Most of you will know that for some time now I've been banging on about dark coloured team uniforms and how these are doing a disservice to our sport. I was challenged recently. "What right do you have to tell us what we should, or should not, wear on the ice?"
Let's just say that this was something of a red rag to a bull, and this is my response. We don't usually do editorials on Curling Today, but I'm making an exception. Here goes!
I have every right to voice my opinion! I love our sport, and when I see others bringing our sport down, I get grumpy, very grumpy. You see, at the weekend, we saw a breakthrough here in Scotland with a huge step forward in the capability for webcasting from a major event. Yes, there are still problems to overcome, particularly in the commentary sound quality and background noise. But all credit to Alex Mitchell and his team for making this happen. The production side of things can only get better. CurlTV standards are what is being aimed at. Webcasting is the way forward for the sport. We've made a start here.
But screen resolution is not high and we need to see clearly who is playing on the ice. If both teams are wearing dark coloured uniforms then there really is no point in watching! I would even say it's a complete waste of time even attempting to screen these games.
Webcasting has tremendous potential for attracting new fans to the sport. It provides a vehicle to support sponsors and advertisers, and the game needs these. But who will watch black bin bags - as that's what it looks like - moving about on a small screen? The players need to stand out. The teams have to be easily identified. The sport has to look, dare I say, colourful!
Big television recognises this. When it comes to showing the Scottish finals, the BBC has the clout to insist on teams wearing contrasting bright colours, for good reason.
So, who were Scotland's garbage bags at the weekend? At the Edinburgh International, what were the Scottish teams wearing?
Warwick Smith - black
Peter Loudon - black
Alan Smith - black
Keith Prentice - black
Graham Shaw - black
Colin Hamilton - black
Jamie Dick - navy
Those home sides who brought some colour to the game were:
David Murdoch - red
Tom Brewster - red
David Edwards - orange and black
John Hamilton - blue
Hammy McMillan - blue
Six of twelve teams wearing all black uniforms. Another dark navy. It's sad really. Six teams having so little initiative that they are all wearing the same is bad enough. Evidence that Scottish curlers are like sheep, and black ones at that!
Black is what you wear when you are going to a funeral. And unless these teams know something I don't, Scottish curling is not terminally ill.... yet!
The above mentioned are not the only culprits in our sport. I'll not name the others. They know who they are. And don't get me started on wheelchair curling, many of whose participants are missing a great opportunity to promote their sport as an attractive one to participate in. Dull and drab it is there for the most part.
There is some evidence from 1988, see here, that in sports such as ice hockey and American football, black uniforms increase aggressiveness. But do we need curlers to be body checking their opposition, or the umpires? I think not. There's enough banging of brushes and damaging the ice already by players who seem to think it makes them look better if they vent their emotions. Baby behaviour, really. But I digress.
By writing this am I going to make a difference? Probably not, but I would like to think I can just get these guys to stop and think for a moment what damage they are doing to our great sport. It's been fun to joke about until now, but, now that I've seen the webcasts, what you wear on the ice in the future is going to be very significant. We need every fan, every advertiser, every sponsor. Wearing black risks losing these, and that's important.
Someone told me recently to 'lighten up' about this. With respect, it's not me that needs to lighten up!
Right, Grumpy's just about done for now. But let's just have a look at some of Scotland's black sheep and ask whether any might just agree with what I've written here. I want to hear your views. There's a thread on the Scottish Curling Forum if you want to defend your position. And if any of you reading this do agree, lend me your support. Ban the black bin bags, I say. Dump the drab! Let's have some dress sense and stop being dour Scots!
This is the problem. What's attractive about what Keith Prentice is wearing? Now, Keith is a well respected figure in the game, a World Senior Champion, and now making a name in coaching young teams. His third player, Lockhart Steele, is an ice rink manager and member of the Royal Caledonian Curling Club Board of Directors. Here then we have two of the most influential curlers in Scotland. Surely they appreciate that the image that the game presents is important? Why do they wear black? Do they care? I worry that they don't and that they think it is all a joke. Time to lighten up, guys, and set an example.
Mike Dick, former Scottish Champion, now coach to his sons Jamie and Colin, takes his sport seriously, a fine player, a great guy. He was third player to Colin Hamilton at the weekend. Colin (another photo is here) is of course the Royal Club's Manager of Competitions. A huge worker for the sport in this country - and always wears black on the ice. Would it not be great if these two could see the need for teams wearing smart, attractive uniforms?
And what nonsense is this? I looked and didn't at first recognise who it was! It is Logan Gray - someone whose day job it is to promote the sport, as an Area Development Officer! What's worse of course is that his skip is Peter Loudon, chairman of the organising committee of the next event to be webcast, the Ramada Perth Masters. Peter, if you want to improve the image of the sport, and get people to come to Perth to see some great curling (five Canadian teams, I'm looking forward to it), and also watch the webcast, then hopefully you realise that you should bin your own black outfits, and start to persuade other Scottish teams that what they look like on the ice is important! Set an example.
And it could all be so different!