We feel that curling is more interesting when the game is speeded up, hence recent time limit changes. Keeping TV viewers glued to their TVs is essential for solid advertising revenue. There is no doubt that curling could use the extra cash. More radical changes are needed, however, given our current level of attention deficit disorder. How about eliminating blank ends and imposing a 10-shot rule? But would traditionalists accept anything so radical?
Where to start? Well, it's worth noting that speeding the game up is just a means to an end not something desirable for its own sake. The end objective is to hold the attention of as many viewers as possible. This is the key decision criterion, so what other changes would further the goal of maintaining or enhancing viewer numbers?
Any objections to changes that rest on what the curlers like about the current game should not be weighted as heavily as our key decision criterion - how to maintain or increase viewer numbers.
What is more boring than watching a blank end? Good reason to tape the game so you can fast-forward through blank ends, which are actually more boring than the TV commercials. A possible change would be to switch last rock from team to team automatically after each end so there would be no incentive to blank an end just to have another chance at scoring more than one point. Teams would then take their single point if they were going to lose last rock in the next end anyway. This would put extra pressure on teams to try to get their 2 points or more when they have last rock. Currently, it's too easy to bail out in the middle of an end if getting 2 or more looks unlikely. Even more boring is deliberately blanking an end just to preserve last rock in the even ends. Of course, doing so is conventional curling strategy but blank ends are very boring to watch and not very conducive to maintaining viewer attention.
10 Rock Rule
Just as boring as blank ends is watching teams peeling off guards only to have them replaced, over and over. To make the game more interesting, we now have either a 4 rock or 5 rock rule, meaning that guards that are outside of the house cannot be taken out until after 4 or 5 rocks have been thrown. Increasing this "free guard zone" to 10 rocks means that only the second rock of the thirds could be used to take out guards. This would give teams a better change of building up a good scoring end. This rule should also apply to tick shots because they serve the same purpose as the straight peel, making the game more boring than if the guards were left in place until later in the end. Again, this would upset current curling strategy, but would satisfy the key criterion of increasing viewer interest.
These changes would make the game more challenging as well - it is harder to draw into a crowded house than it is to simply peel off guards. The team with last rock would have a better chance of scoring more than one and the game would then have greater potential to maintain or increase viewer numbers.
When you think of objections to these proposed changes ask yourself: "Am I basing my objection on a desire to maintain the traditional style of curling or am I really concerned about making the game as interesting as possible to viewers?" One objection would be that, if last rock switched automatically from end to end, it would be predetermined at the start of the game which team got last rock in the last end. However, it would be much easier to steal in any given end thanks to the 10 rock rule. Also, it increases the pressure to count more when you have last rock. The present situation of allowing a team to blank an end just to get last rock in the last end is too easy.
Revamping the Scotties and Brier
The current system of teams representing provinces can mean that the best teams are not always in the Scotties or the Brier. Some provinces have a number of superior teams. Tradition says let's keep giving all provinces and territories an equal chance to compete. But this is like the situation in international hockey before NHL players were used. The objective of including the latter was to have the best possible team competing in international events. But being competitive internationally is not the most important criterion, which is to maximize TV viewer numbers to maintain strong advertising revenue. Who wants to watch any international competition between B teams? Or worse: their A team and our B team?
A better format for the Scotties and Brier would be to take the top 6 to 8 teams based on national or world rankings and then have a qualifying round for the remaining spots. That means, if 10 teams are to be in the event, there would be 2 or 4 spots open to a qualifying round. There is no need for 12 teams if we don't have to accommodate all national regions. Bearing in mind the demand to make these events as interesting as possible, 10 teams would be better than 12. Then each team just has to play 9 games instead of 11. When an event is too long, the risk of people losing interest is greater. The qualifying round should be open to the next 10 teams maximum, across the country, based on rankings. It cannot be completely open or it would simply take too long.