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My afternoon with a colourful movie star

Don't act like you're not impressed

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Ron Burgundy, a.k.a. Will Ferrell, throws a rock prior to the Roar of the Rings curling event at the MTS Centre Sunday.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Ron Burgundy, a.k.a. Will Ferrell, throws a rock prior to the Roar of the Rings curling event at the MTS Centre Sunday. Photo Store

You are going to be extremely jealous when I tell you this, but I spent Sunday afternoon hanging out with Ron Burgundy.

If you want to be technical, when I say "hanging out with" I mean "was in the same arena as," but, hey, Ron Burgundy!

It was just me and Ron -- as portrayed by Saturday Night Live alumnus Will Ferrell -- and roughly 12,000 other people at the MTS Centre for the opening of the Tim Hortons Roar of the Rings, in which Canada's top curlers are duking it out to see who will represent us at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Ferrell, in character as the infamous newscaster in his signature burgundy suit ("A high-quality man-made fibre"), was there as a guest curling commentator in a sincere and humanitarian effort to promote his new movie Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues.

Whereas I was there because I have decided to push myself to the limit and write some informative and educational columns about curling. I reached this decision last week when our city editor marched over to my office cubicle and said: "We want you to go write about curling."

Whenever Winnipeg hosts a major bonspiel, my editors force me to attend, because, deep down in their hearts, I believe they want to see whether fans of this iconic Canadian sport will beat me to death with their souvenir curling brooms.

The problem is, in the past, I have said some terrible things about curling. Before attending the 2008 Brier, I wrote a column wherein I stated curling had all the drama of watching the janitor sweep up at your local high school, only with more ice and less floor wax.

So there I was Sunday, trying to avoid angry fans and uncover the beating heart of curling via the journalistic technique of wandering around in the bowels of the MTS Centre hoping to accidentally catch a glimpse of Ferrell's Anchorman alter ego.

In the end, I attached myself like a leech to a giant throng of journalists who had packed into the players' lounge to drink coffee, eat free doughnuts -- some of which were decorated with a beautiful icing version of the Roar of the Rings logo -- and wait for something newsworthy to happen.

If a UFO had decided to land in downtown Winnipeg at that moment, you wouldn't hear about it because all us media persons were squeezed into a tiny room waiting to interview a fictional character. After a few minutes, Burgundy was ushered in like royalty by an entourage of curling officials, who roared "MAKE A HOLE!" which caused us doughnut-eating journalists to part like the Red Sea.

Then, Ferrell/Burgundy spent five minutes fielding hard-hitting questions, the answers to which I couldn't hear because I was at the back of the pack and inconsiderate fans in the arena were loudly cheering for whatever was happening out on the ice.

"QUIET BACK THERE!" Burgundy mock snorted at one point, looking for the source of the cheering. "What are those people yelling about? (Mock dramatic pause) Oh, is that the curling?"

Moments later, asked if he knew what Winnipeg meant, he Ferrell/Burgundy explained: "It means the small tundra bunny who lives inside the hole in the hill."

Then he was whisked away to don a kilt and stride majestically through the adoring masses to the TSN broadcast booth, where he spent a good hour bantering with the professional curling experts, including Vic Rauter.

Up in the Free Press suite, instead of watching the actual curling taking place below us, a gaggle of us huddled in front of the TV to watch Burgundy play with TSN's telestrator ("It looks like the rocks are mating"); explain curling terms such as hog line ("There were a couple of years where they couldn't throw rocks and had to throw frozen hog carcasses across the ice"); and, sadly, bid an emotional farewell to our city ("Stay classy, Winnipeg, which, of course, in Latin, means the beautiful hill country where the Arctic hare jumps around in leather boots").

So Ron Burgundy has gone back to San Diego, but the good news is I'm still here and I'm going to do my best this week to watch some actual curling and explain it to you.

Like Ron says, this is going to end terribly.

doug.speirs@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 2, 2013 A14

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