double opportunity for Canada, but Ferbey went for the hit-and-roll instead; nice flop! Nice run-back by Trulsen, but it left a shot for Canada.

Oops, a pick and a rub for Ferbey's second shot set up another run-back double for Trulsen, but he was just off the nose. Nice sweeping by huff & puff got Nedohin's first rock far enough into the 12s for second shot. Another run-back double possibility for Trulsen, but he opted for a take-out of the shot rock, leaving a difficult hit and stick for Nedohin. He made it.

Norway 2; Canada 2

Canada vs. Norway - End 2

It turns out the biter in the first end didn't matter and both skips rightly ignored it. In the second end, Rocque's takeout attempt left the Norwegian rock still in the rings, with Rocque's rock biting the back 12.

Norway took out the biter, but lost their shooter. Pfeifer threw a good freeze to the remaining rock in the rings, so that a Norwegian attempted take-out led to a jam in the back. But then Norway made a nice freeze to Pfeifer's second rock, which was a bit deep in the rings. Ferbey's attempt to freeze to that rock overcurled just a bit, leaving Norway with shot rock.

Norway's third came down the left side of the ice with a nice draw to the button behind the centre guard. Ferbey removed the guard with his second shot, but couldn't run it back onto the shot rock. Trulsen tried to put up another guard, but was a bit short and didn't fully cover the shot rock.

Nedohin curled around the guard but got a nose hit instead of a hit and roll, sitting one but setting up a similar shot from Trulsen. There was a skinny double for three or maybe four, but it was pretty risky. The hit was a bit thick and missed the second Norwegian shot, leaving Norwegian with a steal of 1.

Norway 2; Canada 0

Canada vs. Norway - End 1

First Pfiefer, then the Norwegian 2nd, rubbed off a guard out front. The result was that Ferbey was able to double off two Norwegian rocks in the rings, while Pfiefer's rock continued to bite the outer 12.

A great hit & roll by Trulsen behind the guard was followed by a draw by Nedohin on his last rock that was shot rock but didn't freeze to Trulsen's. Trulsen tried a tap out, but Nedohin was too well-buried, and Trulsen couldn't get enough on his shot to knock out Nedohin's rock and still curl around the guard. Result, Norway had to take one, and Canada gets the hammer.

Norway 1 -- Canada 0

Canada vs. Norway - Intro

That last time these two teams met, Norway won. It was close, though, and Trulsen, the skip for Norway, might not be so lucky this time.

I wish we had inches

The phrase is likely trademarked. But it is used in one of the finest TV ads I know - a woman's voice says "They say football is a game of inches - I wish we had inches", and the screen shows a curling rock sliding between two others with what is clearly far less than inches to spare. It makes the point of the sport very clearly.

It is deeply implausible that anyone, with such large rocks, and on such a dubious surface as ice, however well maintained, could deliberately deliver a shot 100 feet on a pre-defined line (which is not just not straight - the whole point of the game, and the name of the game, hang on tihs path being a curve) to follow a path so closely. I have curled twice and could not guarantee the line of my shot within yards (ooppss, meters). But it is clear these top players do have this control when they are 'reading the ice' correctly. It is very impressive.

The sport has other profound complexities. Ice conditions change over the course of a game. We probably need a physicist co-blogger to explain what is going on. And teams adapt and perform reasonably consistently. Physicists please step forward and apply!

Live Blogging Tonight!

Back in February, I posted a diatribe on both The Sports Economist and The Eclectic Econoclast about the poor deal that the Canadian Curling Association made with the CBC for televising the major curling events in Canada.

That posting led to an e-mail exchange with Alan Adamson, and we have recently launched this new blog, Curling, devoted entirely to the sport of Curling -- it strategies, the media problems, techniques, etc.

Now that Canada has won its tie-breaker this afternoon (which means that CBC will be interested in televising the game at 6pm EDT this evening), if Blogger doesn't continue to act up, Alan or I will be live-blogging the game as it progresses. A fresh posting after each end!

Canada-Finland Tie-Breaker

I think I have heard two very strange things so far in this match.
An end ago, I am sure I heard one of the announcers say that Finland was giving up two to get the hammer! I was not paying close enough attention to know whether this was simply the best of some bad alternatives.
And now in the latest end, Canada was playing for a Finland steal of one to keep the hammer!
Well the context matters, and what the realistic alternatives were. Finland now lead 3-2 after, I think, four ends.
Opportunity costs everywhere.

Well the strategy of letting the other guy steal (the sucker-punch) looks pretty good right now. Nedohin had a draw to the rings for 3 in the fifth end and made it. 5-3 Canada after 5.

Given yesterday's experience with Australia, there is no need yet to relax.

Update: The Finns love high-risk shooting - perhaps another hidden piece of romance in their culture like the taste for tango. Some daring shots turned the 7th end from a likely points bonanza for Canada to a forced draw for 1 by Nedohin. Canada lead 6-4 starting the eighth.

Update: Near-hopeless situation for Finland and their taste for risk finally cost (tradeoff was a very difficult draw for a Canadian steal of 1 versus a nutty deflection to possibly score 1) - steal of 3 for Canada in the eighth end. Surely even the erratic play of Canada this week cannot produce a loss now. This is good as our national network, ever so committed to serving curling fans, do not plan to broadcast the next round if Finland advances. Sheesh. And I go to jail if I refuse to pay for this nonsense.

Update: Finland finally yielded. And then the CBC did its thing..... Hey whoa!! I have to be fair here - they said they were cutting away and apparently not planning to show the US-Norway match to the end. But it seems they will carry this one too. Excellent. I will hold off CBC complaints for an hour or two.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Too Much Choice

I do not know what to watch right now!
The Masters is on. I love watching golf.
Canada is playing Australia in curling. We seem to have a comfortable lead at the moment. That helps.
But even more exciting, the Gomery publication ban is more or less gone and so the local news channels are entertaining again.
I think I like hearing the cardinals in Augusta so will sit there for a bit. Curling and Gomery will be around after the sun goes down there.

Skips not throwing skip stones

I have confessed that I do not play the sport so I look forward to some education.
Almost every rink has the property that the skip (the person who calls the sweeping from the house when not shooting, and is the nominal leader, and actually seems to set strategy) shoots the skip stones (the last two in each end).
Now I did find the cable channel for this evening's Canada-Australia match (see previous post) and it turns out we have two teams who violate this general principle. This is very odd. Skip stones for Canada are delivered by some other guy - Dave Nedohin - I don't think we can call him 'the third' as he does not deliver the third stones and that has no other meaning. Randy Ferbey, the skip, delivers the third stones. On the Australian team some guy from Canada delivers the skip stones but he is not the skip (well, the skip is also a sort of Canadian). This is statistically odd.
Why is it odd? Why should it not be the case that the best person at doing all the other stuff a 'skip' would do is other than the best shooter on the team? And as someone recently asked me - does it not make a lot of sense for the best strategist on the team to be in the house and directing activities on the last two shots the team has in an end?
This seems to suggest that the skip should not deliver the skip stones.
Help. Why is this not the case?

It never rains but it pours

This one I cannot blame on the Canadian Curling Association or on the CBC - but we have mentioned that several matches are available only on one of our digital channels. Last night my provider changed the whole channel lineup! I have no idea where the curling is. I am confident I will find out but the burden we fans have been carrying this year is simply out of hand.

Canada-Scotland match

This one has been very interesting. Nedohin and Ferbey have both been playing very well, and Nedohin shooting mostly draws; there have been problems earlier in the Ferbey rotation. The most fascinating ends came early as Canada had to scramble to avoid some disastrous scores, and then the last three ends, as Canada has been trying to force Scotland, tied but with the hammer (last shot in the end), to score 1 (rather than more). Finally now in the seventh end Canada has succeeded and the shoe will be on the other foot.
The Scottish skip has made extremely delicate hits, barely slipping by a guard to empty the house with a double, and also putting draws just where they need to be to salvage an end (as he just did the seventh).

Update: Canada took two in the eighth - house was very messy and a very delicate Nedohin tap shot allowed two Canadian rocks to bounce into the right position, moving a key Scottish rock into obscurity.

Update: Scotland, one down, takes the hammer into the 10th end. Canada was in good shape for a while in the ninth to force Scotland to take one, with a split house, but Scotland managed to remove one Canadian rock and roll to the other; Ferbey then missed his attempt to split the Canadian stones.

Update: Nedohin just put his last rock in the tenth beautifully into the top of the four-foot and guarded. Murdoch must draw for one, having missed his first attempt at that shot apparently because of a pick. It goes too far - Canada steals one, and wins the match by two.

What is Happening to the Canadian Team?

The Canadian rink (i.e. team) in this year's world championship has struggled. Even the Canadian Curling Association has noted it:

Team Canada’s Randy Ferbey isn’t getting an easy ride on home ice.
The six-time Brier champ suffered a third defeat Tuesday night in Draw 11 play at the Ford World Men’s Curling Championship in Victoria.
Naturally, the question has arisen, "Why are the Canadians struggling?" After all, they're playing on Canadian ice in front of Canadian fans.

Joan McCusker, one of the CBC analysts, said during yesterday's broadcast
They are burned out. They have been curling a lot this winter, and it has taken a lot out of them.
I can't think of any other explanation (but watch me try!). But maybe Nedohin's back is hurting him more than he lets on. And maybe Ferby's knee is bothering him more than he lets on, too.

Or maybe curling in British Columbia, their home province, puts added pressure on the curlers either psychologically or in terms of demands on their time?

Or, just maybe, it's all random. The Canadian team did look very good (Nedohin in particular was greatly improved) in last night's victory over Switzerland.
“That was the best game we’ve had here by a country mile,” said Ferbey. “We made shot after shot and gave them basically nothing.”
Perhaps the analysts (including me) are trying to find reasons where none exist. Oftentimes, analysts offer up explanations for something when the only reasonable explanation is "variance and random error."

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The logic of television coverage

No doubt we will be posting many many more times on the Canadian Curling Association's new TV contract with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) this year, which has certainly bent me out of shape many times.
But tonight I am truly baffled - perhaps what I am noticing has occurred before, but this amazes me. The main CBC network is carrying a REPLAY of the Canada-Italy match from earlier today. According to my television listings, at the same time, The Score (a cable sports channel in Canada) is carrying LIVE coverage of a draw involving Canada's rink. I will give The Score credit for not being so foolish as to switch these responsibilities.
Who is well served by this? Does the CBC think its viewers do not have VCRs?
What might result in their having a few viewers in fact is that it is very difficult trying to find out what is being broadcast where. In fact the channel guide on my digital cable service has no hint of tonight's Score coverage (and in fact claimed, falsely, as I discovered) that they would be convering the 6pm draw (no Canadian team involved). This page gives me comfort : TV Schedule. (Hey - they did this last night too, apparently. Wow.)
I have a new interest in trying to find out ratings numbers for some of these shows.

Terminology - Post 1 (surely of many)

One delight of any sport is its terminology. It does not take long for a neophyte watching curling to find him- or her-self thinking there is something strange going on. My personal favourite is the construction that makes one think a proofreader is needed (I colour what the proofreader would suspect to be an error):
"The Ferbey team's first third rock froze to the stone behind the button".

For Pete's sake, is it the first or the third rock? (Answer - it is the fifth, or ninth or tenth, depending on whose rocks you are counting.)

What Happened to the Television Ratings?

As Alan has posted, he and I (and thousands of other fans) became frustrated with the deal made between Curling Canada and the CBC that led to CBC's telecasting a number of evening draws on Country Canada, a channel available only on digital cable or satellite. Needless to say, the ratings for those telecasts were way down.

Also, needless to say, Curling Canada is upset with CBC. My take: they should also be upset with their own negotiators and lawyers who didn't negotiate a tighter contract with CBC. Unless Curling Canada gets its act together soon, many of its events will soon be overshadowed by those of other organizations.

What Is With the US Curling Team?

When I go to the World Curling Tour Website to see the team listings, there are three Fensons listed on the U.S. team. But then, when I click on the name of the skip, Pete Fenson, I see the current makeup of their team -- just Pete Fenson, but the other Fensons are gone. What happened?

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

What are the great curling movies?

Yes yes partly it is a funny question. But not entirely.
Some Canadians might respond with Paul Gross' "Men With Brooms", which disappointed me terribly; one of those films where the concept exceeded the implementation. I expect that not even fans of "Due South"' outside Canada (and there must be such - on my first night in Belgium, as I turned on the TV in my hotel room, there it was!) found this very entertaining. And why be cruel to Canadians - I suspect few of us did - I know it left me cold.
For me the finest film that involves curling is the somewhat odd but completely brilliant "My Life So Far". This is a very minor film, but several key points in the plot turn on the local curling tournament, and the film portrays it quite credibly.

World Championships

Part of the frustration John describes is reflected in the fact that I am currently tuned in to an extremely obscure television channel (available only on digital cable, and. I hope, satellite, in Canada) in order to watch the current round of the Ford World Championships. Germany appear at this stage to be the dominant team, and have played wonderfully when I have been able to watch them - in particular as they crushed Canada to open the championships. New Zealand, of all places, is tied with Canada.
Canada is again represented by the dominant team in the country of the last several years - skipped by Randy Ferbey (those who recall the toy Furbys of the recent past will shiver a bit as they parse this name). This team has the unusual property that the skip stones are not delivered by the skip, who delivers the third stones, but by Dave Nedohin, who is normally amazing, and occasionally normal. In the latter situation the team becomes a little vulnerable.
John makes it sound as if I actually curl. I have toyed with it, but to be honest, I think curling is the finest TV spectator sport I know, with snooker a close competitor, and this is my primary involvement (watching) - the sports I like playing are awful for TV (squash, running). The action in curling is wonderfully confined, the geometry is simple and defined well by attractive markings, and. most wonderfully, the strategies can be completely counter-intuitive. This last point is the true magic.
This sport is yet another of the great exports to the world of Scottish culture (and I speak as someone with no claim to that heritage).

Welcome to CURLING

Back in February, Alan Adamson and I (John Palmer, aka The Eclectic Econoclast) became very frustrated with the television coverage of major curling events, not just in Canada, but throughout the world. We began corresponding about what we thought about the games, the matches, and the organization of curling. Our correspondence led to this blog: Curling.

I have already written quite a bit about curling, both on my own blog and on The Sports Economist. But I will now start confining my thoughts on curling to this site.

Alan and I have both thrown a few rocks. We are not well-practiced curlers, but we are both good analysts in our day jobs, and we expect these skills to serve us well in this blog. As Kohler said in Dan Brown's Angels and Demons, [p21]
One does not need to have cancer to analyze its symptoms.