by Rodger Schmidt
The Curling News photos by Urs Räber (click on image to view larger)
LUCERNE, Switzerland – Here are some blogservations for you, dear reader, regarding the 2012 World Men’s Curling Championship ongoing in nearby Basel.
Unwanted circumstances have conspired, so far, to force me to watch most of the action via some sort of electronic device. This has caused me to spend an enormous number of hours on the CurlIT website watching little red and yellow circles popping on and off my iPad screen. CurlIT chief Christian Saager and his crew provide an outstanding service with this program and I have become totally hooked on their shot-by-shot graphics as I bounce from game to game.
Click, click, click and presto: I can review every shot on every sheet. I know more about the games now than I ever did sitting in the stands or on the coach/media benches. Of course, knowing too much is not always an asset – for example, I now know there are a vast number of shots for which the official scorers and I do not see the same values. One of us is wrong – a lot. This never mattered much to me in the past – I used to think that over a long period of time the percentages would eventually work themselves out – but now, I am not so sure.
I’m still a big believer in this service, however, and if there was a more accurate way to portray the angles of the stones in the house and in the Free Guard Zone (perhaps GPS or overhead camera imaging?) than this might be better curling viewing than by live streaming – from a pure strategic perspective, of course. This way, the players don’t get in the way of the action and they never annoy you with their screaming and yelling.
Success at the world curling championships seems pretty straightforward: Try to rack up as many W’s as soon as possible and strive for the top of the leaderboard. Not so in Basel! During the first few days of this event it seemed that teams were diving for the bottom, as if there was buried treasure down there. WMCC2012 resembled a contest to see who could be the first to get to five losses, and Switzerland, Czech Republic, USA and Germany turned out to be the best deep-sea divers. Norway, of course, struggled early in this competition and could have found their way down too, had Denmark not missed a routine draw for victory in an extra-end (the Danes then did it again, too, for an early 2-2 won/loss record). Denmark has, in my opinion, played well enough to be 6-2 rather than 4-4.
It looks to me that the city of Basel is proving that world championship curling can be successfully presented in Switzerland. The St. Jakobshalle has been turned in to a most attractive venue, with steep bleacher seating offering great spectator views of the large playing area featuring the four sheets in play. The venue, located just south of Basel, is also reasonably accessible – via the Autobahn – for Swiss curling fans scattered around the rest of the country. Basel can attract the required volunteers, and such volunteers boast sufficient curling knowledge and experience. There are few locations in Europe,sorrowfully, that could successfully and acceptably do what Basel is doing.
The crowds have been reasonable, with a couple of thousand on hand last night; not bad for a Tuesday and not bad given the host team’s plunge to the bottom of the leaderboard. This is unfortunate for the championship, because Swiss fans tend to show up in great numbers – with cowbells, of course – when they have a horse in the race… and not so much when they do not.
On that note, check out the second photo on the cover of the latest (April 2012) issue of The Curling News, and you will see a St. Jakobshalle packed with curling fans back in 2006. NOTE: To my great surprise and pleasure, The Editor has also published this issue online as a digital edition, for the very first time (and with extra digital pages)… so even non-subscribers (boo!) can “check it out” by clicking here. Well done to The Curling News because this edition, with all the hyperlink bells and whistles, looks and reads fantastic.
I was recently involved in the USA Curling production of a new curling manual, entitled The Five Elements of Curling Technique. For more information click here and you can also watch this short explanatory video here.
There is another video in which I appear, located here, but this one is 17 minutes long and I wouldn’t wish such pain on anyone! [Oh, it’s not that bad – Ed.]
Anyway, from time to time we have difficulty explaining what we mean by the “Fifth Element”… and here is your answer, folks: Canada third Wayne Middaugh.
He has, in this championship to date, perfectly demonstrated how a top player brings curling intellect into shotmaking. Call it experience, call it insight, call it smart, call it knowing the game, or call it – as we did – the Fifth Element, but it has been amazing to watch his mastery at work. He has known and incorporated every variable, every detail and every relevant factor in to each shot he has played this week in Basel. The consequence of this has ensured that Canada has, to date, been impossible to beat.