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Keep it clean, you're on TV

Gushue revolts after being fined for 'curse' word during broadcast

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CALGARY -- There are, according to the infamous George Carlin comedy routine, seven words you cannot say on television.

The list of what you can -- and cannot say -- while curling on television is apparently a lot longer than that. And for the first time ever, it's getting put in writing.

And we all have Newfoundland's Brad Gushue to thank for what promises to be a very entertaining document.

Gushue and the Canadian Curling Association have been embroiled in a dispute this week over Gushue's use of a what might be felt by some to be a curse word during a 9-8 loss to Ontario's Glenn Howard last Saturday.

Gushue had just watched his teammates flash, flash and crash on three consecutive rocks in a disastrous 10th end in which Ontario scored a game-winning three-ender.

The TSN cameras followed Gushue for an unusually long time after the third miss until the skip, thinking his mike had been turned off, let loose.

Gushue was stunned the following day when he was informed by the CCA he was being fined $250 for his outburst.

"I said, 'Goddammit, hit the guard,'" said Gushue. "I was just kind of venting some frustration and I chose those words because I didn't think a fine would be issued. It's not one of the ones I thought would be a bad word. If I knew I was going to get fined, I would have said something a lot more vulgar."

The dispute quickly escalated when Gushue took an almost unprecedented stand in a sport where fans have always had unique access to the player's conversations. "I wasn't going to wear another microphone," said Gushue. "If they're going to fine me for (that), they might fine me for 'fart' or if I say 'dirtbag' or something else that really isn't what I would term a swear word."

And Gushue had a lot of support among his fellow players in taking his stand. "Some people consider that a swear word, some people don't," said Ontario third Richard Hart.

"Whether I do or don't is irrelevant. If the CCA does, they need to write down the words they don't want us to say and advertise it better. Because if I'm not mistaken, I think you can hear that kind of language on network television at 8 o'clock at night. So to fine a curler for saying something like that seems a little crazy."

The CCA finally backed down Tuesday, agreeing to rescind Gushue's fine and assemble a written list of all the words that are forbidden for curlers to say when they are wearing microphones.

"I agreed with him that there was a grey area," said Danny Lamoureux, director of championship services.

"We didn't have a list. We just go based on history. And letters. So we did some research with advertising standards in North America and other countries and the word that was used was deemed to be, in today's society, non-offensive or mildly offensive.

"So we agreed that there should be a list of words that are fine-able."

Lamoureux said the CCA is consulting with the Advertising Standards Council in compiling the list of punishable words. He said it is not likely to be complete before the end of the Brier.

TSN producer Scott Higgins said the occasional curse word getting on the airwaves is part of the price of giving curling fans such broad access to the players.

"It's real time, it's sports, and it's one those things that's going to happen when you're live and there are tense moments," Higgins said.

And he said TSN does its best to spot problems before they become one.

"There are certain people who tend to be a little bit more vocal," Higgins said. "Especially following a poor shot -- we'll say, 'Watch the mikes. Bring it down.' "

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 12, 2009 C7

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