Tuesday, June 24, 2014

3rd Annual (Wilmington) Beachspiel: Recap

Now in its third year, the Coastal Carolina Curling Club's "Beachspiel" has more or less become a sort of "party bonspiel". That is to say, some people attend more for the party than for the curling. For many people, that's why they come, and that's great!

For me, though...I don't know. Over the last couple of years, as I've started traveling less frequently to out-of-town bonspiels, I've felt more detached from the traveling curling circuit, I guess you could call it. Travel to a bunch of bonspiels across the Southeast - as a lot of people in our club, and other regional clubs like Charlotte, do - and you start seeing the same people over and over again. Curlers are pretty swell people, so this is a good thing, if you make the effort to keep up those relationships. Once you start dialing back the curling traveling, though, you start feeling like more of an outsider compared to before, because you don't necessarily know as many people as everyone else does, and you haven't been going to all of the other bonspiels like everyone else has. At least, that's how it feels for me. I don't really feel like as much a part of the broad curling community as I used to. Let's just say, priorities have changed, and the truth is, it's not like there are many parents of young children at these things. Our club has had a lot of young adults join and really get into it, but once they started having kids, they never came back. At least Amber and I are still curling at all, right?

Okay, now that I have that out there, let's talk about the curling! In past Beachspiels, our team has finished 1st and 2nd overall. How about this year?

For those who know the club, my team lineup was: Chris J. at Skip, me at Vice, Andrew F. at Second, Ken K. at Lead. (I don't like spelling out full names in my blog, for privacy reasons, and because I don't want my blog to come up in Google searches for other people.)

Career game #249: Beachspiel Game 1 - June 22, 2014
(my team: "Triangle")

End........... 12345678 |TTL
Triangle...... 10111201 | 07
Charlotte..... 01000010 | 02

A 3-game, 16-team tournament isn't long enough for a full bracket single-elimination format, so instead, the Beachspiel is a "pointspiel": 5 points for a win, 1 point for each end scored, 0.25 point for each point scored in the game. So, we earned 12.75 points in the standings for this game (5 for the win + 6 ends scored + 1.75 for our 7 points scored). Taking 6 out of 8 ends is great given the point system, but teams in other games actually did even better, and so we were only in 3rd place after the first round of games.

It doesn't feel like we dominated the game, and we didn't, really; we just made a few key shots. The Charlotte team was a worthy opponent and actually went on to win their last two games, and I think finish ahead of us in the final standings. So, I suppose the draw wasn't entirely lucky from our perspective, given that we got a tough opponent in our first game.

Luck wasn't really on our side today in general. We actually lost the coin flip in all three games. But, can't really blame luck for the next result:

Career game #250: Beachspiel Game 2 - June 22, 2014
(This was against a different Charlotte team than the first game.)

End........... 12345678 |TTL
Triangle...... 00001001 | 02
Charlotte..... 11210220 | 09

This is our third year here and we hadn't really had a bad game yet, so it was bound to happen eventually. Couldn't get our weight, couldn't figure out the ice, highly skilled opponent that made take-out after take-out, while we were unable to counter. (Games 1 and 3 were on Sheet A, which we had figured out pretty well; Game 2 was on a different sheet, which we could not figure out at all. By the way, the ice folks at Coastal do the best they can given the time and resources they have, but without things like an ice scraper on hand, what you get is still going to be "arena ice" with falls and whatnot.)

But hey, at least we won two ends! That ended up being key, because that put us in the top 8 after two games (barely), which put us in the final draw instead of the penultimate draw. So, that's something? It would have taken something truly miraculous for us to finish on the podium at this point, though.

Career game #251: Beachspiel Game 3 - June 22, 2014

End............ 12345678 |TTL
Triangle....... 00410102 | 08
Wauwatosa, WI.. 13001010 | 06

A last-end win wasn't miraculous, certainly, but it was a solid end to the day, and it was good enough to move us up into 6th place overall. That's our worst Beachspiel finish in three years, but still plenty respectable, especially given that we played three tough teams. Under a different set of circumstances, our team could have contended for the win. Another Triangle team (skipped by Murray J.) won the trophy for the second straight year, making it three Triangle wins in three Beachspiels. Maybe one year, we'll actually get to play Murray head-to-head at this thing?

So, even though I talked about how I feel like the bonspiel circuit might be leaving me behind, I still want to make the Beachspiel a priority, for a couple of reasons: 1) It's the closest out-of-town bonspiel we have, and that's not going to change. As long as they keep having it, of course. 2) Because at both bonspiels, teams who participated last year usually get the first opportunity to sign up next year, and I'd like to keep our spot.

More on that last point. As the sport of curling has grown, bonspiels in places like Knoxville, Charlotte, Maryland, and Pittsburgh, are getting more popular, and as a result, harder and harder to get in to. Registration opens, and then it fills almost immediately. Teams from the previous year always get priority, and since these events are getting so hard to get in to, they almost always renew their spot, because if they don't, it may be years before they get it back. The end result is that it's getting extremely difficult to get in to bonspiels in which I've never participated before. It can be done, but it either takes a lot of planning (which is hard to do too far in advance when you have children) or having connections (see paragraph #2 above; also, people pretty much assume that I can't join their bonspiel team, which is generally correct, but, still). Bonspiels up north are more plentiful and are actually easier to get into, but the farther north you go, the tougher the curling gets. Sure, it'd be fun to attend a bonspiel in Minnesota...if I was a better curler. (A much better curler.) And, of course, it's harder to get to a bonspiel far away from home, and I've also found it's significantly harder to find teammates who want to go more than a few hours from home, even to places that are relatively close by our standards (e.g. Ohio). But most of all, I either have to leave my family and go alone, or if Amber wants to curl with me, we need child care, and that's actually a bigger hurdle to bonspieling than anything else. (Which is why you don't see many parents of young children at these things.)

So, I've generally concluded that out-of-town bonspieling is more trouble than it's worth. As much as I'd like to curl in Knoxville's "Rocky Top" bonspiel, for instance, it's just too hard to get in, plus all of the other obstacles, and I've basically given up on it. But I'll try to keep going to the Beachspiel as long as I can, if nothing else for reasons of convenience. Besides, once we have our own curling ice here in Durham, there will be less reason for me to travel for curling anyway.

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