As I settled into my seat prior to the opening ceremonies at the Roar of the Rings – the Canadian Olympic qualifying tournament at the MTS Centre – I closed my eyes and tried to get a ‘feel’ for the event. I’ve attended quite of few of these major curling spiels and they all have a habit of taking on a life of their own. And as the strains of ‘Queen of Hearts’ by Juice Newton over the PA gave way to the sound of the live bagpipe band and their instruments waking up, I was struck again at how and outsider would perceive this gathering.
This year one outsider of note was Ron Burgundy. Actor Will Ferrell’s alter ego has been on a one-man promotional tour across small town America and Canada, raising awareness for the release of his new movie Anchorman 2. And although in his quiet time he must wonder about how weird everything seems during this big event I couldn’t help but realize that he was the one out of place.
Sure he’s a huge star, the likes of which we rarely see in the Big Smoke. He wore a kilt and ate a donut and played with TSN’s telestrator – but he wasn’t really funny. We were just forced to laugh at his antics, we humoured him. Never mind the irony that 70 per cent of curling fans wouldn’t know Ron Burgundy from Marty McFly. See, he’s the odd one – and I don’t mean just his character – I mean him and his ilk.
Curling and Winnipeg don’t need Burgundy. He – and his movie – need us. And I actually felt a bit cheated about how all our fawning over him kind of took the wind out of our collective curling, small-town sails. And I think that the top brass at the Canadian Curling Association kind of sold out. Burgundy’s antics will get play in Florida and California and Arizona; but only to be mocked and laughed at. What’s the point? Teams have been training and playing and traveling for 4,6,8 years leading up to this one event and the spotlight shines on a made-up Hollywood character who’s main ‘attribute’ is his buffoonery and year-round Movember mustache.
At the outset I mentioned how these events gradually develop a feel all to themselves. Yes, there are lots of constants. A knowledgeable, appreciative crowd cheering on good shots by any team, home or visitor. Oohs and aahs when a rock goes through a port with space no bigger than a cigarette paper to spare. Huge rounds of applause for two women sweeping hard for 20 seconds. (My wife hates that part of it, she always checks our kitchen floor for dust and food particles after a particularly aggressive sweep…) But organically there are always some other underpinnings that evolve.Is it pin trading? Is it mocking Albertans? Is it watching a specific curler who plays to the crowd? (Guy Hemmings anyone?)
There are two main reasons why this happens. The odd demographics of curling fans – they are old and white, overly rural and bereft of smart phones. (Where else would Monsanto be a major sponsor?) And curling games are actually pretty boring. From the release of the rock to its eventual resting place is often well over 20 seconds. And often no points are scored in an end, a result that often manifests itself after the first 4 rocks are thrown leaving 12 stones that mean little. Given that amount of downtime it’s inevitable that the crowd/community invents its own story line.
Then Ron Burgundy left the building – presumably in the back of a Limo with his handlers at his side – and a vacuum was created – nature abhors a vacuum – and one that was quickly filled by the most important players in this bonspiel; the fans.
I closed my eyes again, heard the swishing of brooms, the
“I love you Jennifer Jones” by a drunk dreamer, the oohs from a flashed rock and realized the evolution was in full swing.