Take the shot

by +CrystalThieringer    @cdthieringer

DSC01742Brier week 2016 just finished, and this year it was held in our city. The winner of the Canadian Men’s Curling Championship will represent Canada at the World’s event in Switzerland next month.

We gave tickets to our very good friend Dave as a Christmas gift. Whether watching at the arena or on television, last week was all curling, all the time. Think I jest? 17 draws, each lasting roughly 3.5 hours (why yes, that’s about ten hours a day). After the round-robin play came the five play-off matches.

I am was a casual observer of the sport. I’ve never played (though I wish I had). Curling is as much a cerebral sport as a physical one, part chess and part brute force. While I’m the first to admit I have much to learn about the intricacies of swingy ice, “Hurry hard” and holding on to the hammer, here’s what I learned from watching the men this week.DSC01766

There’s a time for fun, and a time for focus. Good-natured bantering in the crowds is an important part of the game. The steady hum of voices as people offered knowledgeable opinions about where a stone should be thrown and why was interspersed with the dancing moose and costume wearers intended to get people laughing. What’s not to love about that? However, when it came time to take the shot, especially the big ones, the entire arena settled to silence and showed respect for the man in charge of the moment. He was given time and space to breathe. Wouldn’t it be nice if we always did that?

Circumstances beyond your control are no excuse to give up. We saw some masterful shots and some big misses too. Know what? They were followed by more great shots. That’s how life is. Take the shot.

DSC01760Losing isn’t the same as failing. The semi-final game was by far my favourite. Each team played brilliantly, trading single points until the tenth end. There was one stone in play that was so close to being ‘in’ that neither team could be certain it was worth a point or not. If it scored, one team would win. If it didn’t, a tie would force an extra end. The stone had to be measured, resulting in the only deuce of the game–and a well-deserved victory. One team lost, but no one failed.

Live your purpose. Brier Bear has been the official mascot for more than 30 years, greeting fans and players with great enthusiasm. We had nose-bleed seats for one of the matches, and Brier Bear came up for a photo op with the 91 year old lady in front of us (she never misses a Brier, we were told). Calls for “Brier Bear, over here” could be heard as he was enticed to go to other parts of the stands. He took part in the dance-off, participated in the commercial break games for the audience. Just the usual stuff, right? What might not be so usual however, is that Reg Caughie, the man inside, is 78 years old. He has been donning the suit all this time because he likes to make people happy.

It doesn’t matter how many obstacles get in your way. Often it’s still possible to get around them,DSC01780 especially with a little help from your friends.


Never underestimate the family you create. Curling is a family friendly sport, and there were several fathers, sons and brothers that played with (and sometimes against) each other. The most poignant moments however, involved the created family–like when the hometown hero, recovering from an illness that kept him out of the Brier this year had support from two opposing teams to throw two stones in an official game. He wasn’t well enough to play, though he’d surely earned his spot so they made space for him to be included as much as he could be. There were tears and cheers in the stands, and from players in the other games. Family is what you make it to be.

Congratulations to all the men for being great examples to the kids, big and small, of excellent sportsmanship, camaraderie and kindness. Our world needs that, and you made Canada proud. Special congratulations to Kevin Koe, Marc Kennedy, Ben Hebert, and Brent Laing, our new Team Canada. Best of luck in Basel!


19 thoughts on “Take the shot

  1. Great lessons – and a great amount of sport for someone who doesn’t regularly watch sporting events! Sounds like you thoroughly enjoyed yourself.

    1. The cerebral part of the sport is fascinating. It made me miss my grandfather, actually. I know he was a fan and I regret not comprehending that it is far more than throwing things at other things in what sometimes appears to be slow motion. There is an incredible amount of skill and athleticism here.

  2. Love your perspective in obstacles and how sometimes the best way around is with a team!

    1. The other thing about that, Christine, is that it doesn’t matter how many stones of one colour are in the end, it matters how close they are to the centre. Sometimes I’d say, “There’s no way they can take this,” and my friend would say, “Just watch.”

  3. “He was given time and space to breathe.” I need to learn to be better at doing this for others, instead of demanding immediate action/answers. Thank you for sharing what you learned. You’ve made me want to watch curling sometime!

    1. It’s a very interesting sport. I need to remember to calm down and give people space too. I often think quickly–and don’t have the patience for them to catch up to me.

  4. I love this line, “never underestimate the family you create,” and your acknowledgement of the men who set good examples! Great read !!

    1. My family lives on the other side of the country, so it’s important to me to create a family here.

  5. Crystal, I like the way you weave your stories, drawing us in with details and a story and then topping us off with a great point. I finish your pieces thinking that I’ve paid for a single scoop and walked away with a double scoop.

  6. Swingy ice? I’m dying to know more. And “hurry hard”? Hmm…is that when they’re madly, fiercely scrubbing the ice with funky brooms?

    Fun piece. I like the slices of humanity (the 91-year-old lady), and the connections to real life (losing vs. failing).

    1. Swingy ice is a thing, and it doesn’t even involve changing partners. I think your definition of “hurry hard” is as good as anyone’s.

  7. “He was given time and space to breathe. Wouldn’t it be nice if we always did that?”

    I always appreciate your insights… I had postponed reading this because I’ve never been an athlete, and I will NEVER be a fan of any team, but I should have trusted that one of my favorite authors would help me see the value in this sport. Nicely done!

    1. Wow, Denise–that was such a nice comment to read this morning. Thank you!

  8. I don’t know a thing about curling yet I found this fascinating. I love that the mascot is 78, love the lessons. Well done.

    1. The mascot is adorable. He may retire next year, after participating at the Brier in his hometown. I anticipate a fantastic sendoff.

  9. Love how you bring the sport to life with personal touches and how you draw ‘life lessons’ from it. The first time I saw curling on TV, to be honest I thought it looked hilarious. Then a retired Scottish lady stayed at my place and she was really into curling and talked about it for hours – all sorts of technical things which I never would have imagined, and also the camaraderie.

  10. “Losing is not the same as failing.” Too true! And how often do I forget that?

    “Family is what you make it to be.” I’ve always said that I have two families: the one I was born into and the one I made for myself. I can’t do anything about the family I was born into but the family I made? Oh yeah. Each and every person in that family was carefully chosen and is as precious to me as air.

    I love curling and it makes me sad I only get a chance to see it once every four years. Thanks for the peek at the wisdom and life lessons behind the sport.

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