Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Egg (McMuffin) on the Face of Kansas City Star Reporter

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Joe Posnanski of the Kansas City Star and some buddies were sitting in a McDonald's making fun of curling - both, by the way, favorite pastimes of Olympic journalists.

"The lines got progressively worse as the evening went on," Posnanski wrote, "which of course meant we were laughing harder. We probably were being pretty loud. But there was only one other guy in the entire restaurant, and hey, it was curling. What did he care?

" 'Excuse me, guys,' the guy said.

He turned to us. He said: 'I couldn't help but overhear. It sounds like you guys are talking about my sport, curling.'

"We apologized for being loud. That's when he reached into his bag and pulled out the silver medal he had won in curling at the Olympics in Nagano.

"Some things can happen only at the Olympics.

" 'The sport's not going anywhere,' he said to us with a little edge in his voice, and he shook the Olympic medal. 'The people are watching. The kids are playing.' "

[h/t to AsianWildRose for the pointer]

Draw 7 - Manitoba Front End Picture

Left-to-right, Cherie-Ann Loder, Carey Burgess, and Jill Thurston

General Hint for the Reader: If you click on the pictures in the posts they will open in a separate window, and be larger!

Official Scoring at The Scott Tournament of Hearts, 2006:
Are There Differential Margins for Error?

The official scorers for the 2006 Scott, the people who assign the points and shooting percentages for each shot made by each curler, are seated in the top (3rd) row of tables in the media section at one end of the ice.

Within the section set aside for the media, the top row is probably the best vantage point. But it still isn't very good. It is very difficult to see the shots and the house at the far end of the ice. When there's a shot being made down at the far end, and that shot isn't being shown on the overhead screen, the scorer responsible for scoring the shot has to stand up and then make a judgement to the best of his or her ability. But there is probably a reasonably wide margin of error.

Now try to imagine assessing a player's performance using those scoring statistics. The teams and the analysts would be well-advised to attach less importance and less weight to the scores for shots at the far end of the ice.

We'll have more about player assessment, scouting, and data analysis later...

Draw 6 Action - cont'd

Tricia Affleck and Nancy Cameron sweep on a rock delivered by Susan McInnis of PEI

Nancy Delahunt and Kim Kelly sweep a rock into the house for skip Colleen Jones

The Northwest Territories/Yukon front end of Heather McCagg-Nystrom and Kelli Turpin monitor a rock

NWT/Y skip Kerry Koe calls the sweeping of Monique Gagnier and Kelli Turpin as shooter Heather McCagg-Nystrom watches

Yes curlers sign autographs for excited fans too!

Monday, February 27, 2006

Draw 6 Action - Ontario

Skip Krista Scharf

Tracy Stubbings and Tara George sweep a Lorraine Lang shot

Draw 6 Action from the Scott - the story of one rock

Lead Tracy Bush has delivered the rock, being swept by Raylene Rocque and Lori Armitstead

Skip Cathy King joins the work

And they bring it in to the house

What to Like about Curlcast

I made an earlier reference to Curlcast, emphasizing the fact that the window could not be resized to allow someone with a high-resolution screen to have a full picture of four matches simultaneously.
That said, it is a fine tool.
I love being able to access, with a single click, what matches are coming up in later draws (and which occurred in earlier ones), all scores from completed draws, having the current standings, and forthcoming broadcast details, all immediately available.
Not far way in clicks are team profiles and detailed statistics, as well as access to an extensive photo gallery.
It's sad that the first thing I like to do when a browser window that does not fill my full screen appears is maximize it, as it meant the first feature I found is so far the only thing I would like to fix in it.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Some Action from Today

Carey Burgess, Jill Thurston, and Cherie-Ann Loder of Manitoba practicing

Andrea Kelly, skip of New Brunswick, and coach Paul Green

Colleen Jones in the house calling to sweepers Nancy Delahunt and Mary-Anne Arsenault on a shot by Kim Kelly as Nova Scotia plays Northwest Territiories/Yukon

NWT/Y front end sweeping against Nova Scotia

The Pageantry Includes High-Fives


Each draw is preceded by the procession of the teams onto the ice, led by Pipers playing "Scotland The Brave", "Marie's Wedding", and the like. The sponsor mascot, a large fluffy ball of cotton, also participates. The pictures here give a feel for what goes on. (And note that a curling event has some pretty spectacular optics, the white of the ice, mixed with the colours painted on the ice, the colours in the arena, the colours of the uniforms, etc. It's a great show.)
But I wonder whether the same sort of thing is done in Scotland, where the cultural references here suggest it all originated. Often emigrant communities keep rituals alive long after the homes they left have abandoned them.

Hot Shots and Jennifer Jones

Actual play in the first draw of the Scott Tournament of Hearts is preceded by an individual skills competition, the Hot Shots, with material (cash, and a two-year lease on an SUV) prizes at stake.
As we watched this yesterday, I wondered whether this might not be a distraction for players in the next draw; one thing we agreed is that it would surely assist in reading the ice later in real play.
So go listen to the interview with Jennifer Jones after her first match against Janet Harvey in the second draw: it can be found at our podcast site (see the right sidebar - should be posted later this morning) Jones played very poorly for the first several ends (finally prevailing by taking two in the 10th), and attributes the poor play largely to convictions about the behaviour of the ice that she had derived from her experience in the Hot Shots. These convictions were at odds with the reality of the ice she was playing on (several hours after the Hot Shots competition).
Listen also to the interview with Janet Harvey (same place) to get a sense of how strong the sense of competition with the Jones' rink is; the lady doth protest too much in some ways. One fact was clearly visible; seven of the first eight matches in this tournament started with pretty open play, and only in the Canada-Manitoba matche did guards go up immediately and the aggressive play begin in the first end.

Addendum: you can hear those interviews, along with all the interviews we will be making available, by going to this site.

CBC Gets It Wrong.....again

From the CBC website story this morning, mentioning the 1st round draw between Saskatchewan and British Columbia:
A pre-tournament favourite, Scott made 85 per cent of her own shots, and the foursome was at 89. But Streifel's young prairie crew kept right up, going 88 per cent itself and taking single points in the ninth and 10th ends for the win.
As we noted earlier, the game went eleven, not ten, ends. See here for details.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Podcasts of Interviews from the Scott

To download interviews from the Scott Tournament of Hearts
in .wma format, click here.

Extra Ends! Free Curling!

Both the Saskatchewan-BC and the Ontario-Territories games have gone into extra ends in the first draw.

I don't know about you readers, but after I've swept for an 8-end game, I'm really tired. I can't imagine sweeping for 10 ends, much less 11. And pity the poor BC and Saskatchewan rinks -- they have to curl again in less than an hour against well-rested PEI and New Brunswick rinks (PEI conceded to New Brunswick about 3 hours earlier, or so it seems).

Just getting the feet wet at the Scott

We're approaching the end of the first draw at the Scott Tournament of Hearts. Nova Scotia appears to have control of the match with Alberta, and PEI have conceded to New Brunswick. The Territories/Yukon lead Ontario 8-5 in the 8th (after giving up 4 in the second end!), and BC lead Saskatchewan 4-3 in the eighth.
Too much is going on all at once! It will take us a while to get used to moving our heads around so much.
We're using CurlCast to track the official scoring live, but find it rather annoying in that there is no way to resize their window to show all four matches at once. This is exceptionally poor user interface design, and just frustrates. Of course it is not the first decision of the CCA we have documented that curling fans find frustrating. (UPDATE :NOTE: See this later post for some more experience with the tool.)

What Happens If There's a 3-Way Tie at the Conclusion of the Round Robin?

What happens in championship curling if, at the conclusion of the round robin, three teams have identical records, and among the three each team has been defeated by one of the other two and has defeated one of the other two? In the page play-off system, which teams play in the 1-2 game, the winner of which gets a bye to the final? And which team will end up ranked 3rd and have to play in the 3-4 playoff?

This isn't international women's hockey, where total points for and against become the tie-breaker. If this tie-breaker rule were used, we would not see teams accept a handshake concession when the score is lopsided before all ten ends of a game have been played. Instead, they would feel obliged to run up the scores, the way the Canadian women's hockey team did in the Olympics, to get a tie-breaker advantage.

So what would they do in the event of this type of three-way tie?

I learned the answer yesterday, thanks to Glenn and Brian, of the Canadian Curling Association, during the practice sessions for The Scott Tournament of Hearts. During each team's practice session, the skip made one, final, really serious attempt to draw to the button. After each such shot, an official measured how close the shot was to the (center of) the button. The results of this draw will then be used to decide the type of tie-breaker I described here.

So those practice sessions were much more than just practice!

My Pick for the Scott: Kelly Scott and the B.C. Rink

There are several REALLY good teams playing in the 2006 Scott Tournament of Hearts. But after the way Kelly Scott and the British Columbia rink played in the Olympic playdowns, and given her rink's consistently good play over the past several years, I am picking her team to win The Scott. But I don't have a lot of confidence in this pick. The other teams are very good, too.

In other words, picking the Kelly Scott rink to win means I am attaching only about a 30% chance to their winning, with slightly lower percentages for Cathy King, Jennifer Jones, Colleen Jones, and the others.

Dark horse favourite: Andrea Kelly and the New Brunswick team, last year's Canadian Junior Champions. They're good, but they're young. It'll be interesting to see how they do.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Congratulations to Team Canada

Team Canada won the gold medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics by a score of 10-4 over Finland. The curling was good and was close, with Canada stealing one point in both the third and fourth ends, but the big end was the sixth, when Team Canada scored six and just missed scoring an unlikely seven.

Congratulations to all five of them for pulling through in the medal rounds.

Today's Practice for The Scott

The John Labatt Centre, in downtown London, is busy today with (most of) the best women curlers in Canada preparing for The Scott Tournament of Hearts. Each team has practiced on each sheet of ice, testing the ice and testing EACH rock to get matched pairs of rocks for each of the curlers. Further, each team has assistants and coaches helping them record their observations about the ice and the stones.

As one of the Canadian Curling Association officials told me, at this level, every detail is important.

Beginning Saturday, Alan Adamson and I will be filing reports from The Scott Tournament of Hearts on a regular basis on CHRW. We will also be providing live, play-by-play, of the Thursday morning draw.

How to Select an Olympic Team

The Amateur and I have had a number of set-tos on the philosophy of how to pick a team for the Olympics. Has this Olympics done anything to help resolve our differences?
Iti s not clear to me. The biggest contrast was to be between the Great Britain teams, chosen and assembled by a committee of administrators, and the Canadian teams, chosen by straight competition in a deep pool, with the athletes determining the team membership.
For both men's and women's competition, the Canadian teams have done better. This proves little, as we have a much deeper talent pool. And against one of my key arguments, that selection by a tournament at a given date helps select a team that knows how to be ready and fit on a given date, the Canadian women's team gave ample proof that they were able to be undermined by illness and unplanned disaster.
Of course I really don't know how the women's Gold and Silver teams were assembled, nor how the US teams were (the US women did very poorly, the US men are in the bronze medal match against Great Britain).
My survey at the moment gives me no real evidence on one side or the other.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Olympic Update

Canada did prevail today for a bronze medal - I saw very little of the match but the play seemed better from Kleibrink's team than I had seen earlier in the Games, the few times I was able to watch. Sweden, the country I mistook for Denmark earlier (a discredit to Denmark on some grounds, and to Sweden on others) won the Gold Medal from Switzerland.
As my co-blogger has pointed out, our men curl for a gold medaltomorrow starting before noon Eastern Time. Their play this week has also been somewhat up and down, but they looked pretty decent in the semi-final against the US.

David Tufte and Strategy

I recently, via a Google search, stumbled on some excellent recent posts by David Tufte at voluntaryXchange on the subject of curling and its strategy (I link to one in the previous posting). He captures the deep subtlety of the sport that arises from its scoring rules.
Has anyone actually done a properly metric analysis of the general strategies used in curling?
Typically a skip will work to win 2+ points if he/she has the hammer, and to keep the enemy to 1 if not. So in many circumstances the player with the hammer will try to score no points for lack of a better alternative.
Are these really good general rules? Are there marked and significant differences in the ability of teams to steal and prevent suffering steals, and the distribution of the scores they get with and without the hammer in individual ends? Do such changes suggest different teams should play strategies with more knobs to turn than those described above? If the other side has the hammer, might I prefer for them to take 1 (and give me the hammer) over my stealing 1 (and losing the hammer). Maybe the question is whether we can assign a point value to the hammer, which is likely to change over the course of a match. A probably crude analysis of high-level games over history could provide a crude estimate of what thye hammer in the first end is worth. Could it conceivably have negative value?
I should think this is very fertile ground for some excellent analysis from economists, and others oriented to game theory and the like.
I'd love to read such material.

Tyler Cowen Loses It

Tyler's last effort allowing his readers to vote on a blogging topic produced "The Economics of Curling". Alex Tabarrok at least gave it a try, but Tyler shows here and here that he has little to say that is new, or even interesting, and few resources beyond Google searches.
In a way I am comforted to know that he is not all-powerful, but a bit disappointed that all he has is a kind of rant on this subject.
Well, I don't go to Marginal Revolution for wisdom on curling, and clearly I am right, but I do go for lots of other good reasons. Perhaps this is the last time I will engage in an organized attempt to influence his blogging topics.
To see how one could respond in an interesting way try out David Tufte's post here.

School Holiday in Newfoundland on Friday

From CBC (thanks to Canadian Econoview for the pointer):
The Newfoundland and Labrador government is closing schools early on Friday so that students can watch the Canadian men's curling team compete for the gold medal at the Torino Olympics.

Schools across the province will be dismissed at lunchtime, before the St. John's-based rink skipped by Brad Gushue competes in the Winter Games curling final in Italy, Education Minister Joan Burke said Thursday.

"It's a historic moment for Newfoundland and Labrador," she said. "[We] certainly want to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to see the game. It's exciting for the young people of this province."

... Burke said while schools could have arranged to have children watch the final in the classrooms, buses would have arrived during the final ends.

"Schoolchildren just can't walk out of school and declare a holiday," Burke said. "We have to do that for them."
As if she could make them go to school anyway. How many students do you think would have stayed home anyway? How many do you think will stay home even though she has declared a half-day holiday and arranged to have buses ready to drive them home at noon?

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Justice is Cruel

The Olympic Semi-Finals are finished and Shannon Kleibrink's rink will have to duke it out tomorrow for a bronze medal, having lost to the Swiss team. This was a just outcome. The Swiss played far better. Kleibrink's rink, for all its various problems, never really seemed to have much command of the rink, at least in the matches I saw. Switzerland will play Sweden for the gold.
Meanwhile Brad Gushue's rink will be in the final, having defeated the US team today; the outcome seemed right to me, but they were lucky in that their previous defeat of the US was less clear-cut. Howard as a shooter still seems the weak link of the team. And it is not clear how much skipping he is actually doing as Gushue seems now to do a lot of overruling. It should be intriguing to see what happens back home (where of course normal provincial boundary rules will separate these guys).
NOTE: Corrected 'Denmark' to 'Sweden' - can't tell all those Nordic countries apart. Tx EE for the tip.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Doc Palmer and Alan Adamson:
Reports and Interviews from The Scott

There is a reason that Phil and Sparky refer to me now and then as "Doc Palmer".

From late 1980s through the late 1990s I was a sportscaster, doing baseball play-by-play of first the AA London Tigers and, after they moved, for the independent league London Werewolves.

And now it looks as if Alan Adamson, my co-blogger at Curling, and I will be doing regular reports on CHRW from the Scott Tournament of Hearts, the Canadian Women's Curling championship. The tournament, referred to colloquially as "The Scott", runs from Saturday, February 25th, through Sunday, March 5th.

From time-to-time, Alan and I will be filing brief reports and interviews from The Scott. We will also be providing CHRW with longer interviews that they can use between periods during their evening broadcasts of UWO hockey games. We also expect to make the raw interviews available as wma files from an as-yet-to-be-determined podcast site.

We have been trying to make arrangements to broadcast play-by-play of one of the round robin morning draws (which are not being televised by either TSN or CBC), and it might happen, but don't hold your breath. If it does happen, CHRW has streaming audio, so everyone, all around the world, will be able to listen.

When we mention doing radio play-by-play of curling matches, many people roll their eyes in disbelief; some are even so rude as to feign a yawn. As one news director said, "The game is pretty slow. What will you talk about?"

For many curling fans, though, curling is no slower than baseball [despite Craig Newmark's e-mailed reaction that he thinks curling makes baseball seem like formula one]. Furthermore, the time between shots is used for description and analysis, just as it is between pitches in baseball. Curling has been described as "chess on ice" by some people. The strategies and counter-strategies would provide ample material for people to enjoy via the radio. Here's hoping we can work something out -- stay tuned!

Monday, February 20, 2006

More comments on the play on Feb.20

My blogging partner has commented well on the user interface experiment of the CBC regarding remaining rocks in an end and I have to agree with him. Typically I watch curling as one of several tasks I am sharing, and so when I look up on the screen and see "Denmark 5, Canada 4" and had thought that Canada was leading and get confused, I give too much credit to the wrong data! The TSN graphic showing the rocks is far more effective on not getting confused with the score.

What my partner failed to mention is how appalling the play in this last women's round was; both teams seemed to be falling all over themselves trying to give the victory to the other team. While I know this is not true, another performance like this from Canada (whatever the excuses in terms of viruses, certain players not being able to do takeouts, debris on the ice, etc.) will not lead to a medal. Or will lead to a medal it is hard to feel proud about.

The men's story was a little better; there actually was some good shotmaking, though I think that in the end the US team were unlucky not to win. This experiment will be run again soon so we shall see.

While complaints about CBC coverage are not hard to find, for me the most stupid decision today was to give the camera over to Wayne Gretzky's pointless ramblings on the current ineffectiveness of the Canadian men's hockey team rather than show some actual Olympic competition on the curling rink. Gretzky is not articulate to start with, but he had even less to say than usual, and to give him the floor was shameful.

In the end, the Canadian teams made the semifinals. A cliche it is, but the Games start afresh now.

Two Comments Following the Round Robin:
Denmark; CBC

Now that the Round Robin draws of the 2006 Olympics are completed, I have two observations about the Olympic curling that you will not hear or read in the MSM:
  1. Denmark. I had a hard time cheering for the Canadian women's team in the last draw (the game against the Danish women's team). I did cheer for the Canadian team (and was delighted/relieved when they won!), but given recent events, I also cheer for Denmark frequently when a Danish athlete is involved.

    That having been said, did anyone see any Danish flags in evidence during the television shots of the crowd? I wasn't watching the entire time, but I didn't. In fact, I didn't see anyone wearing orange and white jackets or sweatshirts. For more on why this concerns me, see this.

  2. CBC. Who was the wise person at CBC who dreamed up their way of showing how many rocks were left for each team? Half the time when they flashed up the number of rocks left in their bizarre little spider (tv jargon for a numerical graphic), I thought they were showing the score, not the number of rocks left; and when I finally figured it out, I realized that concentrating on the CBC rocks-left-spider made it more difficult for me to concentrate on the strategies and action on the ice.

    I don't know about you, but I much preferred the TSN method of showing the number of rocks left in earlier, non-Olympic, matches that they produced: just string out a bunch of tiny red and yellow rocks across the top of the screen and take 'em off the screen as the shots are made.

The CBC Does it to Curling
..... Again!

The Canadian men's curling team is taking on the US team; meanwhile what does CBC show? Alpine skiing.

Granted, a Canadian was leading after the first round of the giant slalom. At the same time, though, the Canadian men's curling team is duking it out for somewhere between second place and having to duel it out in a tie-breaker. Surely the CBC could show the curling and then cut away to the giant slalom when the Canadians are skiing.

Meanwhile, you can follow curling here.

Update: The CBC kindly cut away from skiing to show us Pete Fenson of the U.S. throwing a rock; they then speculated that the US might have scored three on the first end. They didn't. They stole one.

Please, CBC: give us a break and relingquish the rights to TSN!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Where's the Friggin' TV Coverage of Olympic Curling?

As I write this at 1pm (EST) on Sunday, I am under the impression that the Canadian men's team is playing New Zealand in curling at the 2006 Olympics. But nobody is televising the match, even though its outcome could well determine what happens to the Canadian team for the play-offs.

Instead, here is what is being shown:

CBC main channel: Sweden vs. the USA in hockey; then Canada vs. Finland in hockey; their previews mention nothing about televising curling between periods of the hockey games.

CBC French: figure-skating, bobsled, women's aerial skiing?

CBC Country Canada: W.C. Fields and Me, followed by their usual drek.

TSN: motoring and pre-Daytona race; Daytona 500

NBC: Daytona 500.

MSNBC: at 4pm will show a tape delay of the US - Britain men's curling.

Ms. Eclectic suggested we dig out our old portable shortwave radio to see if anyone is broadcasting the curling on the radio.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Olympic Update

Our men are now at 4-2 (falling to a steal of one in the tenth end by Finland UPDATE: Correction - Canada actually stole 1 in the tenth but it was not enough to win - oopps - thanks to JP for the fix), tied for second place, behind Great Britain (!!) at 5-1.
Our women's team are also tied for second at 4-2 (having just crushed the Great Britain Martin rink), with Sweden at 5-1.

The Women of Curling Calendar:
The Photos

Ever since Playboy announced that there is a calendar available with nude photos of female curlers from different countries, there has been a lot of traffic on this blog from people looking for the pictures.

Here is a link to a site that has a couple of the photos. To see the photos, click on the drop-down menu and then click on "calendar". I really like the one that has a curling rock in it. [h/t to The Emirates Economist who sent me the link; he found it at Fark]

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Olympic Update

Curling is of course creating new fans, and this report from the Torino 2006 Website is a great sign of its potential for popularity.
Nearly five million Italians tuned in to watch Italy's unranked men pull off a shocker on Wednesday evening, winning their second straight game and upsetting highly rated United States 6-5 before a stand full of roaring fans. "Curling had a bigger audience than figure skating," Franco Zumofen, Italy's ice sports federation vice president told Reuters on Thursday barely able to hide his astonishment.

Turin Olympics Organising Committee were similarly amazed by a 23 percent audience share for a sport with nothing in common with football, Italian's traditional sporting pursuit.

"Almost five million viewers for curling, in a country like Italy where football is the favourite sport, is completely unexpected," Giuseppe Gattino, a Turin organising committee spokesman told a news conference

Meanwhile, our women's team is 3-2, while Sweden and Switzerland are at 4-1, and Rhona Martin's GB rink is at 3-1, and they have been winning some very interesting matches. Our men are at 4-1, despite an apparent difficulty the mellow young Newfoundlanders have in the face of Russ Howard's intensity (according to an article in this morning's Star).

The Economics of Curling

Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution has this to say:

Here is a Canadian study on the strongly positive economic impact of curling. The study confuses gross and net benefits, regional and national benefits, and nominal expenditures with real resource production, as such economic impact studies usually do. Commit them to the flames.
I've done similar types of economic impact studies but without committing those common errors. Typically the economic impact of anything on a local community is small.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

British Brushing:
What Has the New Technology Taught Them/Us?

Have you noticed any changes in brushing strategies at the 2006 Olympics (vis a vis previous tournaments)?

Back in November, I posted this piece about how the British curlers have used special brushes outfitted with sensors to help them improve their brushing techniques. I quoted:
Britain's Olympic curlers are using state-of-the art brooms to give themselves an edge as they prepare to defend their Winter Games gold. Loaded with sensors and a memory card, the 'sweep ergometer' allows curlers to measure how well they are performing one of the game's crucial tasks.
It looks to me as if the British sweepers might, if anything, be trying to take even quicker strokes than usual, if that is possible, but I really cannot see that there has been much of a change.

As I posted then, I'm sure I am not the only person watching the sweeping of the British curlers to see what they might have learned from their high-tech brooms. If, indeed, the British curlers have noticeably changed their brushing styles with some effect, others will surely be copying and adapting that information before the Olympics are over.

Update: Alex Tabarrok cites some details from Wired. As we noted earlier, yes, it is worth knowing whether and how brushing helps, but how does one team keep this information from being discovered easily by others?

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Danish Curling Fans Afraid to Wave Their Flags at the Olympics

Because of the violent outbursts in many Muslim countries about the cartoons in Denmark, some Danish curling fans are reluctant to bring their flags with them to the Olympics:
When John Ziegler travels to the Turin Olympics on Sunday to cheer on the Danish women's curling team, he's leaving his country's red and white flag at home.

Muslim outrage over the Prophet Muhammad drawings originally published by newspapers in Denmark has left its mark even this middle-class suburb that is a curling hotbed.

Around the world, there have been violent demonstrations and calls for a boycott of Danish products as Muslims burned the country's flag.

"I was looking forward to waving it and making a lot of noise. But now we're keeping a low profile. I don't see any reason to add fuel to the fire," said Ziegler, deputy chairman of the curling club that is home to four of the five members of Denmark's Olympic team.
As I have said on EclectEcon, I think it is a shame that people try to use threats and fear to influence others, and I am saddened that some Danes are yielding to these threats.

I think I know which team will be my sentimental favourite (following Canada, of course).

[thanks to Megan Hevron for the link]

Monday, February 13, 2006

Two Good Links from CBC

In the past, we have not been terribly positive about CBC coverage of curling events [see here or here].
But their website about curling at the Olympics has two articles of interest.

First, with regard to the recent discussion here on whether curling is a rich woman's sport, see this item about Rhona Martin, 2002 olympic gold medalist in curling from the UK, who is now living on welfare [Alan wrote about her last month on this blog].

Second, who won the first olympic gold medal in curling? Great Britain in 1924.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Canadian Men Go Off at 10/11 Favourites to Win Olympic Gold

On my other blog, EclectEcon, I posted a couple of days ago that I was unable to find a web site that listed the odds of various teams' winning the Olympic gold medal. In a comment, Paul indicated the odds are available at this site, but all I can find there are men's hockey odds.

Someone else posted these odds in a different comment, but I can't find the link to them.

Canada 10/11
Finland 18/1
Germany 9/1
Great Britain 10/1
Norway 9/2
Sweden 15/4
Switzerland 14/1
USA 12/1
Field (Any Other Country) 5/1
Canada 2/1
Denmark 20/1
Great Britain 10/1
Norway 9/1
Sweden 5/4
Switzerland 7/1
USA 6/1
Field (Any Other Country) 5/1
If you know of site that posts these odds as they change, please let us know!
Olympic curling begins at 3AM on Monday on TSN.

Both the Men's and Women's U.S. Olympic Curling Teams are from the same club

Both U.S. Olympic curling teams are from the Bemidji, Minnesota, curling club (Reg. Req'd; thanks to Bill Polley for the pointer).
Two banners, dwarfed by the nearly 100 other ones boasting the success of the Bemidji Curling Club, proclaim Bemidji's connection to the Olympics.

One banner lists the 2006 U.S. Olympic women's curling team that includes sisters Cassie and Jamie Johnson, who grew up in Bemidji. The other banner lists the U.S. men's curling team that includes head coach Bob Fenson, his son Pete and alternate Scott Baird -- all from Bemidji -- plus Joe Polo who grew up in nearby Cass Lake.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

If Al-Qaida Had a Curling Team...

Why is curling the butt of so many snide remarks by so many people who appear to know so little about the sport?

Jason Moring, writing for Slate, titles his latest, "If Al-Qaida Had a Curling Team..." But nowhere in his article does he develop that specific thought. Rather, his article points out that the war on terror is different from the Cold War because the enemies of the U.S. don't try to use Olympic competition to further their political agendas, at least not much -- not the way the USSR and East Germany used to.

The only time he mentions curling is
The fact that al-Qaida has been slow to organize an Olympic movement should be a cause of great embarrassment to them. From their training videos they seem pretty adept at running on logs and swinging from monkey bars. Surely, they are in curling shape.
Tell you what, Jason. You go out on the ice and sweep for ten ends twice a day. Do that and, in between sweeping, slide a rock down the ice with just the right speed so it goes the desired distance. Curling is a game of finesse, skill, and strategy.

To make matters worse, he links to this old Slate piece by David Plotz, which says the following about curling:
Curling combines the worst of shuffleboard and housekeeping. The contestants use brooms to sweep a path on the ice for a sliding stone. According to The Complete Book of the Winter Olympics, 94 percent of curlers are Canadian. Enough said.
And people wonder why there is so much anti-Americanism in Canada?

If you don't understand the physics and the strategies of the game, curling does look pretty strange, and maybe even boring I guess. For all of you who don't know this, sweeping in front of the rock affects how far it slides and how much it curls. Good curlers can make a shot curl around another one, making it difficult for the opponent to score. But doing so takes good skill and judgement.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Now that's close! Ontario Men's Championships

The men's round-robin at the Ontario Men's Championship has ended with the Middaugh rink in first, the (Glenn) Howard rink in second, and the Harris rink, which was at 7-0 after 7 rounds, in third; all three rinks finished with 7-2 records.
There is a three-way tie for fourth place - the Matchett, Jeffries, and Epping rinks, all at 4-5. Jeffries could have been alone in fourth but gave up two in the tenth, after seeming to have some degree of control over the end, though not having the hammer.
So there is a lot of action yet before the Page playoffs even start.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Rich Woman's Game?

As a comment to this earlier post, cool hand described curling as a 'rich persons game', which startled many of the readers (and the writers) of this blog.
The Scott Tournament of Hearts 2006 web page now has all the team profiles up, and so I thought I would just enumerate, going down through the teams, the 'day jobs' of the players (and note that, overwhelmingly, they have day jobs).

i) Team Canada - two moms, a lawyer, and a city communications manager
ii) Alberta - a mom, a teacher, an X-Ray technologist, and a grain merchant
iii) B.C. - one mom, an accounting assistant, a program analyst, and a marketing manager for a financial group
iv) Manitoba - two co-owners of a fundraising business, a pharmacy technician, and a digital scanner
v) New Brunswick - three students and an office assistant
vi) Newfoundland and Labrador - a reservations agent, an aquatic director at a fitness club, a fitness and aquatics trainer, and a chiropractor
vii) Northwest Territories and Yukon - an office manager, a telecommunications coordinator, a tourism business instructor, and a college coordinator of postsecondary programs
viii) Nova Sctoia - a weather and sports reporter, a pharmacist, a massage therapist, and a homemaker
ix) Ontario - a teacher, a casino shift manager, an MIRT, and a social worker
x) PEI - one in a family-owned grocery business, a controller for a farm, a receptionist, and a WCB account technician
xi) Quebec - a software specialist, a programmer, a teacher, and a nurse
xii) Saskatchewan - an educational assistant, an advertising salesperson, a therapeutic reception technologist, and someone working in clerical services at USask.

That is quite an array but it is not the top end of the Vertical Mosaic. Actually, it made me feel quite good enumerating all those (I assume self-described) roles. This would not be a bad exercise for a school guidance ('careers') class.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Ontario Men's Championship on Rogers Local Stations

Looks as if they will be covering several rounds. Tonight's round is Howard vs. Harris!

Mr. 6.25%

As many of you know, I started curling just a little over a year ago. I am now good enough that I can make precisely the shot called by the skip about once per game. Since we play 8-end games at our club, that means I throw 16 rocks per game. One out of 16 means I'm curling 6.25%.

Of course there are others that are close -- for beginners, close means within two or three feet; if you count those, I curl maybe 40-50 percent. And there are others that weren't what the skip called but which turned out okay.

But if my shots were scored by championship standards (e.g. the way shots at last weekend's Canada Cup were scored), I shoot about 6.25% on average.

Shooting 70% would be a star performance in our club. But watching those guys routinely make such fantastic shots at the Canada Cup was absolutely amazing.