Rachel Homan at the Elite 10 …

So, as I talked about a few weeks ago, Rachel Homan played in the Elite 10 curling tournament, playing against men’s teams and … she didn’t get destroyed. Except for the first game. She did manage to win one game to go 1 – 3 in the round robin — which left her short of the playoffs — but the team she beat was … the team that everyone beat in her … division? … and she only beat that team by 1. She managed to keep the other two games kinda close, and because of that and her one win it’s being portrayed as a great success and an indication that she really can play with the men and deserves to be on the same ice as them. Which, to me, is an odd statement, as it says that what may be the best women’s team in the world — who isn’t going to the worlds this year — can play at the level of, at best, an average men’s team.

The Elite 10 is also odd because of its format — it’s match play — and thus, as I watched it, ended up looking a lot like the women’s game and so less like the men’s game (and I caught parts of the Briar so I do remember what that game is like [grin]). Because blank ends or taking one didn’t give you the end and so only caused you to lose the hammer, the typical heavy-weight style of men’s curling — which is to “blast” everything if you’re getting in trouble — didn’t happen as often, so the men’s teams let rocks stick around more in the hopes of either stealing or getting two. Even forcing an opponent to one point wasn’t all that great, as holding hammer meant that you had to score two and so that you had to play with more rocks in play. Add to that all of the extra — and in my opinion, stupid — rules that the Elite 10 added, and this was, to my mind, the ideal game for a women’s rink to compete in, as the rules led to there being more come-arounds, raises, and taps instead of doubles and triples (although Homan pulled off a quadruple in the game she won). And the best Homan could do is not get slaughtered — except for the first game — and get one win against the team that wasn’t beating anyone in the round robin. That’s … not that great.

And. given that, it’s fairly clear that if she played in a regular tournament against the men, she probably wouldn’t fare as well. At the end, when Brad Gushue merely needed to force a push to win the game outright, his up-weight allowed him to leave her absolutely nothing, even with the rule that you can’t move rocks off the centre line until after 5 rocks had been played. As soon as they were able to run the guards, they ran absolutely everything leaving Homan no place to hide and so no chance at stealing. I didn’t see her game against Thomas, but it’s quite likely that in a more normal curling game he would have at least beaten her.

Some thoughts on some things said while I was watching (from memory):

Kaitlyn Lawes — the third on Jennifer Jones’ team — was commenting for a while, and she commented that this format worked in Homan’s favour, because you only needed to get the requisite points — a steal or two points if you had the hammer — and so if you stole more or scored more that wasn’t counted. Yeah, and if Homan would have given up big ends but still managed to squeak out a win, that would be bad, because it would indicate that she really couldn’t compete at all with the men but that the format is keeping it artificially close. You would think that Lawes wouldn’t want to draw attention to that.

Rob Faulds commented on people saying that this was a gimmick that it wasn’t a gimmick because Homan can curl. Yeah, the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

As I commented above, the format here minimized the weight advantage — again, insert your own joke here — but both Lisa Weagle and Rachel Homan commented on something that I missed (and should have thought of) which is the advantage the men have in sweeping the rocks due to their greater strength. Homan’s team are among if not the best sweepers in the women’s game, and Homan pointed out that in the first game they tried to take the same ice as the men took and kept racking because of the greater ability of the men to keep rocks straight and drag them further, and even to curl them more.

All in all, I only watched any of the Elite 10 to watch Homan’s rink, and I’ll probably never watch one again. So, the gimmick worked on me … except I would have watched a women’s tournament anyway. So, yay?

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3 Responses to “Rachel Homan at the Elite 10 …”

  1. Andrew Says:

    Every so often, there’s are complaints that womens’ sport doesn’t pay at the same level as mens’ sport. Generally speaking, men watch womens’ sport for the same reason they watch children’s sport: a connection to the players or a general love of the activity. This is also true of mens’ sport, but mens’ sport contains an additional drive: as a proxy for competition at a level at which the watchers are unable to perform. The big bucks come from being the best, not just the best within some restricted format.

    Even in something like motor racing, I expect men have a biological edge: an elite race driver is must maintain focus for an extended period of time, and also just enough but not too much aggression. Even this seems to play to mens’ physiological advantages.

    (Also worth noting that competitive sport is not ‘average’ vs ‘average’, but extreme vs extreme. Homan seems to be a much better curler than most men, but what ultimately matters is the size and quality of the elite remainder.)

    • verbosestoic Says:

      Considering how much attention is paid to weight in many/most motorsports, I would have thought that the lower average weight would have been an advantage. It doesn’t seem to be working out that way, though …

      Pretty much everyone on the professional curling circuit is much better than the average person, but whether Homan is better than the average professional male curler is up for debate, because she only managed one win in a format that favoured her style of play and discouraged the sort of play that she couldn’t really keep up with (ie “blasting”). She’s a very good curler, but there’s good reason to think that she’d be bottom of the pack in most non-match play competitions playing against the men. Which, truthfully, is a GOOD thing; if women’s curling was merely an inferior men’s game, I wouldn’t care so much.

      BTW, you miss the one extra appeal that women’s sports can rely on: sex appeal, which is much derided every time anyone brings it up but if the women’s sport is merely an inferior men’s sport that is indeed a way to get more people to watch them.

  2. Commentary on Women Playing with the Men | The Verbose Stoic Says:

    […] as I noted last week, I watched Rachel Homan playing in the Elite 10. What was surprising about that was not the […]

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