December 01, 2008

Time for Scottish curling to emerge from the Dark Ages

Grumpy here.

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!


Anonymous said...

Quite agree Bob, Wheelchair curling needs bright colours - fleeces - can you help us source manufacturers who produce bright colours - we tried to change to mauve/purple but can't find fleeces this colour - hence we are boring in navy

Anonymous said...

Great article Bob! Its a shame really that the olympic team already have black outfits.

Alex Mitchell said...

The screen resolution is 608 x 342 and is at 16:9 ratio. This gives a picture size which can be used a full screen size without pixelating too much and can be view from a distance from the screen. I set it up as a 500kbs video feed and this was within the scope of most broadband connections for downloading purposes and the uploading from the ice rink. We did deliver >500Gb of feed out to all views over the weekend. I am still analysing data produced by the streaming servers at the moment.

I would agree with Bob Cowan regarding adding more colour to the sport. It would help the viewers ,producer and commentators identify the teams.

Double glazing or even thick glass can have a profound effect on the quality of image. Even with polarising filters on the cameras glass this was still was a problem. Reflections from the lit gallery is a problem and an area.
where 'dark clothing' would help there. The whole process of streaming can flatten the image too. The varying light levels across the ice can also have an effect on quality. It is not a television studio after all and one does not want the melt the ice by installing brighter lighting.

Problems with the sound are being taking onboard.

A very big thanks to the Junior Curling team who did a great job. If it is a shortage of skilled camera crew with the knowledge of curling which is stopping the BBC or STV from producing this for live tv coverage then look no further than the Junior Curlers for future camera crews . Great team and well done.

Sorry we could not get the Scots teams through to the final. It's just a bit beyond the technology we had in the gallery :-).

Thanks for viewing and hope you enjoyed the weekend.


Alex Mitchell. said...

Ooops, nearly for got , thank you to the brilliant ice team at Murrayfield Curling who increased their skills to fit the overhead cameras above the heads on 3 of the sheets. Well done there too.

Eric Eales said...

I agree that drab uniforms reflect poorly on the spectacle. Professional sports understand that they must pay attention to the audience if they are to survive, but in an essentially amateur sport, spectators have no advocates.

They can, and of course do, vote by paying little attention.

It should be part of the mandate of every sports administrator to do everything in their power to encourage participation, and that includes catering to spectators. The alternative is that sports are run as private clubs - perhaps not too far from the present mark.

I have long advocated colourful team jackets with embroidery for wheelchair curling. The team I organised made that their first expenditure from funds raised bu local sponsorship. It not only gave us a sense of identity, but added to our credibility when we sought out additional sponsorship.

To the commentator who says he can only find drab fleeces, I say wear a colourful ightweight jacket over them, and take pride in your appearance.

Eric Eales -

Anonymous said...

The company 'Lands End' have fleeces in a ret variety of clours including vivid plum, there are bright fleeces available from a number of suppliers and golf outfitters.

Anonymous said...

they should all play for england ...

Anonymous said...

but hey! I do look cozy! Must be all that heat retention from my black team outfit! ;) LG

Anonymous said...

Cozy? Naah.

More like a big gnome. Was going to say 'berk' but that has offensive origins see here:

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree with you more, Bob. Keep up the persuasion for brighter representatives. Colour - bright ones especially - can give a good psychological advantage over opponents.

Anonymous said...

Old school talk!
Black seen as cool by the younger generation. More likely to attract young curlers than lemon and tangerine hippies.
Let's address some important style issues like these old fashioned outdated Scotland overtops!

Anonymous said...

If you hate the fact that curlers wear black all the time, check out these fine gals:

Bond Girls Curling