The Secret Life of Skips - Part III - or Brain-Cramps on the Hollow Deck

The Rule of Thirds(1)

(1) LOSSES you don't deserve. The Midas Touch.

Everything you touch turns into a muffler.

No matter how GOOD you play, you'll somehow lose one-third of those games where your team is playing at its potential.You lose because of a: Hot opponent. Hair pick. Crucial miss. Brain-cramp in the 10th. Or maybe Voodoo. Black candles and dead chickens in the locker room before your game are rrrrr-Really bad signs.

Basically you feel ripped off after one of these. Thing One and Thing Two go to the hospitality suite, the skipper stomps around a strange city looking like a constipated Spaniel and the third isn't sure whether to RIDE shotgun or take him out to the woods and just HAND him the gun.

Let's say those games the team really puts it together add up to 24 games and you win 16. So you're 16-8 in these..

(2) WINS you don't deserve. The Gomer Mandate.

No matter how BAD you play, you'll win about one-third of these games. Bad opponent. Good opponent on a bad day. Lucky breaks. Making the right ones. You make a fluke or one big shot. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.

Let's say that's another 24 games. So you go 8-16 on those. Most of the time, we simply feel we deserve to win some of these - pay-back. Ok. Granted. But we don't really spend much time thinking about 'em as part of the bigger picture.

(Oh, and don't you just love it when it's the other way around, you play a good game and Gomer BEATS you that way. You have to sit there and listen to how well Gomer played. Shit-eating grins were invented in a curling club.)

Total record so far 24-24.

(3) The Warp Factor. Or...This is about skips - it should be self evident.
This covers all the rest of the games where you or your team are not at their best. The team is at say 80% (whatever) of its potential and experiences all of the ups and downs and emoting that can go with it. This is what makes most skips warped. They rate from 1 through 9 depending on history, past success, sense of humour, sensitivity, team tolerance, propensity to hula dance after a big shot, Thing One's release, Thing Two's release and so on....

This section really is not really for the high-performance teams who basically win a lot of shtuff - Ed, Marilyn, Russ, Connie, Brad or the world's first professional curling team, The Anaheim Quack-n-Quake. See winning shtuff regularly doesn't warp you quite as bad. This is for the rest of us, whose name appears in the paper after "Also entered in the spiel...."

Let's say that usually, in half of a decent team's games over a season (or even a Brier/Scott) the play at something short of its potential. The numbers are vary but lets' say 60 games in this example. The KEY to a successful season is winning a lot of these Say you win 80% of them - not unreasonable, really. 48-12.

Total record including (1), (2) and (3) - 72-36. Win pct 67%. In major league sports, that gets you a division title or maybe a tie-breaker at the Brier/Scott. But probably NOT a championship. There you are, on camera with all the other "former participants" before the Brier/Scott semi-final you're not playing in. You have a face on that looks like a bulldog chewing on a wasp. This is just before they call your name to walk out and accept the Sportsmanship and Ability Award.

At the end of the season you can say it was a pretty good run. But what happened? Woulda. Shoulda. It's about "Warping" games into a few good streaks.

This leads to the skip and the management of the ups and downs so you can win ugly fairly consistently.

The Picard Principle or Why do you think the crew follows a skinny, bald guy with a pointed head?

The problem is we play weekend cash and provincial tournaments which require streaks of 3 and 4 games. Win two, lose 1 over and over doesn't get you there. You have to be 8-1 (to win a provincial), not 6-3, depending on the format.

What's the answer? First you can't realistically expect to play terrible and win in tournaments. So forget the Midas Touch and the Gomer Mandate. Gifts can HAPPEN but don't count on it.

You must win more of the Warp games at the right time. Basically by winning by gutting it out and with some luck. It's all in how you handle these. Some skips (or teams for that matter) go numb and turn into Ensign Expendable - vulnerable - the guy on the away team that always gets shot. Why does he ALWAYS look so damned surprised? Others press and turn into Klingons, with obvious consequences - lotsa howling and blood. Some hire a New Age Betazoid-wanna-be coach-5th to get in touch with their feelings (basically to rant on the team or get flagellated in private).Imagine the average fifth-player-coach in one of Deanna Troi's cat-suits? Yikes. Spare me that and I promise I'll NEVER wear shorts in public again.

These Warp games, metaphor aside, are where streaks are born and sustained. Style is style. Pick one.

1. This has been adapted for curling from Tony LaRussa, Manager, St. Louis Cardinals as told to George Will in "Men at Work - The Craft of Baseball".