Thursday, February 23, 2006

Canadian Province Shuts Down Schools for Curling Final!

School children in the entire Canadian Province of Newfoundland and Labrador have an unexpected half-day off tomorrow.

They will be sent home at noon in order that they (and presumably teachers and school staff) can watch the Olympic Men’s Curling Finals live on television.
Naturally, a rink from Newfoundland (and Labrador) is competing in that match.

Being that I do not have a child attending school in that province, I think this is a marvelous idea.

Yes some parents will have to scramble for alternate arrangements, or perhaps they can use this as an excuse to take the afternoon off themselves. Some things are just more important than work – or school – and this is one of them.

To me, it’s less about the sport per se than the chance to have a shared community or family experience. These opportunities are way too rare nowadays.

In an era of hundreds of channel choices, ipods that customize your music and websites that bring you just what you’re looking for, there is little cultural commonality and what there is, usually sinks to the lowest common denominator of commercialism and sensationalism.
Attending professional sports events has become too expensive for many, and the attitude and behaviour of many multi-zillionaire players does not exactly provide the best role model.

But here we have the Olympics, showcasing (apart from the Canadian men’s hockey team) mostly struggling young athletes, excited to compete on the world’s most prestigious stage for the chance to stand on the podium and hear their country’s national anthem.
(Not to mention, score some lucrative endorsement contracts later on, but that doesn’t take away from the moment we see on TV.)

While curling isn’t known worldwide as a sexy sport, it’s much revered in parts of Canada, particularly the West and Atlantic Provinces.
(I don’t know why the frenzy largely bypasses the center of the country – I grew up near a curling club but almost never set foot in there except for ice skating lessons my mother made me take which failed miserably.)

Anyway.

These students will probably remember the afternoon when the Brad Gushue rink won the gold (or silver) medal a lot longer than they would remember the lessons taught in school that day. They will treasure the memory of watching with their parents or friends, sharing the excitement, learning life lessons from the expressions on the faces of the competitors and their stories of how they got from the obscurity of Newfoundland to the world stage. They will learn how to deal with pressure, success, and possibly loss and how to be graceful no matter what the outcome.

I applaud Education Minister Joan Burke for a very wise decision.