Monday, March 12, 2012

Ten Ends Is a Proper Game of Curling. Or Is it?

Paul Stevenson is something of a chap. Originally from Aberdeen, he finds himself making business waves in his adopted city of Edinburgh and we are lucky to have him as an interested and, as I hope you will agree, interesting commentator on all things curling as well as all things Edinburgh curling.

He wrote to me, a fuddy-duddy of the old traditionalist school – a member, if you will of the Heinz 57 old fa**s club – to share with me a fact. Facts are worrying; they tend to get in the way of old fuddy-duddy, Heinz 57 prejudices. Here was I, secure in the knowledge that, on this issue at least, I was right. Ten ends is a proper game of curling. Anything less is, frankly, for the old and infirm. People like me, in other words. Why, I toured Canada in 2003 and never played more than eight end games the entire trip. On my occasional foray into senior curling, I found myself playing eight ends. But I am old, overweight and infirm. Proper curling, as played by the young and fit should always be over ten ends, because ...

So Paul asked why. Then he gave me one of these pesky, annoying little facts. I ranted and then I railed. But the fact remained, staring me in the face. It laughed in the face of my prejudice. It revelled in my discomfort. It scorned my bigotry. Here it is.

Eighteen percent of fifty-one matches at the recent Scottish Championship started with two blank ends. I am no mathematician, but I work that out to be one in five games. Furthermore, 53% of the total games played included at least one blank end in the first two.

See facts? I hate them.

Let’s put this another way. In one in five of the games played, there was no score after the first two ends of a ten-end game and in one in two games, one of the first two ends was blanked. That’s pretty conclusive stuff and begs the question, “Why play ten ends?”

Why indeed?

I think it’s spluttering time again; the sound of uncontrollable bouts of anger-induced breaking wind will have stained glass windows shaking in their mounts. Bunneted curlers are swishing their besoms and turning in their graves. Cigars are being furiously waved around throughout the country and people are throwing these new-fangled phone thingies onto the ground.

But really – why not play eight ends instead of ten?

Here are some thoughts.
• There is now a pressing need for ice to be prepared properly before each championship round. This takes time out of a busy rota
• Add that to the practice ice that teams now need prior to the matches taking place and you realise why we are now sometimes down to three rounds in a day – madness when you are expecting professional people to take time off their work
• With the fitness of today’s curlers and the nylon pads that they use on their brushes, the ice is liable to 'fudge' towards the end of a game
• Nothing much happens at the start of a game in any case (according to the statistics), so why not cut out the first two wasted ends play?

This would mean that in a World Championship (or indeed, a Scottish Championship, for that matter) you would need six less ends in a three-round day. Put that another way: a three-round day could become a four-round day or indeed a four-round day could become a five-round day. Would the first two ends still have a fair chance of being blanked? Maybe they would and maybe they wouldn’t but it might serve to make the games faster-moving and easier to sell to a TV or a webcast audience.

Worth thinking about seriously, I would venture.