LONDON, ONT. -
It’s time to sweep away all those dusty old misconceptions of curling as a stuffy sport that’s mainly played by old people.
The game’s fan base is more and more attracting a demographic that’s apparently younger and definitely tech-savvy — and never has that been clearer than during the 2011 Brier’s explosion this week on Twitter.
The micro-blogging site has been loaded with references to the #brier, so much so that it was the third-most-popular hashtag in Canada at one point during Saturday’s opening ceremony.
That day, the twitterverse averaged one #brier reference a minute — and that includes the eight hours everybody was sleeping.
That kind of fan-generated content is a welcome addition to an event that’s become a major, if underrated, television property with a wild fan base, organizers say.
“Our main audience is still 40-plus,” said Warren Hansen, an old Brier champ who’s a director with the Canadian Curling Association. “That’s the age range when people tend to be attracted to curling. I have no idea why.
“(But Twitter) is one of the ways we can bring younger people into the realm. It’s another way to keep them involved, in touch.”
For the first time ever, Brier officials have their IT team tweeting just-about-live updates to fans — and that kind of Internet-heavy presence isn’t going away, organizers pledge.
“That’s one thing we’ll be chatting about — how we can make Twitter and Facebook more of a factor,” Hansen said.
“With our wall-to-wall TV coverage, it’s just another way to keep people involved.”
The fan tweets are generally positive, too — aside from a bit of grumbling about TV coverage, it’s largely rah-rah stuff for their favourite teams.
A few get a bit edgy, though.
Fresh off annoying people at the NHL trade deadline, Twitter fakes have descended on the Brier with phony accounts for curlers Kevin Martin and Jeff Stoughton.
They’re not totally mischievous — both accounts clearly indicate they’re fake — and are actually pretty funny.
“Best pump-me-up music; Do you believe in life after love by Cher,” @fakekevinmartin tweeter on the eve of the Brier. “She’s still smokin’ hot.”
A few of the athletes are actually active on Twitter, too, led by Northern Ontario’s Team Brad Jacobs.
But not all the curlers are up to speed — yet.
“No, I don’t,” Team Ontario alternative Scott Howard said when asked if he’s on Twitter. “I don’t understand that stuff, either.”