Monday, January 25, 2010

True Confessions

I have, I regret to say, a serious of sins I must confess before I get into the meat of this post, and it’s possible none of them will interest you in the slightest. Nevertheless, here goes.

First, I have to confess that I’m not really that anxious to tackle this subject. I have spent the past week looking at the videos and reading the official press releases, but in the end, I put off writing anything about the way a judge underscored Eliot Jacoby the final round at Sacramento. There are a couple of reasons for this, one being that I have been insanely busy for the past month, but another is that I really wanted to see how the commentators at Anaheim would spin the news that judge Jeff Shearer had been suspended for five events.

Second, I have to confess that I have not looked at any of the comments on the subject on the PBR website, so I’m sure that what I’m about to say is nothing you folks haven’t heard already. The truth is, I am not psychically equipped to read all that crap and keep my wits about me. Even if I thought my life depended on it, I would not be able to wade through the flaming and name-calling and general bad behavior that takes place there pretty much anytime, for any (or no) reason. If that is the level to which the average PBR fan is willing to sink, then I will do without knowing about it, thank you very much.

Third, I was really hoping that my main concern with this situation would be addressed, which, as far as I can tell, it has not. (Disclaimer: See confession #2, above.) Certainly I haven’t heard any of the PBR Powers That Be address it.

So, having said all that, I will get my opinion of the scoring fiasco out of the way: I believe that Jeff Shearer deliberately underscored Elliot Jacoby because he knew J.B. Mauney would be riding after Jacoby, and he wanted to do whatever he could to make sure that Mauney won. Despite S. Hawkins’ thoughtful reasoning about why she believed this not to be the case, I am pretty much convinced of it.

I am equally certain that J.B. Mauney had absolutely nothing to do with the scoring situation, and I do not believe this is evidence of a larger conspiracy. In general, I think conspiracy theories are for the weak-minded who might even be paranoid, or are, at least, close to it. I don’t have any patience with conspiracy theories and I have less with people who are easily convinced that conspiracies take place right under our noses, every single day.

Truthfully, however, what I found most interesting about the whole episode is that the Rules and Regulations Committee was called in to investigate. Here’s my question: Why now?

We all know, and have complained, about specific instances in which we were convinced that one judge, or more, had screwed up. How many times have we heard a judge’s score explained away with, “Nobody can help having a favorite”? We have even seen instances of what my friend Jean calls “the Points Fairy” mysteriously changing scores considerably after the fact. Hell, if a single event passed by without my screeching at the television over a scoring atrocity, Montana Barn Cat would probably drag me off the hospital for psychiatric observation. Just exactly what made this such a big deal that the PBR had to call in the big guns?

I have no answers for that, and I found Ty Murray’s explanation that the committee had to act because the judges had “no accountability” to be either troubling, or ludicrous, or both. If they aren’t accountable, then what possible credibility could the scoring of any event have? More to the point, if they aren’t accountable, who’s to blame for that?

I also am somewhat concerned that prominent people like Murray and J.W. Hart (using the word “prominent” as loosely as possible) will be second-guessing the judges to an even greater, and more public, extent. Now that such disapproval appears to have teeth, I am worried the judges may be prone to practicing their profession less boldly.

Despite the fact that I myself have frequently wanted to get up into a judge’s face and demand an explanation, I do not want them to feel like the bosses are free to meddle in their decisions at will. Given the apparent, meaning unexplained, capriciousness of this action on the part of the PBR board, I think that fear is well founded.


Shawk said...

While I remain unconvinced that the judge's score was a deliberate attempt to aid Mauney, since neither he nor the PBR have explained the reasoning behind the "mistake," it could go either way. (Although I highly suspect it's part of a, "Sorry, Jeff, people are screaming for blood and you're gonna have to take it for the team we can make this go away" situation).

In the end, I'm afraid we're going to be seeing a lot of 84-86 point rides because the judges will be afraid to score too far from the middle. It's good this will have made judges more thoughtful about what they are doing, but the way it went down is really strange.

I honestly feel that the PBR felt they had to respond to the fan backlash, and a lot of what was behind the backlash had been simmering a long time and didn't have a lot to do with the current fiasco (other than that J.B. Mauney was involved). This blew up largely in part, I believe, because of Ty Murray.

And it's not that I don't think that Hart and Murray and whoever shouldn't be able to say what they want, but they also should be thoughtful about it and not just flap off. But that, I suppose, is not part of the cowboy way, and the business way and the cowboy way are going to keep clashing until they figure out a better way to reconcile the two.

Stockyard Queen said...

Here's the thing: Ty Murray has mouthed off about how the judges have made mistakes before. So has J.W. Hart and Justin McKee. The timing of all this action puzzles me and I'm not convince that the fan backlash was that much greater than it has been in the past. Remember some of the atrocities committed when Justin McBride was riding? The committee never got trotted out to review any of those.

Shawk said...

Ty Murray's on the committee, right? I think that's a bit weird in this situation, frankly.

I don't know the answer but one guess is that the PBR is hurting right now. Right after they made their moves to expand, the economy tanked and sponsors are dropping like flies. The whole Dish/Comcast/DirecTV thing didn't help by cutting out a big portion of their viewing audience.

So they've already lost sponsors, and if they lose the fans, they will lose even more sponsors and be really screwed. I don't know how much weight they give to the howling wolves who comment on their articles, but there's a lot of people (or, at least, screen-names) who really do think there's some sort of pro-J.B. Mauney conspiracy, and who are threatening to stop watching the sport because of the J.B. focus. This might be an attempt to placate those people. (Personally, I think it's ridiculous to begrudge the guy for having a persona that's good for television.)

I guess we'll see how this unfolds...

Stockyard Queen said...

I notice that they're really playing up the "Kody Lostroh is having a hard time adjusting to fame" angle, too. Frankly I wonder if Lostroh didn't wake up $1 million richer and realize that aside from his bank account (no small consideration, I know), his life wasn't that much better, considering he now has to stump for the PBR at every turn. Like Shelia, I sort of think that McBride quit at least in part because that stuff wore him out. These are just country boys, for God's sake.

shelia said...

Just a few thoughts. First, you state that you haven't looked at the comment sections to the related articles. Well, I did and the third one has 253 comments! Way more than any article I've seen on the PBR site. The first two articles on the subjest must have been removed b/c I can't locate them today. They both had as many or more comments. I think that's why the PBR jumped on this. I can only imagine how many emails and letters and phone calls they received over this, too.

Second, SQ, is this (and this deeply disturbes me) what makes you so certain about Mr. Shearer's motives? And I quote, "I believe that Jeff Shearer deliberately underscored Elliot Jacoby because he knew J.B. Mauney would be riding after Jacoby, and he wanted to do whatever he could to make sure that Mauney won."
Believe me, I have read all the articles and fan comments and Shearer's motives have never even been hinted at. This seems to be a major conspirisory theory! Later in the blog you state,"I think conspiracy theories are for the weak-minded who might even be paranoid, or are, at least, close to it."

I whole heartly agree that the commentators don't think before they speak. They don't seem to understand the power of their words and speak as if they were sitting in front of the TV in their own living rooms, speaking to their wives and friends! And how many times have we heard one of them say something about "gifts" as in a score is too high?

I've said this on the boards and to the PBR directly, but it's never been considered or responded to. #1--In the same event and round, Ryan McConnell was scored a 19 while the other judges scored him in 21 or 21.5. I gasped when I saw it, but nothing has been said about it. Why? Isn't this the same thing as Elliot's 18?

#2. In round one Elliot Jacoby barely rode Shotgun Willy for 88 points. In round two JB rode Shotgun Willy for 88.5. It was a beautiful ride and even Mr. Know-it-all Hart said that it was such a beautiful ride that, "JB could've been eating a sandwich during that ride!"

Here's what I'm wondering: What we know is that JB would have LOST the competition if that 18 would have been a 21 or 22. But, what if the judge thought that either Elliot had been way OVERSCORED or JB had been way UNDERSCORED on their respective rides on Shotgun and thought he'd just even things out with the 18? ***This is the ride that the controversy should be about!*** I watched those rides again and believe Elliot's score should have been 84-85 and JB's should have been 90. If those rides had been scored correctly, the 18 wouldn't have made a difference.

Okay, I'm going to put this away and worry about more important things like paying attention to the guy I hired to paint a room for me, just now, after 2 hours he poked his head out the door and said, "I never told you that I was good at painting, did I?" And he's painting the walls dark gray! I'm afraid to look.

SQ, I still love you and BC and your blogs and the Zonk Board! You did say it was okay to disagree, didn't you?

Stockyard Queen said...

Once again, Shelia, in the order you brought them up:

1)I don't consider 253 comments even a remotely statistically significant blip unless you can convince me that each of those comments represents, say, 100,000 other people who didn't bother to comment. How many millions of PBR fans are there, anyway?

2) I think that Jeff Shearer's actions, and the fact that he never explained why he scored Jacoby so low compared to J.B., is evidence straight of up of his motives. The fact that nobody else has said it out loud (that we know of--who knows what might have been said between individuals or behind closed doors) is neither here nor there.

3) That said, Jeff is one guy. I am certain he "acted alone," as they say of Lee Harvey Oswald. That does not a conspiracy make. A conspiracy is a bunch of folks putting their heads together and cooking up a plot of some kind. If there had been such a conspiracy to make sure J.B. won in action here, what we most likely would have seen would have been one judge scoring Jacoby (or some other contender) low on one ride, and a different judge scoring him low on the next, or alternate judges scoring Mauney really high on different rides.

One of the reasons I'm skeptical about conspiracies is because by definition several people are involved and almost invariably, somebody can't keep his/her mouth shut. That's why undiscovered conspiracies are rare as hen's teeth.

3) It's interesting that you take issue with my assessment of Shearer's motives, but you're willing to speculate that maybe what really underpinned his actions was a desire to even a higher score out. I don't see that one speculation or the other is inherently worse. I am well aware of the edict "Judge not, lest ye be judged," but I'm also aware its counterpart, "By their fruits, ye shall know them." I think my assessment of the fruits is more likely. As Ocam's razor says, the simplest explanation that accounts for all the facts is most likely to be true.

Still, if your supposition were true, it would be worse to me than just Shearer being convinced that J.B. was so superior a rider that he HAD to help him win, which what I really think happened here. (I also think it's possible that Shearer himself wasn't totally conscious of what he was doing. People do that kind of thing all the time and they're always amazed when somebody points it out to them.)

Scoring a later ride lower to make up for scoring an earlier ride too high is just wrong. If it could be proven a judge did that, he (and they are always "he's") should be given his walking papers on the spot.

And while I don't think having a preference for any rider makes Shearer a bad person, I do think it makes him a bad judge if he can't set that aside and judge impartially, on the basis of the ride in question.

4) I also don't think I've seen a 90 point ride this season, though I've seen several that have been scored at that level, and interestingly enough, they were usually rides by the current darling who needed a big score to lift him up over the rest. I'd have to look, but my recollection is that they frequently occurred when some upstart rode well in the short-go and the favorite needed a big score to put him back on top. I am morally certain I've seen this with Lostroh several times last year.

5) Finally, Jacoby just flat out-rode Mauney in the short-go. J.B. was riding well for the whole event, but I didn't see his customary brilliance and flash, which may have been because of the bum knee. Regardless of what was going on, I never felt like he was winning it in a walk.

6) As an aside, I thought Shearer's comment that he felt bad because he cost Jacoby money was idiotic. Every single time he judges, he costs somebody money. That's why they play the game.

shelia said...

So, why won't you comment on Ryan's 19 score and compare the rides JB and Elliot made on Shotgun Willy? Or is this simply about Elliot's 18 and nothing else?

What I'm trying to say is that stuff like this happens ALL THE TIME. So, why are we all so upset over Elliot's 18?

I'm just as upset over Ryan's score as I am over Elliot's.

I hate what this has done to JB--if Shearer wanted to help JB, he sure did make a mess of things! And I'm upset that non-JB fans are blaming the whole thing on JB. Yes, I'm taking this too personally. I admit it. So, I'm going to try and forget that NOBODY will even talk to me about the other apparent scoring mis-haps of Sacromento and just shut-up!
I'm not angry at you, SQ. I'm angry at the whole mess! And I don't want to be a part of the PBR because of it and that saddens me to no end!
The same thing happened in Figure Skating--what a shame for so many talented kids!

shelia said...

Okay, I've calmed down a bit. The reason I picked on you over the possible conspiracy theory is that just about all the anti-JB fans on the PBR comment section are saying the same thing. And, I guess, hearing it from you--someone who likes JB--made me feel more sad than angry.

So, I really am ready to move on and have fun with the sport.

I can't wait to shake JB's hand in SEVEN days!

Stockyard Queen said...

Shelia, I'm glad you're calmer because I don't think you're getting what I'm saying. I do NOT believe there is a "conspiracy" of any kind to score J.B. over other riders. I do not think the PBR at large or J.B. had any part in this. I think one judge felt like J.B. was the best rider and he did what it took to make sure J.B. won, despite the fact that Jacoby outrode J.B. in the short-go.

I do happen to like J.B., but I have to point out to you that we saw what appeared to be the exact same thing happen in the cases of Justin McBride, particularly in 2007, and Kody Lostroh last year. It always seems like whenever it's a close call, or even the slightest chance that the favorite might get beaten, the favorite gets the benefit of the doubt.

Still, I do not believe that even those instances are evidence of any conspiracy, but rather of the natural human inclination to join the pack on behalf of the leader/most charismatic. It is an inclination that any decent judge will be aware of and will "correct" for, for a better description.