There are those – the Uninitiated – who say that watching curling is like watching paint dry. Of course, curlers know how true that isn’t. The game has its own rhythm and flow depending on the strategy, the conditions of the ice and the players themselves.
Watching the first eight (unbroadcasted) draws at The Swiss Chalet National Grand Slam event in Guelph was an exercise in constant motion, action, energy and sound. Five sheets of ice, forty players – there was always something to see and hear, something happening. The eight-end games took two hours or less to play (unless there were extra ends) and some draws felt as if they were over much too soon.
Enter the CBC (who we love, don’t get me wrong!) and the demands of bringing the excitement of curling to the fans watching at home. That means camera crews trailing lines of cable, bright lights illuminating the ice, an on-air crew, and the importance of putting on “a show.” But camera crews often stand in the best spot possible to see the action – great for the fans at home; not so great for the three rows who now can’t see the house. Lights produce glare. Announcers need time to talk, whether providing a pre-game commentary, or interviewing a player on the ice between ends. The result: a loss of rhythm, flow and energy – at least for the fans who had become used to the game au naturel (i.e. seen only in the arena, not on the airwaves).
The players obviously appreciate the attention that curling now receives on television; in fact, it’s a crucial part of the game’s current high profile. National championships, international events like the Continental Cup, Grand Slams – all good. All fantastic, actually. So when the commercials are rolling and the broadcaster asks the players to chill between ends instead of getting right down to it, what do the curlers think? From the looks of it (above, Team Howard and Team Appleman wait for the ok to resume) they don’t mind a bit.
The game is growing, and television is an important and welcome reason for that growth. Now if broadcasters could just find a way to keep the flow of the game intact for the fans in attendance, that paint-drying image would be put to rest forever.