The Zoo to CBC: Scott Russell's quest
CBC Sports personality sits down with The Gazette
By Jordan Bell
Scott Russell survived.
He survived a harsh rebuke from Professor Ross Woodman, his first-year English teacher at Western, who proclaimed, "Mr. Russell, you cannot write."
He survived the cut-throat world of journalism, succeeding where so many have failed before.
But most importantly, he survived the Zoo, Saugeen-Maitland Hall. "I spent four years living at the Zoo - it was a nut-house," Russell exclaims.
Coming from humble (some would say debaucherous) beginnings, Russell's most recent success story manifests itself in Open House, his recently released book on curling in Canada.
Russell travelled across the country to expose the depths of curling in Canada; from the tiny Foothills Curling Club in Eagle Hills, AB, to the pinnacle of Canadian curling, the Brier at the Saddledome in Calgary.
Furthermore, his travels placed him face-to-face with such illustrious curling personalities as Colleen Jones, Randy Ferbey and Russ Howard; but amazingly it was the people surrounding the sport, such as fan Omar Heggestad, who's wife had recently died but who used curling as a form of therapy, that exposed the true essence of the game.
"There are no borders to the sport," Russell says. "In a lot of ways it may be more reflective of Canadians than even hockey. I think sometimes hockey is the way we as Canadians would like to see ourselves - intensely competitive, passionate, full of pride about our ownership of the game of hockey - whereas curling is who we actually are: open and accepting, honest."
Originally, Russell, who many would recognize as a former broadcaster on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada, was leery of writing a book about curling. "I was absolutely skeptical about the thing at the beginning, but I realized that there are so many Canadians that are involved in curling in one way or another (one million registered curlers in Canada),"
"I was intrigued by why - why is it that so many Canadians have an affection for this sport?"
So why do they, Mr. Russell?
"It hooks you - you see and hear the skip agonizing over how to get that big 40 lb rock in between two rocks in what appears to be an impossible task," he explains. "This ability for fans to eavesdrop on the sport and see miraculous shots happen - it's a bit magical."
Russell graduated from Western in 1979 with an honors degree in history. From there he walked across Western Rd. to gain an education degree from Althouse College, which led him north for a three-year stint as a teacher in Owen Sound.
But Russell's teaching career took a back seat to his love of storytelling and he returned to Western to obtain a masters degree in journalism.
He may not be standing in front of a chalkboard now, but he is teaching Canadians about sport and its importance in the Canadian lexicon. His new show, CBC Sports Saturday Live, focuses on Canadian Olympic sport.
"What we do with Olympic athletes in this country is we pick 'em out at Olympic time, we admire 'em for a while and then like the Christmas present you like but not too much, you put it back on the shelf until it's time to take it out the next time around. We should be there at the start line, we should be there at the finish line and everywhere in between," Russell says.
Over Russell's extensive journalistic career, he mentions covering Western football and being beside Scotty Bowman as he announced his retirement live as his greatest memories covering sport.