Wednesday, March 23, 2011

March 6, 2011

I’ll start off with a correction from last week’s column. I stated that it was the Pat Simmons rink that will be representing Saskatchewan at the Tim Horton’s Brier in London Ontario but, in fact, Pat Simmons throws the skips’ stones for the Steve Laycock rink which is representing Saskatchewan at this year’s Brier. Steve Laycock is a former Saskatchewan, Canadian and World Junior Champion (2003) and was named that tournament’s All-Star Skip and his University of Saskatchewan team won the 2006 Canadian University Curling Championship as well. He also played lead on Pat Simmons’ Provincial Curling Championship teams in 2007 and 2008.
The structure of the team is a little confusing to me though, kind of like that old Abbott and Costello routine about baseball-“Who’s on first?”; with the third throwing last and the last throwing third and who knows what’s happening with one and two. Regardless of who throws which rocks when--Go Team Saskatchewan!
Continuing on with the curling theme, I’ve been watching some of the Tim Horton’s Brier and it seems to me that things are a little different today than they used to be. Gone are the old style curlers of bygone days that looked like everybody’s Uncle Joe. You know, smoke hanging out of one side of their mouth and a broom straw out of the other side and a beer belly concealing a good portion of the front of their pants. Now a lot of the curlers, especially the front end sweepers, are built like martial arts fighters or body builders.
I know I shouldn’t be making such generalizations but it just stands to reason with today’s fitness options available to the players, and the fact that they play about nine months of the year, that you’d have to be in pretty good shape to play this game at that level.
Curling isn’t the only sport where there have been vast improvements in the fitness conditions of the athletes. Take baseball and ol’ Babe Ruth for example. Hot dogs, beer and tobacco were his choice of performance enhancing substances and The Babe played at the top of his game for twenty-plus years, hitting balls out of ballparks at record numbers.
Mickey Mantle, Billy Martin and Whitey Ford drank, smoked and caroused into the wee hours of the New York nightclub scene while winning most of the World Series for the Yankees in the 1950s.
Then take a look at Barry Bonds who increased his hat and uniform size by about seven sizes from when he entered the league in 1986, as a rookie, to his retirement in 2007 and still steadfastly refuses to admit that he “knowingly” took anything other than booster juice, or something, despite all the hard evidence to the contrary. “Seriously, you know, I don’t have a clue about how that hypodermic needle got lodged into my buttock. I must have sat on it or something.”
Then again, pay someone 15.8 million dollars a year to play a game (Bonds last contract with the San Francisco Giants) and anyone would just about do anything, say anything, eat anything or inject anything to make sure they could play the game. Good old greed is a hell of a motivator.
I am not in any way implying that these new-age curlers are doing anything more than hitting the gym hard, eating right and slurping down protein shakes but, like all things, the game has evolved over time and competitive athletes are always looking for an edge.
"I never asked Greg (Anderson). When he said it was flaxseed oil, I just said, whatever.”
Source: Bonds’ Grand Jury Testimony, Dec. 4, 2003.

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