April 11, 2010
TSN delivers in curling broadcast
By GEORGE KARRYS, QMI Agency
The Sports Network delivered the near-perfect curling telecast Sunday morning.
Long before golf fans settled in to watch the Masters, Canada's Kevin Koe was topedoeing his Norwegian opposition to capture his first world men's championship curling title.
The setting, in the Italian Alps, was stunning.
The fact that TSN's 24-year veteran commentary crew of Vic Rauter, Linda Moore and Ray Turnbull were on site was absolutely critical.
"Moosie" Turnbull has now retired, and Sunday marked the Winnipegger's final broadcast. Olympic and world champion Russ Howard, who has impressed as a TSN "morning game" curling talkie, is expected to take over.
It hasn't always been the smoothest ride for the broadcast legends.
Recent criticism from the sport's notoriously fickle fans pointed to a weary team, in spite of always-massive TV ratings.
Turnbull has admitted, throughout this season-long farewell tour, that he is "tired". Critics point to his blatant fawning over Manitoba teams, which can make nine days of watching Winnipeg's Jennifer Jones compete at the women's worlds an eye-rolling experience.
The rap against Moore is that she depends too much on statistics, and doesn't let the arena microphones carry enough of the show.
Even Rauter has his enemies, particularly those that point to his pre-recorded show intros. Sometimes hokey, they did seem to clash with CBC's ultra-professional approach to playoff finals, which are now also owned by the cable channel.
Things started to turn around for the crew at Vancouver 2010. After decades of CBC broadcast exclusivity, Olympic curling was the only thing missing on their resume, and it was a major reason for Turnbull to stick it out.
Then quickly came the Brier, where the shows excelled. Historical features mixed well with Turnbull's approach to his last Brier — he had competed way back in 1958, with a junior team that directly caused a rule on age restrictions.
The final show from Italy could only have been better if the Canadians had won a closer match. Nevertheless, the crew was well-prepared, filling some of the late anti-climactic moments with nifty anecdotes: Canada's Nolan Thiessen had won World University Games gold just down the road, eight years earlier, and Koe's win -- in his first Brier and Worlds appearance -- was the first for such a "rookie" team since 1972.
Rauter and Turnbull, perhaps mindful of the golf finale to come, delivered wonderfully understated commentary, balanced nicely by a patient Moore. Fair time was spent on the Norwegians, who offered
their own interesting stories, plus various looks at some of the other 10 competing nations.
Turnbull also dressed in one of his beloved pinstriped suits to pre-record a five-minute feature in the mountains, talking directly to the viewer about his 24-year voyage, concluded by thanks to colleagues, athletes and fans.
The final standup took place at ice level during the closing ceremonies -- a rarity -- and the tears flowed freely, even from the usually stoic Rauter.
— Moncton's Les Harrison was voted out of the World Curling Federation's president's chair, and nearly all of the much-ballyhooed rule changes, including the push to eight ends of play, vanished
during Cortina's political shenanigans.
— The final major of the season, the Grey Power Players' Championship, runs Tuesday April 13 through 18, with all draws on CBC Sports Online and most weekend playoffs televised on the CBC main
network. Thirty-two men's and women's teams will gun for $370,000 in World Curling Tour prize money, in what will be the last-ever competition for Randy Ferbey's three-time world championship squad.
Ferbey joins Brad Gushue's Newfoundland team for Tour play next season.
George Karrys is: curlinguru.com