Thursday, July 10, 2008

On the PBR Team Shootout

On June 28, the PBR announced a new competition, the PBR Team Shootout, a series of five events pitting twenty two-man teams against one another. The top 20 PBR riders would choose partners from the remaining pool of all eligible PBR riders. On July 1, on Wild Bill’s weekly online radio show PBR Prime Time, PBR Chief Executive Officer Randy Bernard, Dennis Gach, Senior Vice President of Operations, and Jay Daugherty, Vice President of Event Tours, started with the top- ranked rider, Guilherme Marchi, and worked their way down the list, drawing numbered poker chips out of a cowboy hat to determine the order in which the riders would pick their partners.

The teams were announced on July 8. In the order determined, they are: Sean Willingham and Justin McBride; Mike Lee and Wiley Petersen; Brian Canter and Bryan Richardson; Travis Briscoe and Cole Taylor; J.B. Mauney and Bart Miller; Brendon Clark and Jared Farley; Renato Nunes and Sinovaldo Correia; Valdiron de Oliveira and Pim Rosa; Luke Snyder and Cory Rasch; Ross Coleman and Matt Bohon; Mike White and Colby Yates; Zack Brown and Mark Lopes; L.J. Jenkins and Austin Meier; Chris Shivers and Nick Landreneau; Guilherme Marchi and Juliano Marchi; Adriano Moraes and Allan Moraes; Kody Lostroh and Matt Austin; Ednei Caminhas and Chad Denton; Robson Palermo and Robson Arageo; and Dustin Elliott and Wesley Silcox.

The Shootout will take place between August 10 and September 14, and the first four events will be televised on ESPN2. The Team Shootout final, at Pueblo, Colorado on September 14, will be televised on ESPN. Ten teams will compete at two of the four events, attempting to ride a total of four bulls. The team scoring the highest will take the entire purse at the event, and all teams will be in contention to qualify for the Team Shootout event in Pueblo.

Now, this development is interesting for several reasons, not the least because it is being done in partnership with ESPN, the premier cable sports network. On PBR Prime Time, Bernard emphasized that the PBR values its longtime relationship with Versus, but it’s obvious to me that any venture with ESPN will introduce more people, and thus more potential fans, to the sport. The choices the top 20 riders made, though, are fascinating in and of themselves. It’s pretty clear, looking at this list, that in most cases, calculation isn’t playing a big role in the choices. Sean Willingham, who went first, may have made the only calculated choice when he picked Justin McBride, who is the 2007 PBR world champion, but isn’t ranked in the top 20 because he’s been out of action for seven months tending to a shoulder injury. Three of the riders chose relatives (Marchi, Moraes, and Jenkins), and in two of those cases, their picks aren’t ranked in the top 45. In fact, both Matt Bohon and Allan Moraes had been cut from the Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS), so let’s hope they can redeem themselves in this new setting.

This lack of calculation is probably the most immediately remarkable aspect of the Shootout. Of course, the riders appear to have done precious little calculating when they’ve drafted bulls at regular events, but I have to wonder whether any amount of analysis would affect the outcome. To date, the first man to pick a bull in the draft has yet to win the event. The draft has made no difference, none, in the results of the competition, so it will be interesting to see if the cowboys are better at drafting partners than bulls.

This event will not affect the BFTS standings, but of course the more the boys ride, the more likely they are to get hurt. It does appear, however, that participation is mandatory for the top 20 bull riders. No one declined to take part, so the question of what would have happened had someone done so is moot. But I have to wonder how it would have played out had one of the riders didn’t think the potential payoff was worth the risks.

But it’s the scheduling of the Shootout is most intriguing—it’s a very compressed series that run pretty much concurrently with late-season BFTS events. Starting next weekend, there will be three BFTS events in a row, in Tulsa (July 18-20), Edmonton, Alberta (July 24-26), and Glendale, Arizona (August 1-2). Then the Shootout begins in Del Mar, California, on August 10, moves to Paso Robles, California, on August 17, and to Molalla, Oregon, on August 23. There’s a break in both series over the Labor Day Weekend, and then the Shootout starts up again in Guthrie, Oklahoma, on September 7. The BFTS sprint to the PBR finals commences on September 12 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Team Shootout finals take place in Pueblo, Colorado, on September 14, and then it’s back to the BFTS in September 19 in Jacksonville, Florida.

I’m presuming that the teams will be told well in advance which two events they will compete at, but even so, I hope these guys ain’t drivin’ and sleepin’ their way from event to event, or they will never see anything but the inside of their trucks, the inside of arenas, and the backs of a lot of bulls. That’s assuming, of course, that it’s even possible to drive from one event to the next without breaking the sound barrier or their pocketbooks on $5 a gallon gasoline. Just to keep it interesting, the 2008 PBR World Cup takes place in Chihuahua, Mexico, on August 16-17, the same weekend as the Shootout event in Paso Robles. I hope somebody at the PBR is paying attention, since several of the top 20 riders are also competing in Mexico. It would be unfortunate if some of them had to be in two places at once.

Thinking about the logistics of all these (nearly simultaneous) events reminds me of a job I once had that obliged me to attend national sales fairs about six times a year. I wasn’t alone in this—practically all the editorial staff of the company spent quite a bit of time on the road. The last summer I was employed there, I worked 23 days straight, most of it in places like Dallas and Atlanta. Believe me, that gets to be a drag in a hurry. The men who ran the company paid their editorial staff, which was almost entirely female, really well, and they treated us like shit. The salesmen, who occasionally double-dipped as publishers of the various magazines, sat around raking in salaries plus big commissions from accounts with squirrelly (and sometimes shady) businesspeople that we girls were then charged with keeping pacified.

Anyway, about once a year, like clockwork, the Powers That Were would send out a memo reminding us all that if we flew back into town during regular business hours, we were expected to come in to work that day, even if we’d been glad-handing potential advertisers 18 hours a day for 10 days straight, or had gotten up at midnight to catch a plane back home. When I gave notice, I toyed with the notion of circulating my own memo advising everybody that traveling on business was no excuse for not being in the office at the same time. I expect to regret to my dying day that I didn’t do it. What were they going to do, fire me?

It wouldn’t surprise me to find out the Shootout was scheduled this way because the opportunity with ESPN developed rather suddenly, but I’m hoping that if the event survives into next season, the PBR execs will consider moving it to the long summer break, the one we presently are suffering through out here in TVLand. While it’s true that the money the winners will earn won’t help them in the BFTS standings, it’s also true that seeing a little bull riding during that stretch would ease our pain. Riders who aren’t participating in the Shootout would, of course, be free to compete in Challenger events while the Shootout contestants matched wits with bulls and boys elsewhere. It could be a win-win situation for everybody, except, probably, the bulls, who will be on the road even more than the boys. Fortunately for them, they don’t have to drive.


Anonymous said...

I don't think the shootout dates are the actual event dates (not live), but rather recorded for later viewing.

The Molalla Shootout will actually take place at the Ross Coleman Invite on August 8-9, 2008.

Stockyard Queen said...

You're right, I looked at the release again and these are the broadcast dates, but that probably means the schedule is even tighter, no? I'll have to track down the actual event dates.

shannon said...

If I may, SQ, I have the dates. It's going to be a bit tight over a couple of weekends:

BFTS-7/18-20 (OK)
BFTS-7/24-26 (AB, Canada)
Shootout-7/27 (CA)
BFTS-8/1-3 (AZ)
Shootout-8/3 (CA)
Shootout-8/9 (OR)
World Cup-8/16-17 (Mexico)
Shootout-8/23 (OK)
Shootout-8/28 (CO)
BFTS-8/29-30 (TN)

So, it will be tight, but the majority of them are going to be on or close to the West Coast. Still a lot of driving, but with any luck, they can manage to afford flights. Although, how many of them have the time and money to hang out on the West coast for a week or so? Not many, I'm sure.

I'm of two minds about this. The first is basically the same as yours--they need to find time to heal and the PBR isn't giving it to them (although, perhaps they did have the option to not do it and they all decided to go for it). Wasn't there a rumor that they wanted to shorten the season? That doesn't appear to be happening.

However, as a big bull riding fan, I'm excited to see it. The format intrigues me and the fact that it will be on ESPN is something I think will be helpful for the fan base.

I, too, was fascinated with the choices. I wonder if any of them talked to those in the lower part of the Top 45 and were turned down or if they immediately went with the riders they eventually chose? I'm actually looking forward to watching the teams with the new names to see how they do.

Stockyard Queen said...

Thanks, Shannon. I tried to parse the info from the website but I lost patience with it, as I frequently do. This looks even worse, though, in terms of packing the events in! But I, too, am excited about seeing this competition. I do recall hearing they wanted to shorten the season, but I see no sign of that, either. Let's hope the injured have the sense to sit it out! But then, we always hope that, don't we?

shannon said...

Yeah, the site leaves a lot to be desired.

So, you think it's going to be tight for the riders? Check out the tv schedules. Keep in mind that during much of this coverage, the Olympics will be going on, too:

I may have to give up a couple of events (whether it be BFTS, Olympics, Shootout or World Cup remains to be seen). I don't think my non-bull riding and not as into the Olympics as I am family will care much for me dominating both tvs for all of those hours during all of those events. That's not to say I won't try, though. :)

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to add one thing: Matt Bohon is apparently winning The Calgary Stampede. I only know this because one of the cowboys said so. I went to the Calgary web site and can't make heads or tails of group "A" and "B." Maybe it will all make sense when it's all said and done!