He may be the 2013 National Curler of the Year because of his incredible ability to place the rock in just the right spot, but that’s not why I think Brady Clark deserves the title. It’s because in the middle of the 2014 Winter Olympics, with the curling competitions taking place, Brady had the right perspective.
It would have been easy for him to be brooding since his team failed to qualify for the Sochi Games a couple of months ago. Clark, 36, knows he and his teammates are definitely worthy competitors. Heck, they’ve beaten many of the teams that competed in the Olympics in the past couple of years, so you know Team Clark is legitimate.
It would have been easy for him to be brooding, but he’s not that type of guy.
On two evenings this past week when I went down to the Granite Curling Club to watch Team Clark play in club league play, and then to pitch some stones with Brady, followed by some time in the upper club lounge overlooking the ice, he was more than hospitable, buying the round, talking curling politics, poking fun at his teammates and that night’s competition that was enjoying the camaraderie.
But this is nothing new for Brady.
For evidence of his sincerity and commitment to the sport of curling, I need to take you back to last May when I was aspiring to be a writer for The Herald. It was on a busy evening in late May, when Brady and his family trekked over to the Granite Curling Club in north Seattle from their Lynnwood home, unlocked the place, and turned on the lights so I could hang out with Brady on the ice.
Then with the interest of a master diamond cutter working on the Cullinan Diamond, Brady spent the next one and half hours taking a real rookie — me — through the subtle things that make him and his team one of the best in the world.
And this guy was not faking the interest. From the time he arrived at the rink last May after a full day of work at Liberty Mutual, along with Cristin, his wife, and Sean, their 2-year-old son, Brady was all about curling.
He didn’t have to do this.
Heck, a random middle-aged nobody from out of the blue emails the curling club president and asks if anyone would be willing to give enough lessons to be able to legitimately participate in some competition in the future and THE National Curler of the Year, a guy who has a busy life outside of his sport, willingly volunteers to do it?
That’s an ambassador for the sport.
But Brady Clark simply radiates curling and humility. In fact, if you listen to him, his wife may be a better curler than he. And he’s OK with that. Actually, without Cristin, much of Brady’s success wouldn’t have happened. As successful as he has been with his men’s team that just missed a trip to Sochi, it’s really in the mixed doubles competition where the Clarks have left a lasting legacy.
Just take a look around Granite Curling Club and you almost walk away thinking that it is the Clark family’s own shrine, there are so many championship pictures, trophies, and banners with the Clark name or image displayed. The list of accomplishments is long and illustrious — 14 state titles and nine national titles in mixed doubles curling. Not a bad run for Brady and Cristin. Brady has also played in nine national men’s championships, winning in 2013.
For all of their success, the Clarks couldn’t have been more willing to help out a complete stranger, which I found so refreshing in this day and age of big-time athletes and even bigger egos.
Last week, during the peak of the Sochi Olympics, the Clarks finished up their mixed doubles league game, and then Brady spent time with me on the ice reminding me of what he had taught me last spring. The details of the correct hold of the stone’s handles, the correct stance in the hack, the critical explosion out of the hack, and the gentle, yet powerful, release of the stone toward the house.
Afterwards, we went up to the lounge where both Brady and Cristin gave me details of the game of curling most Americans watching the sport have no idea about. As we talked, the Sochi Games women’s semifinal game between Canada and Great Britain was taking place on the big screen. Every once in a while, Brady would interject a little color commenting about the game on the television. We talked about the evolution of the sport, the bright future for curling, and the Clarks’ own dreams.
Brady gave me first-hand, inside information on the disposition of the men’s Canadian team that won gold in Sochi. It was stuff you won’t hear or see on the Canadian television station.
As the three of us sat watching a sport that the Clarks have put their heart and soul into, one in which Brady easily could have been participating in this week on the biggest stage, it gave me a moment to pause and consider how tenuous the title of National Curler of the Year is, but how deserving Brady is of the honor.
In one week, Team Clark heads to the national championships in Philadelphia. The U.S. Olympic curling team will be there. And as we sat in the lounge following Team Clark’s league game, you could tell that they want nothing more than to get one from Team Shuster.
Something tells me, though, that regardless of the outcome at nationals, Brady Clark will be the same guy when he returns to the Granite Curling Club after March 8.