Posted at 9:00 am on March 12, 2013
Curling is a sport that is famous for its screaming skips. It’s a loud game. Anyone watching curling during the Russ Howard era knows this very well. As curling grows on the world scale and event organizers are trying to broadens curling’s appeal to the masses, might it be time to let the fans join in the noise?
During the 2013 Tim Hortons Brier in Edmonton, the crowd got loud. They got excited. They cheered on their home team and celebrated their victories. But the thing that ruffled so many feathers was (gasp) they booed their opponents.
Watch Toronto Maple Leafs game and see how the fans react when the Canadiens skate onto the ice. Listen to the boos at a Boston Red Rox games when the Yankies run on to the field. Booing opponents is as much of being a spots fan as anything else. It might be time for curling to get with the program.
In an article in the Winnipeg Free Press, poor little Paul Wiecek had his feelings hurt when the Edmonton crowd booed his Team Manitoba. If you go into enemy territory to watch your team, you need to brace yourself for the wrath of the home crowd. I’m not talking about people being hatefully assaulted like some soccer riot in Europe. This was good natured ribbing from fans who are passionate about their sport and love their team.
The situation that upset Paul was actually a positive one for the sport of curling. It demonstrated that fans were in the game and aware of what was at stake. Their home team, Kevin Martin’s Team Alberta, was on the brink of elimination. The Edmonton crowd needed Stoughton to take a loss in order to drop him back into a tie with Martin, forcing a tie-breaker and keeping Alberta’s playoff hopes alive. So, they did what sports fans do: they booed their enemy. And they did so passionately. Not out of a hate for Manitoba, but out of a love for their home team.
Some old timers argue that this is “against curling fan ettique”. Some say that is distracts the players. Um, of course it does. That’s the point. Ever see an NBA player complain that the fans distracted him from making a free throw? Never! Blocking out the crowd is part of being a world class athlete. But in curling, some think we are more civilized and politely sit by and quietly applaud all teams equally. Though he is reluctant to explicitly take a side, Canadian blogger Bob Weeks seemed to echo Wiecek’s sentiments in an article entitled “Crowd ‘utterly devoid of class’ shows up at Brier”. Ouch.
Do noisy fans pose a problem for the game of curling? No. Grumpy bloggers like Weeks and Wiecek do. There is no greater threat to the CCA and the sport of curling than these tea-and-crumpet style curling fans who sit quietly in their Snuggie and give dirty looks to fans who get out of their seats and cheer. Why would anyone pay money and go to a game when the newspaper is littered with articles calling the fans “devoid of class”. It sends the message that if you want to have fun and get into the game, you’re better off watching at home.
If the sport of curling is going to continue to grow, energetic and passionate fans must be allowed. We need to encourage rivalries and get the fans excited about that. People will carve time out of their busy lives specifically to watch a Toronto vs. Montreal hockey game. I have friends who have actually taken time off work to watch these types of games. Why? Because they’re die hard fans who were never told to quiet down.