I was to discover this day that, although curling has its fans, my assumption about the entire country was incorrect.
On this day, I could not watch the tiebreaker rounds. I was far too upset that they were even needed - had Ulsrud made his shot the night prior, there would be pants in the quarterfinals and no tiebreakers. So Lisa and I had our breakfast at the hotel, packed and checked out. Then, we visited two more exciting stores - Shopper's Drug Mart (for 400mg Advil LiquiGels, which are great and unavailable in the US) and Bulk Barn.
I have to speak a minute about Bulk Barn. Most grocery stores have a bulk food section, where you can reach into the bins and fill you own bag of peanuts, or gummy bears, or cocoa mix. Imagine, if you will, an entire store filled with those bins, with a much greater variety than you see in any grocery. That's Bulk Barn. And their prices are quite reasonable. We came out of there with several bags of candy, baking supplies, nuts, and... macaroni and cheese sauce mix. Let me tell you, there are trans fats in those things, and I LOVE it!
On this day, Lisa and I decided to do three things differently. First, we did a better job hiding food and drink we brought in. Scolded for the the day before, we weren't taking chances. Second, we went in a different entrance, in the back. We had All Freaking Access passes, and I was damn sure going to use it that day. Finally, we brought in laptops and went up to the press area, where we could plug those in. All excellent decisions.
Before we went up, though, I wanted to
We also walked around the concourse, and saw that Team Ulsrud was scheduled for an autograph session that evening, at 6:30pm. I would finally get a chance to really talk to the guys, and get that picture with them. I hoped.
Time to take our seats for the four matches to come. Four matches to watch today - Glenn Howard in the lime greens v. Rob Fowler, Pat Simmons v. defending Brier and World champion (and nice guy) Kevin Koe, Mike McEwen v. Dale Matchett, and Jeff Stoughton v. Olympic Gold Medalist and rice eaters Kevin Martin. Hey, Americans - did you recognize any of those names? I was boldly predicting Howard for the win, but he had three matches to win in order to make that happen.
The crowd at the GM Centre was lively, and mascot Slider was working them like an expert. The CBC was in the house, broadcasting the quarterfinal matches. The semis were apparently exiled to a lesser network to make room for Don Cherry and Hockey Night in Canada. Given that I am a fan of the loud wardrobe, I have to say I don't blame them. Also, I'm from Rochester, where Don Cherry once coached. Still, this was a big deal, and given that the All-Star Game was the next day, I'm not quite sure what hockey would be more important than a curling major. Still. Better coverage than it got in any other country.
Erin McLaughlin, Twitter friend and Curling News blogger for the weekend, joined us in Laptop Row. We giggled and tweeted back and forth as we both did live updates of all four matches. Each of them had a story. For instance, the Koe match in front of me was a runaway from the start. Koe started off with the hammer and took 1 in the 1st. He proceeded to steal 4 in the 2nd, prompting me to tweet that he was "opening a can". For those not familiar with the phrase, the whole thing reads "opening a can of whoop-ass." They shook at 8-1 after 6 ends. The other three games were closer, but still quite captivating. I, personally, could never make such a draw to the button. Not at my level, anyway.
It's here where I will go off on a couple of tangents. First of all, the ice at the GM Centre was among the best I had ever seen. I would have loved to curl on it myself. I had my shoes with me in case I got that opportunity. Asham, Size 14, Red Brick slider. They are a little small on my size 15 feet, and I do need to replace them, because they are wearing out (especially the gripper foot). Still, I love my shoes. My next pair will have sliders on both feet. I can throw ambidextrous. I just don't, because only my left foot has a slider. I had a point here - I would love to see Glenn Howard throw on Rochester's ice, to see if he still looks as good as he did in Oshawa. While I think he would still look pretty good (he is, after all, Glenn Howard), I do think the perfect ice made him look better. That was professionally groomed ice.
My second tangent is a bit more introspective, but related to my first. My delivery is pretty good. I'm not a great curler. I'm a good curler. I occasionally miss the broom, and I occasionally flub a weight call, but in general, I make the shots that are called. I tend to skip at my club, so the shots that are called are usually the shots I want to call, but that's another story. After watching one draw.... one end, in fact!....I felt rather inadequate. My internal comments were "wow. I suck at curling."
This is not the reaction I had while watching Olympic curling on TV, and it was that type of reaction I got back to having after watching for a couple of days. I had a lot of trouble watching the Olympic curling, in fact, because I was second-guessing the Olympians and their strategy. (Especially John Shuster's, but everyone was questioning his!) I wasn't usually wrong on my questioning of strategy - sometimes I was, of course. And this day was no exception. I thought some skip choices were flat-out wrong, and I was right every time.
During this round was also the semifinals of the Capital One Million Dollar Button. For those who are familiar with the NFL in the US, think Field Goal competition, and you've got the concept. However, instead of having to kick a ball through some uprights, the contestant needs to throw a stone unassisted and hit the middle of the house (the big target!), known in the curling vernacular as the button. This was qualifying for six people from across Canada - closest to the button gets to go to the final the next day! Six contenders tried their luck, but it was Teri Schiman, a non-curler, who almost landed it right on the button and got to come back the next day.
During the 2nd half, I was told by Erin that George Karrys wanted to see me in his office after the match. I knew he was working on getting me together with the Norwegians, and it seemed like those efforts had paid off. So, after the matches gave us the Stoughton-McEwen and Koe-Howard (Lisa the Curling Librarian's wish come true) semis, Erin brought us down to the office, which was just a locker room with tables set up - nothing glamourous, but completely functional.
And George met us there to tell us our evening plans. Not only would I get my photos with Team Ulsrud, but I would be filming more footage for our little webcast.... at their autograph session. And they'd be wearing Loudmouth pants (two of them did not want to - obviously downtrodden). And they were really looking forward to spending some time with me.
So Lisa and I got a quick dinner, took care of essential business, and got back to meet George for our evening plans.