On the rare occasion, a top-level curling game will be tied after the end of regulation. Like many other sports, overtime in curling is sudden death. The first team to score walks away with the win. However, like the NFL’s overtime, there is a decided advantage with getting your hands on the rock at a certain time. Opposite to a football game, if a curling team throws second and has the final stone of the extra end, they have a decided advantage over their opponent. And, typically, if the extra end finishes in a tie, the game goes to a closest draw to the button contest to win. That’s the curling equivalent of a shootout. It’s not been an issue of contention yet but with it being an event with big Canadian hopes, the added focus could result in a crisis if a nation feels screwed. So what’s the best solution? I tell you after the jump.
First, it would help to understand how a team gets hammer. When I used to curl at a reasonably competitive level (I was the skip of my high school team), the winner of a coin toss got choice of whether to shoot first or second in the first end. After that point, the team that is scored on will get the last rock in the following end. Therefore, the team that is scored on in the final end of regulation has a massive advantage in the extra end because they will have the final stone. Having the last rock provides the advantage of being able to react to your opponent’s moves rather than have to anticipate them and having better opportunity to capitalize on a misthrown rock. Not to mention the fact that the last shot is the last shot and the other team can’t do anything to stop you after it leaves the skip’s hand.
The way to make breaking a tie in curling more than just shit luck is the same way that the NFL should be making sure that its overtime isn’t based on shit luck. That is by looking to NCAA football and the CFL for inspiration. What professional curling should do is play two extra ends with a full complement of eight rocks each. Toss a coin to decide who chooses whether to shoot first or second. Even that isn’t perfectly fair but the second extra end provides more opportunities for both teams to score and make up for having the first stone in the second end.
The other question that remains would be should both teams get the hammer during the extra ends. After all, in football overtime a turnover returned for a touchdown ends the game. Should a steal in the first end mean that the game should end? No. Even if both teams got the hammer, the team that got stolen on can steal right back. By giving both teams the hammer, it encourages aggressive play from both teams. If it was just one extra end, the team with the hammer can play conservative knowing that the first shooting team has to try something off the wall to steal the winning point. Both teams getting the hammer over two ends puts everyone on as level a playing field as possible.
And if it’s still tied after that, then we go to the gimmicks. A tie after two extra ends should lead to more extra ends but two full extra ends could take forever. That’s when I look at what we did in high school. (Bad place to look but you’ve got to try new things to pre-emptively fix a problem that likely will be a problem.) Every extra end after the second would be half ends. In other words, they’d play four rocks instead of eight. Ends would take half the time but each shot would pack twice the pressure. Sure beats the chances that the rock might catch a speck of lint or a rut in the ice that would send a single draw to the button awry.
Hardcore curling fans probably won’t like this proposal. I never said that they would. But should a gold medal be decided on how the rocks slide rather than the skill of both teams involved? One extra end makes as much sense as kick the rock and seeing who gets closest to the button. It’s all chance and little skill.