That’s what she said he said: A commentary about Ron Burgundy’s commentary

He came. He curled. He commentated.

He also licked a few donuts before giving them away, threw a rock that came to rest in the rings under the tutelage of Glenn Howard, and donned a traditional Scottish kilt inside the TSN booth.

Welcome to the busy and bizarre world of ‘legendary anchorman’ Ron Burgundy, who chose the Olympic curling trials as a tour stop for Anchorman 2. It was his first Canadian visit to promote the new movie – which opened December 18. It also put curling in the spotlight, introducing the sport to an audience that otherwise might not see it.

For a great game, that’s always a good thing.

Anticipation was in the air starting the night before opening ceremonies. Many were hoping he’d make an appearance on Saturday at the Roar of the Rings gala dinner, or perhaps the fan appreciation social at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. Even Movember organizers had been tweeting him to bask in some brotherly moustache love at their wrap event at the Pyramid. But his mo didn’t show. Not there or anywhere.

The first public glimpse of Burgundy came on Sunday morning. While curling’s opening ceremonies kicked off inside MTS Centre, he was outside, stepping out of a black limo onto a slushy Winnipeg sidewalk on a mild winter’s day.

IMGP1006He wore a burgundy-coloured sports jacket, which he later described as “high quality man-made fiber. I only wear man-made fibers. This one is a beautiful poly-blend, and I salute the craftsman.” On his chest was a vintage TSN logo. He strode confidently through the front door, unannounced and unassumingly, before disappearing into the depths of the building.

The curling crowd got to see Mr. Burgundy just before the start of the first draw, when he stepped out onto ice level, waving at the crowd, surrounded by an entourage of VIPs, media cameras, and pro curlers.

Glenn Howard, whom Burgundy later referred to as “one of the legends of the sport even though he is an ugly, ugly man,” gave some pointers before Burgundy crouched down in the hack and let one slide. The rock, that is. Not himself. Not at all. His stationary from-the-hack delivery was as unique to curling as Happy Gilmore’s swing was to golf. And somehow both seemed to work just fine.

IMGP1002“That’s a damn good throw!” he exclaimed, impressed with himself. The crow was impressed, too, pouring on the applause. He would later tell reporters “that was my goal, I was trying to make it to the 12-foot.” Not bad for his first rock thrown. Ever.

Apparently Burgundy ended up in Winnipeg at the biggest curling event in Canada because TSN offered him a choice of sports – football, hockey, curling, or “knife-throwing in Sask-atchewan” – and there was no question what he wanted to do.

“I chose curling because curling is where my heart is. I’ve always loved curling ever since I was a little kid growing up in Iowa, Hagglesworth, Iowa. We used to do a curling segment on the news in San Diego. No one watched it. In fact, viewership plummeted 33% during those times. But I stuck with it. I told our producers we gotta stick with curling. It’s the future.”

At one point Burgundy was asked the question about relocating to work at another station. “Would I ever take a job with CTV Winnipeg? Uh I would. It’s just unfortunate they’re going off the air. So sad to hear that breaking news this morning. I had no idea that they’re pulling the plug on the network. It’s too bad.”

IMGP1004When asked what he brought to the game of curling, he spoke of personal attributes. “I can bring a certain amount of dignity and class. I Know I smell good.” Burgundy also looked good up in the TSN booth, trading in his burgundy suit trousers for a kilt borrowed from the Winnipeg Police Pipe Band.

His real commentary began when he revealed that he’d already gotten to know some of the players behind-the-scenes: “Jennifer Jones mentioned to me backstage that she thinks she has no chance of winning. She’s already throwing in the towel.”

At least she has another career to fall back on, since “Jennifer Jones, as we all know, is a rodeo clown when she’s not curling.”

As for Jones’ opponent, Chelsea Carey: “She’s a marvelous skip, because she’s not afraid to curse her team out. I’ve noticed a lot of the curlers are not afraid to get in each other’s faces, when it needs to be done.”

IMGP1019Burgundy shared with co-anchors Vic Rauter, Linda Moore and Russ Howard (who Burgundy thinks is much better looking than his brother Glenn) his knowledge of the origins of the sport.

“I know that theoretically speaking, it was developed in Scotland, potentially. Even though I don’t trust the Scottish, I think they’re lying about that. And I’m assuming it was a way to pass time on frozen ponds and rivers. Throw rocks on the ice.”

He also shared the story of how the Canadian Olympic curling trial got its name. “For those of you at home who don’t know the significance of the Roar of the Rings title, that is the sound the ice makes when the stone glides across it. “

IMGP1033Even though Roar of the Rings was Burgundy’s sports broadcasting debut, you wouldn’t know it. He wasn’t nervous at all, thanks to the routine he follows in preparation for any broadcast: “I usually do a lot of yoga – or how it’s correctly pronounced, yo-ja – and a lot of breathing and meditation. And then when all else fails, you just have a sip of scotch. Or an entire bottle.”

Burgundy then noticed something that needed clarification: “I have one quick question. Is Tim Horton a sponsor of this? I thought it was just some guy named Tim Horton who wrote his name all over the ice.”

He also had a question for Vic Rauter, about some of the on-air sayings he’s most known for: “Count ‘em up 1,2,3,4… That’s in reference to your bar-tab, right?”

Burgundy offered his own play-by-play commentary, showing that he knows and respects how difficult the game of curling can be. For example, when Chelsea Carey had to hit and stick the eight foot to win an end – a pretty standard curling shot – Burgundy expressed that it wasn’t an easy shot. He also may have jinxed her.

“I don’t think she can do it. This is next to impossible. In fact I don’t think this have ever been done before. Let’s see if this is curling history.” Ironically, when Carey missed the relatively easy shot, Burgundy appeared confident in his prediction. “I told you it couldn’t be done.”IMGP1039

He also brought up what could be the result of a missed freeze: “This is a dicey situation right here, and if she misses this shot, the team will banish her. They call it the walk of shame.”

Burgundy confessed the terms used in curling are not foreign to him. In fact, he uses one of curling’s most famous terms – hurry hard – every day: “To me I use it when someone’s in my way. Usually when I’m stuck in traffic, I’ll just yell ‘hurry hard’ at the car in front of me. So I use those terms probably ten times a day in my personal life.”

IMGP1082Burgundy also had a little fun with Russ Howard’s telestrator, demonstrating an impossibly-bending shot that he saw “once completed in ’72,” before drawing in a few extra circles and letting his co-anchors know there are “a lot of rocks in play here. I don’t know if you guys are seeing this, but it’s almost like the rocks are mating with each other.”

Along the way, he shared a moment with Linda Moore, and had to ask her if she felt the same way. “Linda, are we feeling something right now?”

As Burgundy got more in depth into the game, his questions became more technical and detailed. Like why the stopwatch: “What is that, to time bathroom breaks? I don’t understand why that would be applicable. Is there a reason to throw a slower or faster stone?”

And how you change the speed of the rocks: “Are you ever allowed to put a foreign substance on the ice, like some olive oil or parmesan cheese? To slow down the rock or speed it up? I’m getting a lot of bad advice.”

IMGP1090And how the hog line got its name: “Speaking of the hog line, I understand most of the teams eat a diet rich in pork. Did I hear that incorrectly? Or is its origin in the fact there were a couple of years they couldn’t use stones, they had to slide hogs across the ice. Well you have to improvise. For those of us who love curling, we’ll do whatever it takes.”

In the end, Burgundy’s love for the game will continue long after he leaves Winnipeg: “I will be able to spread the gospel of curling wherever I go. Wherever I go.”

Many of us who already spread the curling gospel were no doubt enamoured by having Ron Burgundy here. He brought some laughs and excitement, stayed respectful to the game while finding a way to make it funny, and even embraced its complexity.

Like him or not, to be able to stay in character and provide quick and clever commentary like that about a sport he knew nothing about takes true talent. Kudos to Ron Burgundy. And some guy named Will Ferrell, who works closely with him, as his IMGP1102behind-the-scenes handler or something…

The whirlwind Ron Burgundy visit to Winnipeg was over in just over three hours. By 2:30pm, Burgundy had left the building. In that short time, he showed just enough of himself to give the curling audience a glimpse of who he is, and the non-curling audience a look into the curling world.

With a gaggle of media shadowing his every move, his presence brought new awareness to an enduring sport many of us already know and love.

For a great game, that’s always a good thing.

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