Curling: No cowbells allowed

GEORGE KARRYS, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

TORONTO - It was supposed to be a great weekend for the Canadian Curling Association.

In many ways, it was.

The new Canada Cup competition, packed with all kinds of Olympic relevancy, launched a new season of TSN televised curling action and also debuted an upsold title sponsor in Capital One. Big names like Kevin Martin and Jennifer Jones made it to their respective finals, and both then captured the very first berths in the 2013 Olympic trials.

But the CCA also suffered a swift punch to the eye when a reporter unearthed the CCA code of conduct … not for competitors, but for spectators.

And with that, the Saskatchewan fans who were cheering lustily for Amber Holland’s team were told to be silent. Specifically, to put their cowbells away.

Say what?

It’s true — no more cowbell. Will Ferrell and the writers of that famed Saturday Night Live sketch must be chuckling.

The cowbell is not new at sporting events — it’s virtually the official noisemaker of Swiss sport and its athletes — and it persists with a consistent clanging at world curling championships. It is somewhat new to Canadian curling events, at which fans traditionally prefer organized cheers, the Moose Call (for Northern Ontario fans only) and even the occasional and dreaded vuvuzela.

The hulabaloo in Cranbrook started when the cowbells annoyed other fans seated nearby. A complaint was lodged and the bells were silenced — and it was the wheatsheafers who were now annoyed. A gang of nearly 100 of them were planning an invasion at the women’s nationals in February to cheer for Team Holland … which may now be in jeopardy.

“We’ve never had a complaint, and we’ve been to events across the country and in Europe and never had a problem,” Holland fan Walter Seeley was quoted as saying in the Calgary Herald.

“We’re helping fill the coffers of the CCA, and if they’re going to start doing things like that, then I don’t think we’ll be supporting the CCA events very much longer.”

Uh oh.

“I didn’t know there was a fan code of conduct. I think that’s disgusting,” Cup finalist Glenn Howard told the Calgary Herald. “I would love to see as much noise out there as possible. It’s a sport, we’re having fun.”

This bizarre policy seems to fly in the face of what was seen, quite positively, at Vancouver 2010. The curling venue was packed full for every match and the fans —­ admittedly most were non-traditional curling fans who were unaware of when not to scream and bang on their metal chairs — created a steady wall of sound that gave Kevin Martin a daily, pounding headache.

There’s certainly no danger of that at any other curling event. You can often find fans snoozing or even knitting — these folks come from the older demographic (55+, with emphasis on the plus) that still dominates the sport, and which the CCA has apparently acknowledged as a problem.

Spectators at all sporting events will complain about rowdy or overtly noisy fans, and if the complainers can’t be moved to new seats, a ticket refund might be in order. But is curling really prepared to cater to the minority of complainers and risk losing the majority of fans who in fact should be catered to?

Apparently so, and I think that’s asinine.

CUP RUNNETH

TSN scored an average of 491,000 viewers for the Sunday afternoon men’s final and 304,000 for the women’s final, which started at the ungodly hour of 8 a.m. if you were watching in B.C. … Yours truly correctly picked Martin to win and Howard to finish second, but missed badly on the women’s side. No. 1 pick Stefanie Lawton missed the playoffs, and while champ Jones was ranked fairly high (third) her opponent in the final, fellow Winnipegger Chelsea Carey (who finished atop the round robin) was ranked, um, dead last … A flurry of Facebook discussions has developed among Carey fans over their team’s treatment by TSN analyst Linda Moore. The 1985 world champion skip, who is now heading into her 23rd year as a talking head, took Team Carey to task over their hitting strategy and execution — the squad was walloped by Jones in only eight ends of play in the final — which has resulted in a torrent of anti-Moore commentary and, well, analysis … Martin and Jones both earned $26,000 paydays and while they are not ranked first in World Curling Tour winnings, their overall “Gold Trail” season earnings are now at $70,000 and $50,207 respectively.

MEANWHILE IN MOSCOW

The European championships are underway and this weekend’s A-division playoffs will qualify nations into the worlds in March (women) and April (men). Sweden and Denmark are doing well in both genders, while the Scots, Swiss and Germans are battling for wins. Hosts Russia are fielding a women’s team in the A-division and are in the thick of things, too. Meanwhile the B-division, which qualifies a single country to the worlds and also vaults them into next year’s A-division, is the usual hodge-podge of curling minnows — like Spain, Lithuania, Poland and Hungary — that also features former A-division mainstays like Finland … Quote of the Euro week comes from Scottish women’s skip Eve Muirhead, who reported via Twitter that an on-ice official told her that her team “must play the stones in order, from one to eight,” which refers to the numbers on the plastic handles. This is, of course, utterly ridiculous: it’s the athlete prerogative to throw stones in whatever order a team wishes, and any team can change that order mid-game with no restrictions. When Muirhead shook her head in amazement, the official’s response was “Well, it would make it much easier.”

NSFW

Russian national team lead Ekaterina Galkina appears in the 2012 Women of Curling Calendar for charity, but it’s her appearance in an unknown Russian photo shoot that is making the rounds via online video. The brief promo, which was posted back in February, shows Galkina posing suggestively in very little — apart from, in one scene, thigh-high leather boots. The video, which is most definitely Not Suitable For Work, can be found at: www.thecurlingnews.com/blog under “Curling calendar girl video.”

Twitter: @curling

Email: gk@thecurlingnews.com

Web: curlinguru.com


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