Monday, May 2, 2016


In last night's (04/29/16) Champions Cup Grand Slam game (Simmons v. Laycock) curling showed why it is in a very different category from most sports and why those who play it at the highest levels, with significant rewards on the line, demonstrate strength of character and adherence to the culture of curling. Here's what happened.

On skip Simmons' last shot of the game, with the outcome very much on the line, his attempted draw was touched by one of his brushers as it was about to come to rest in the 8' circle. It was meant to guard the Team Simmons shot stone. By rule it was a "touched running (i.e. moving) stone". And, full credit to brusher Tom Sallows, he immediately indicated that he had indeed touched the stone. Team Simmons' role in the matter ceased at that point.

By rule, skip Laycoack had three choices, a) allow the play to stand as though the rule infraction had not occurred b) reposition all stones including the stone touched by the brusher where he thought they would have come to rest c) remove the touched running stone (repositioning any stones affected). Skip Laycock never hesitated in his selection of option "b" (he replaced the touched running stone to where in his estimation, it would have come to rest) and by doing so, made his last shot more difficult.

He missed that shot! And the handshake following demonstrated class on the part of both teams. There was no elation on the part of Team Simmons, just a nod of the head acknowledging the sportsmanship and a congratulatory (good luck in your next game) handshake on the part of Team Laycock.

For his part, skip Steve Laycock expected no accolades for the option he chose. He was certain had the situation been reversed, Pat would have done the same. End of story! Except, it isn't the end from my perspective.

Anyone watching who felt skip Laycock's actions were somewhat out of the norm, doesn't know nor understand the culture of this sport. I've written about this topic previously in a blog of the same name ("The Culture of Sport" [03/04/15]).

Lost in the annals of time, especially with sports like curling and golf, are the origins of the culture. I can't find any definitive reasons why a curler would chose the option Steve Laycock chose or why a golfer, with no one watching, would impose a penalty on him/herself for grounding his/her club in a hazard and yet we see this regularly. In fact, if you were to read the new book by arguably the most recognizable caddie in golf, Steve Williams, you may be surprised to learn of his disdain for a well known professional golfer who did not live up to the sport's culture.*

I'm not intending to wave the curling flag exclusively here as there are other sports that foster a culture of respect for rules, teammates, opponents, coaches etc. Sadly, there are some sports whose culture is something else. Parents would do well to consider the culture of the sport they are contemplating as an extra-curricular activity for their children. It can make a lasting impression on the values that child will take into the rest of his/her life including those all important friends and the influences they bring to bear.

Before I leave you today, one more point about the incident described above with Steve Laycock. He knew the rules, including the options available to him and knew exactly what had occurred. If you're a third/mate or skip and you're charged with the attendant responsibilities in and around the house, it's hard to make the ethical decision of you're not fully aware of what happened. There were some comments following the game on social media criticizing the official for not asserting his/her authority (i.e. removing the touched running stone). That's simply not the official's role. It was Steve's role. He knew it and immediately knew what to do (and he didn't see any need to confer with his teammates)!

But then I know Steve Laycock personally. I could have told you what he would do before he actually did it!

* Out Of The Rough: Inside The Ropes With The World's Greatest Golfers (Penguin Canada)
   ISBN - 10:0735232776


  1. Basically, the reversal of what happened in the 2016 Men's Worlds - USA vs. Japan...

    1. On the surface it would appear so but in conversation with a world class official while in Sweden recently, apparently it is the responsibility of the playing team (in this case Japan) to ensure that stones re-entering the field of play (i.e. rebounding from the foam dividers) do not negatively impact on stones still in play.
      Also, according to this official, this is not an offending/non-offending team situation. Mostly it's just an unfortunate one. I held to the view that neither team was responsible. Both teams in my view are obligated to ensure the prompt removal of stones when they are out-of-play. But, as previously stated, it's the playing team's responsibility!
      All that said, I agreed with TSN's Vic & Russ that the American stone that was "double touched" would not have come to rest in the house. Skip Shuster felt differently and that seemed to rule the day.
      I added in my conversation with the official in Sweden that the on site official, instead of standing in the midst of 8 curlers all expressing opinions, he should have asked for one representative from each team, taken them aside to deal with the matter.
      Damn those dividers, eh!!!! 😀

  2. Hi Bill, nice to be reading your posts again...missed you.

    I watched the game between Simmons and Laycock and yes it was a class move by Steve to place the rock where he felt it would have rested. it is nice to see that there are still gentleman of the sport playing the game.

  3. I had a somewhat similar Laycock moment this year in the Scottish seniors finals. We had a draw for two that needed to get full 12 to count out an opposition stone half in the twelve. As the stone came up to the house heading nicely to the tee, it picked, ground to a halt and ended up about half the twelve, a sure close look to know if it would still count and possibly a measure. However no one got to find out because the opposition 3rd without even looking at the stones and not a second's hesitation immediately gave us the deuce. Everyone was surprised but none of his teammates objected. It was beyond the rules but very much in the spirit of the game. The gods of curling will reward Colin Baxter, a real gentleman of our sport.

  4. I didn’t get chance of watching the live game, thank you for writing this blog to give us view of what happened there.