I am just saying that every single elite athlete that wants to step onto that podium has to forego something in order to achieve those goals and the willingness to do this should not be looked down upon it should be applauded. Nobody should be given anything and nobody is owed anything. Hard work gets you to the top. We applaud the bobsledders, lugers, speed skaters, figure skaters and all of Canada’s Olympians who give up many years of their lives to win medals for themselves and their country in the Olympic games, why is it a bad thing when curlers do it?
The evolution of our sport is also one of the reasons for the diminishing number of playdown entries. I think it is safe to say that curling in the middle of the 20th century was a very flat structure. You had clubs filled with men’s, ladies and mixed leagues and most teams entered playdowns, because that is what curlers did. Above that there was still an elite group in the country that travelled around and competed against each other and those were the teams that often won the Brier (think of car spiels and some of the Bill Hunter big cash events of yesteryear). Curling was a rectangle with a little bubble of elite on top.
Take hockey as a comparison. Easy to say that Hockey is thriving in this country, and would easily be classified as a pyramid:
– The top of the pyramid would be the NHL (30 teams – 25 players on each team – 750 guys total)
– The next level would be affiliated professional teams like the AHL / ECHL (60 teams) and the KHL (28 teams)
– Minor professional leagues that are unaffiliated with any NHL teams throughout the States, Canada and Europe (too many to count)
– Organized leagues of senior hockey throughout Canada
– Beer leagues and weekend warriors
Curling in 2014 would loosely be made up of:
– Top 10-15 teams in the World who play in every grand slam and attempt to win national, world and Olympic titles
– Teams 20-200 teams who play on average 3 to 5 tour events per year and go into playdowns
– League curlers who play for the fun of the sport (over 200 clubs with curlers in various leagues in Canada alone)
– Weekend warriors and curlers who play in one or two fun events a year with friends or through their workplace
I have talked to a friend of mine who is involved in the day to day activities of a curling club here in Edmonton as an active board member for many years. He said leagues are still full, particularly open leagues; however the club curler who used to go into playdowns doesn’t anymore. Men’s and ladies leagues are often full however that is where their curling aspirations end; league play. In my mind that is a function of what people are looking for from curling. Playing in a men’s league does not mean you are trying to be one of the best in the world, it might just mean you enjoy the social aspect of being active and doing something with your time with your friends.