Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Most Common Rule Violation Follow Up

This is a first! I've never written an entire posting as a follow up. If memory serves, I believe I did say that there would be comments about the premise of the previous blog. Little did I know the extent of the comments.

I'm pleased to report, as I suggested late in the posting, there are more curlers out there wondering about the practice of brushing the intended path of an opposition stone (or their own for that matter) before it's set in motion. A good friend from Halifax, NS sent me an email indicating that the junior curlers in his/her facility asked about that particular situation citing the rule that I highlighted in my posting. Well, to those junior curlers, good for you! It's clear you care about playing this game by the rules!

What follows below is a typical comment that I received followed by my reply.

If we get technical about it, the player isn't sweeping the stone, but cleaning the ice of debris, which I believe isn't against the rules.
Getting "technical" is the point! Removing "debris" from the path of a stone "which has been set in motion" is the purpose if "brushing" (by the way, we no longer "sweep" and haven't for quite some time [don't know why our rules still use that word]). When this is done to an opponent's stone along a definite exit path from the stone's "stationary" position it "technically" violates the rule cited. The key word is "stationary" and if the opposition stone, in its stationary position, happens to be in front of the tee line, a second rule is "technically" being violated.
Another comment mentioned that in a players' meeting, the official indicated that it was OK to lightly clear debris from the intended path of a stationary stone. I mentioned in my reply to the reader who sent that comment that I'm pleased the official clarified that point but as I thought more about it, I'm going to withdraw my approval. It's not the official's role in my view to decide which rules to apply and which to ignore. It may be OK with him/her personally but not in the role of an official pledged to uphold the rules, all the rules, as printed. If interpretation is required, that's the role of the committee charged with that responsibility.
Not that curling should follow the precepts and philosophies of other sports (it bothers me when one begins the dialogue about a curling rule by citing another particular sport) but that said, I applaud basketball in that it has a "rule book" and a "case book". The latter interprets the rules and their practical application. Perhaps our rules need be have an addendum which interprets and applies the rules as printed.

Most of the comments centered around the practice of clearing the path of a shot from the delivery end of the ice, not the playing end (the end of the sheet where the stones have come to rest). Those who made comments about front ends clearing the path of a stone to be delivered cited this accepted practice as justification for clearing the path of a stationary opposition stone, intended to be moved or removed in the house. I don't feel that is justification and here's why. The stone to be delivered is not an opponent's stone, it belongs to the players clearing the path. Also, it's not a stone that's "in play". It's not considered so until its "leading edge reaches the near tee line".

My last line of the initial posting suggested that it will generate lots of comments. That indeed has occurred but not only many comments but a record number of readers (to date it's just south of 500). I also suggested in that posting that perhaps I'm the only one to really care about this. Well, that too seems not to be the case.

Now, I have a confession (confession is good for the soul I'm told). My tongue was firmly planted in my cheek when I wrote the posting. As I indicated, I trust curlers. No one "intentionally" breaks a rule. This is common practice. I get that, but let's clarify that practice in the rule book so those juniors in Nova Scotia know what to do to maintain the integrity of the rules of a great game.

Before I leave you today, I want comment about a rule that was changed regarding the backline.

The position of a stone in relation to the backline previously was determined by the final resting place of the stone. As we know, as a stone comes to rest, many times it "spins" back. Sometimes a stone that has exited the house, spins back at the end of its journey to come to rest biting the 12' circle. Depending upon ownership of said stone, that's either good or bad! :) When it came to determining if a stone was to be removed from play in relation to the backline, an official, if called upon, could examine whether the stone was clear of the backline or not by examination and the official's ruling was final.

But, that rule has been changed, I believe to be more in line with sidelines. When a stone reaches the sideline, it's to be removed from play immediately. Sidelines come in two versions, dividers (be they wood, sponge or some other solid material) or actual lines. No problem there because a stone is not headed toward the scoring area (i.e. house). But that's not the case with the backline.

Now, when a stone clearly crosses the backline, it's to be removed from play immediately (rule 13-2). Sounds OK but consider this. A stone is moving very slowly toward the back edge of the house along the centerline. The opposition third or skip is frantically brushing that stone (don't get me started) and as the stone approaches the back edge of the back line (which is also the edge of the scoring area), it makes that last second spin and clearly moves back to bite the 12' ring. The opposition contends that the stone "clearly crossed the backline" and is therefore to be considered out-of-play while the team to which the stone belongs contends it clearly did not cross the backline therefore it's to be considered "in play" (and in this case, in a scoring position). And let's say the score at the time is tied and it's the last stone of the last end with the Olympic gold medal on the line. I don't want to be the official called in to make that ruling unless I was in a position to see whether or not the stone clearly crossed the line. But what if it's a really important game to the two teams involved and there is no official? The rule as previously written was not perfect, but much better than the potential awkward situation the new rule poses.

No, I don't lay awake at night thinking about curling rules but if I can't sleep, I frequently go to my computer and write many of the postings for this site (by the way, it's a bright sunny day here in Sidney-by-the-Sea, BC and therefore despite what you might think, I'm wide awake).

1 comment:

  1. Bill, great couple of posts. I think my big pet peeve at my club is skips are sweeping opponents stones before the t-line, or sweeping at the line before the stone arrives. When I point out what they did, I always get brushed off, they believe they did it right!