Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Curling, Lobsters, and Joan McCusker's Email

This is an old joke:lobsters in a bucket

A man watches a lobster fisher throw three lobsters into a bucket. Concerned, the man approaches the fisher and asks if he isn't worried that the lobsters will climb out because the bucket has no cover.

"No worries," replied the fisher. "These are Canadian lobsters. If one starts to climb out, the others will pull him back in."

And that's how it is in Canada. In the US, we learn to recognize and celebrate success. In Canada, that would be bragging. It takes some getting used to.

Last week the Scotties Tournament of Hearts was held in Regina, Saskatchewan. That's the Canadian Women's Curling championships. The winner goes on to represent Canada at the Worlds next month. The opening of the week-long championships marked the ten year anniversary of the Team Canada gold medal win at the 1998 Olympics in Japan. The winning team hailed from Regina. They became national icons ("heroes" would, of course, be bragging) over night.

Sandra Schmirler
The team was skipped by Sandra Schmirler, who died just two years later at the age of 36, of cancer. The Sandra Schmirler Foundation keeps her memory alive. The remaining members of that team, Marcia Gudereit, Joan McCusker, and Jan Betker, continued to curl at a high level, but were not able to win another national or international title.

Joan McCusker is now a commentator for CBC's curling coverage. I wish I had Joan McCusker's email, because I think she could help me understand something about Canadians.

Colleen JonesColleen Jones, certainly one of the best Canadian women curlers, won six Canadian championships, two World championships, and a couple of mixed Canadian championships. She is bright, articulate, and gracious. (At least she was gracious to me when I met her, and I'm pretty much nobody.) She was a tremendous representative for the sport and for Canada, and yet Canadians belittle her accomplishments because she chews gum while she curls. I kid you not.

Kelly ScottKelly Scott curls at the same curling club I do. She began this year's Scotties as two-time Canadian champion, and was looking for a third consecutive title. She is a lovely person; polite, generous with her time, gracious, and kind of funny. She doesn't show much emotion on the ice. Still, there were posts on curling forums, articles in newspapers, and general talk among curlers that Kelly and her team "didn't deserve" another championship. Why? Because she has a squeaky, annoying voice when she calls a game.

Help me out, Joan! We all know that Sandra Schmirler is now practically revered for her curling success (Oops! There's that word again!) and for her good nature.

What was it really like out there after 1998? Did the general public say things like, "They don't deserve another win because Sandra did..." whatever Sandra did? Did people complain about her glasses? Did they criticize her style of play?

Jennifer JonesWell, there's a new Team Canada now, this one led by Jennifer Jones. She doesn't chew gum. Her style of play is more aggressive than Kelly Scott's and Colleen Jones'. She's tall and thin and blond. Let the snarkiness begin.