Molly: “So Mitch, if We Win the Bracket, are you taking us all to Disneyland?”
Me (in part stunned silence): “Ahhhhh”
Molly: “How about Vancouver”
Me: “How About Eagle River”
Molly: “How About Sitka, that’s still pretty close.”
Someone Else: “It’s probably cheaper to go to Vancouver”
Me: “How about a discount on a train to Seward?”
And so the ‘Dream that was Seward’ was set.
This weekend as part of the Fur Rendezvous (or Fur Rondy) activities, the Anchorage Curling Club held a bonspiel (Curling for Tournament – or more accurately, curling for drinking a whole weekend eating soup, chili, sandwiches, & vodka-soaked-gummy-bears, and occasionally curling a few stones). This is not my first bonspiel, and in fact is my one year anniversary of my first bonspiel. ((See also: Magic Curls T-Line Weight as Lead at the Speil))
Now remember – curling is a four person team sport, you have to have four people on your team. Depending on when they throw their rocks, they are called the “Lead” (because they lead off the end), Second, Third, and the Skip (who is generally the team captain and the one calling the shots).
During last season, I fell under the category of being “still a rookie”, most of which, including myself, weren’t confident enough to test the speil waters at first. But once we got a taste we wanted to keep doing bonspiels. The problem was trying to fit ourselves into a spiel team. It seemed most the time, you ended up with good people but since you didn’t typically play on their team or play the position you got. Bonspiels are different than normal games as well, since they are longer, faster, and more competitive. Even when we tried to put a team together in the off season with the purpose of playing in spiels, that fell apart (schedule conflicts, injuries, etc). So when you didn’t have regular people around you, it was easy to have your game fall to pieces. So much so, of the four people on our spiel team this weekend, in all our previous spiels (most of them separate from each other) we averaged less than a win in our whole Spiel history.
Let me emphasize that. You get a minimum of three games per Bonspiel. Between the four of us we probably had played around 20 bonspiel games, and have three wins. We’ve been skunked in more bonspiels than we won a single game in.
This time was a bit different. For Fur Rondy, we got a good team together of friends with the sole purpose of … well .. being a good team of friends. With me as the “Skip” and my league night 2nd (who instigates everything for some reason), we decided for a Lead to bring in a friend we started off with last season – the aforementioned Molly who is more widely known to Bearfeeders as “Strugglebus”. We wanted to play with her, so we forced her to play with us by even naming ourselves “Team Strugglebus”. The third was someone we have played with a good deal, and we knew she could fill in nicely. While it was a fun team, we still knew that we weren’t that good – so we set the really really low bar (though historically really really high bar) of “Winning One Game”.
On that first game – that goal was reached. In the end it wasn’t that close, but from a nerves standpoint my clenching stomach and anxiety would have told a different story. After the win, and after the time when it was clear we had been sportmanlike, courteous, and very curling-appropriate respectful to the other team, I kinda started celebrating like we just won the whole spiel.
We went on to go 2 wins & 3 losses, which is not only double the wins we thought we would get but had us playing more games then we could imagine. We kept playing deeper into the tournament and until we started missing when a good team started hitting were the favorites to take the Squirrel (aka the C-Rank … the lower talent level) Bracket.
Our matches were 8 Ends, and it is typical that if another team has the lead on you, you “shake hands” and call the game early – which means if you are really bad, you not only play just 3 games, you don’t get past the 5th End all that often.
We played really well as a team – and at times we were playing out of our minds good. Yes we only won twice, and both of those went to seven ends. But in our three losses we went all 8 ends twice, and six in the last. That includes a game where we had a shot (albeit a nearly impossible shot) to tie in the last shot of the game. One game we played a team that was won of the overall winners, with two of the best players in the club and two very capable team mates. I honestly believed playing beyond the 4th end would be a victory for us, yet we lead after 5 ends and were still solidly in it until the 7th End — while still a loss, was the best game I ever curled (or skipped for that matter). We became this team that wasn’t just fun to play with because we are fun people, we were fun to play with because we were a challenge.
It really was a blast this weekend! Without getting too girly (give me a break, 3 women on my team, some of that rubs off), I think I could have lived with one win and be done early – because that team was something special. We were friends, good friends, and that was first. We played together because we were together first. While we can spend hours moaning about this shot or that shot but we stuck together and supported each other for every end of every game. That was worth every win we could put on the board.
Even if the dream of Seward is dead.