Sunday, January 31, 2010

Some Reflections on Curling Percentages

Maybe it's just me, but...
  • I really don't like the new(er) Curlcast format. I can't follow all four games at once, and I have no idea where or how to find cumulative statistics. It's prettier than the old one, but far less informative. I had hoped for changes, but certainly not these!
  • It looks to me so far as if the curling percentages are down from previous seasons. Some commenters have suggested that the rocks are far from perfect. Others have noted that there have been some severe picks from debris on the ice. Still others are wondering if there's something funny in the Sault water, others have suggested (heaven forbid) that the curlers just haven't been curling as well ....
What's going on?

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Sponge Towels

You know that ad for Scott's paper Sponge Towels.... the ad we're going to see at least 75 times for each draw the rest of the season?

I think it's pretty funny, actually, but I have one big gripe about it: those circles on the guy's costume are NOT concentric circles (maybe the fact that he says they are is supposed to be even funnier for us geometric geeks). The house on a curling sheet is concentric circles; a bunch of equal-sized adjacent circles is not concentric. Concentric means "having the same center".


Nova Scotia -- will there be a change in who throws skip's stones?

I hate to say this, and it could well be premature, but how long will it be before Nancy McConnery gives up throwing skip's stones for Nova Scotia. I've seen only a few ends involving the Nova Scotia rink, but they have given up a LOT of steals, and McConnery just seems a bit off right now.


Growth and Change at the Scott

I'm struck by the evolutionary process at 2010 Scott Tournament of Hearts. On the one hand, it is nice to see some of the familiar faces, including Team Canada (Jones, et al), and Kelly Scott's rink from BC. On the other hand it is great to see some new (or at least less familiar) competition from PEI, Alberta, and Quebec, in particular.

The TSN coverage on Saturday, showing the Thurston rink from the juniors, nearly 20 years ago, was eye-popping: Kelly Scott was the lead, Jennifer Jones was the vice, and Jill Thurston was the skip. What a team!

Unfortunately, Thurston missed a couple shots back then, as skip, and lost the world junior championships as a result. And again, yesterday, she came up light SO often, it was surprising. Finally, she announced, "I'm not throwing those rocks again!", which was a point the TSN announcers had made, too. It will be interesting to see if she can bounce back as the tournament progresses.

It also was nice to see the interview in the stands with Lorraine Lang, formerly with the Ontario rink. It was a nice sense of tradition and continuity.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Scott Tournament of Hearts Is Coming:
Visits to this blog soar as net surfers search for nude photos

The Scott Tournament of Hearts, Canada's curling championship for women will soon take place. It will be earlier than usual this year, presumably to avoid conflicting with the 2010 Winter Olympics.

We were reminded that it is coming soon because visits to this blog have sky-rocketed recently. It appears that suddenly someone somewhere has written yet another article about the Nude Women of Curling Calendar, and hundreds of people are visiting this posting on EclectEcon and this posting here at Curling, to look for the soft-core porn of curling. I'll grant that the few photos I have seen from the past calendars are superb art, but it never ceases to amaze (and disappoint) me that people are more interested in nudity than they are in our writings on other subjects.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

BraveRocks? Brave Lochs? Curling and Congestion in Scotland

Last week it looked as if the Royal Caledonia Curling Club (RCCC) would be able to host a Grand Match of curling on Lake of Monteith near Aberfoyle, Scotland. The Grand Match is a gigantic curling competition in which as many as 2000 curlers compete, and the weather has co-operated so little that it has been held only 38 times since 1837; it was last held in 1979.

This year the temperatures had been below freezing for several weeks leading up to the planned event and the ice was forming nicely on Lake of Monteith, which has nice ice for curling when the weather conditions hold up. The last time the Grand Match was held, there were over 6000 people attending, and it was anticipated there would be as many as 10,000 in attendance this time.

And that caused a problem.

A week before the planned event, the RCCC called it off, citing safety issues. The safety concerns were not due to ice conditions. Rather, the RCCC was concerned about access and congestion. From The New Scotsman [h/t Brian Ferguson]:

Colin Grahamslaw, chief executive of the national governing body, defended the decision of the Grand Match Committee.

He said: "Since Monday, we have been working with the police and the emergency services and the local authorities to try and achieve this and make it work, but, in the timescale, it has just not proved possible.

"You are talking about trying to move 2,000 curlers and an unknown number of spectators on and off the site safely. There is only one road in and one road out, and the police and emergency services were really concerned that you could get one snarl-up and there would be gridlock."

Mr Grahamslaw stressed: "We weren't worried by the ice, because the ice would have been thick enough by next week, if it isn't thick enough already."

Mr Grahamslaw said it would have been "irresponsible" to ignore the advice of the emergency services and that the decision to call off the match was deeply disappointing.

I'm not persuaded by these arguments. When I look at the map, I see access from several different directions. I'll admit that access to the site is likely limited, but probably no more so than for other large events in rural areas.

But more importantly, this would have been a perfect time to institute temporary congestion charges. If the RCCC doesn't have the authority to charge for the use of the roads, then it could charge high admission fees for contestants and spectators.

But if it is too costly to monitor and exclude people from the event itself, then with some planning and co-operation, temporary congestion fees could easily be implemented by the local authorities, possibly in the form of temporary toll charges for non-residents. After all, according them, "There is only one road in and one road out..."

What I am saying is that fears of congestion are not necessarily a good reason for having called off the event. Good old Pigouvian taxes could easily have been implemented to reduce congestion. And with the examples of the congestion charges in the city of London, people would likely have a reasonable understanding of why and how they work.

Even though the RCCC declined to sanction the event, and against the advice of local authorities, many curlers still planned to show up for an unofficial version of the Grand Match:

Some told The Scotsman that many enthusiasts were already making plans to stage an unofficial match on the Lake of Menteith within the next few days in protest.

One Glasgow-based curler said: "There are an awful lot of angry curlers who want that match to go ahead with or without the RCCC. I am certain that some sort of Grand Match will go ahead.

But in the end, temperatures rose, the ice had lots of water on it, and very few people showed up.

Ian Fleming, owner of the Lake of Menteith Hotel, said he has been monitoring the situation over the last 24 hours.

"The ice is solid enough just now but the water on it just makes it treacherous to walk on. It's the first time I've ever seen a curling stone causing bow waves.

"There are a number of hardcore curlers out there now, around 28 to 32 players but it's hard to see the rinks under all the water.

Cross-posted at EclectEcon and at The Sports Economist