Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reindeer Games

Come in, friends, and take a seat—I need to speak seriously with you for a moment. For several days, I have been pondering a conversation that took place on the Zonkboard last week. Several of you were chatting about the Final Five event in Times Square next weekend. Shelia, who feels that this event may prevent the riders from getting rested up for the finals, remarked, “If anyone should appear in NYC to promote the World Finals, it should be the reigning champion, who has been absent unless he's riding! Kody, like Brian Canter and Kasey Hayes, should have shown up at events while recuperating. If the PBR didn't promote the 09 champ, it was because he wasn't available!”

Now, this is interesting on several fronts, the first and most obvious being that Shelia is absolutely right. Where the hell has Lostroh been, anyway? The official explanation from the PBR for his absence is that he’s been recovering from surgery. That might wash among those who are inclined to swallow any explanation whole, but I am not buying it, and here’s why: Several times during the six months that Justin McBride was out of competition because of a shoulder injury, he was still on hand as a commentator. And of course many other injured riders quite routinely show up at events and even come out to meet the fans on occasion.

Has ANYBODY seen Kody at ANY EVENT this season?

Oh, sure, we’ve all seen him now—he’s back on the tour. But why, exactly, has he not been out promoting the sport while his elbow healed up?

Where have you been, Kody?

I have to admit that I was thunderstruck by Shelia’s observation, and I feel considerable embarrassment about that for several reasons. First, I never even noticed that Lostroh wasn’t around—AT ALL—all season long. Second, I haven’t missed him ONE BIT. Third, when he did return to riding a few weeks ago, I realized yet again that I really do not like anything about him—not his put-me-to-sleep riding style, not the way he plays it safe when he picks bulls in the draft, not his beady-eyed stare when he’s looking into the camera.

But the fact remains that Kody Lostroh is the reigning World Champion of the Professional Bull Riders. He won $1,628,442.80 in competition last year, $1 million of that at the finals when he clinched the championship. But I guess the fact that he owes the sport a great deal didn’t stack up against the attractions of whatever he’s been doing instead of representing the sport to the fans and the larger world.

Yo, Kody—where have you been? My guess would be out shooting the **** out of something harmless, but I would really like to hear it from you.

When Justin McBride retired suddenly just before the finals two years ago, I was genuinely surprised to learn that one reason he was quitting was that he was tired of dealing with what he called “the media.” I suspect that might have at least partly been code for “the fans” as well, but McBride certainly affirmed that he was tired of being in the spotlight. Here’s the amazing thing about that—I had no idea he felt that way.

Over the years, I have found a lot to object to about McBride’s demeanour and his sometimes astonishing ignorance of what I consider to be common knowledge (and the way he conducts himself on “PBR Now” is frequently just embarrassingly adolescent, to say nothing of the irritating way he continually slaps the desk), but I really never imagined for a minute that he found the whole experience of being the world champ wearing. I truly believed that he ate it up with a spoon.

The title of this post, by the way, came from a comment that the divine S made when she and I were exchanging emails last week. “Lostroh seems really....not interested in being the media darling,” she remarked. “And people are surprised that the PBR has seized upon J.B. Mauney, who is not Brazilian and can play their reindeer games with some grace.”

Shelia seconded that opinion, but she also offered up an observation that, again, I found very revealing. She is, as you probably know, a member of Mauney’s Minions, a group of J.B.’s supporters. “But one thing we realized after meeting J.B. several times is he really doesn't have much to say to the fans,” she said. “He wasn't blessed with the ‘gift of gab’ like Adriano, Sean, J.W., Jody, or Beau—all of whom I have had lengthy discussions with. But J.B. is out there, smiling, shaking hands, saying, ‘Thank you very much,’ ‘Yes, Ma'am,’ ‘Yes, Sir,’ ‘Alright.’ It might be just as difficult for J.B. to deal with fans and media as it is for Kody, but J.B. does it!”

Maybe the simplest answer really is the explanation—maybe Lostroh is just so painfully uncomfortable dealing with the media that he could not force himself to step up and do the right thing.

Maybe the answer is a little more sinister, or at least cynical—maybe Lostroh views his obligations to represent professional bull riding as nothing more than reindeer games, a ridiculous sideshow that he’d just as soon skip.

But frankly, I don’t care what his reasons are. I say that Lostroh has fallen down on the job. If you are willing to hang out with the boys and cash the checks, then you are obligated to deal with the aspects of the sport that you don’t like that much—ESPECIALLY when you’re the reigning World Champion.


shannon said...

My one and only experience with Kody left me cold. Even before he won, I had the feeling that he wasn't going to go about the publicity easily. He was doing ok in the beginning, but I have to wonder if he used the surgery and recuperation period as an excuse not to bother with it. I do, however, think he should have been around once he was up and able to do so. I think JB would play the game really well. His mother even said in one of the stories on JB: He knows there's the riding part of the job, then there's the other part of the job and he's got to do both. I wish he were a bit more fan friendly, but at least he's putting his best foot forward when it comes to the publicity.

Shawk said...

I remember a lot of talk about how Lostroh would handle the press part of being the World Champion, and some reserved approval of his playing the reindeer games at Madison Square Gardens, but he apparently refused to participate in one of the cook-offs, and disappeared with the injury, not to be seen again until his return, which was greeted with little to no fanfare.

I don't especially care for Lostroh but I can see how a reserved person would not really take to or enjoy the PR part of being the World Champion. But like it or not, it's there and part of the package. Oh well, I guess one way or another, someone else will be taking it on in a few weeks.

shelia said...

I remember when Guilherme won the World CHampionship in 2008 and he thanked the PBR, his family and sponsors, and his FANS!

What do you mean, Shannon? That JB could chit-chat loke Adriano?

shannon said...

"What do you mean, Shannon? That JB could chit-chat loke Adriano?"

He doesn't need to go that far. I know that many people have had good experiences with him, but honestly, Shelia, in the past 4 events I've gone to in Southern CA, he hasn't come out once and the times he has, it's been signing and moving on while chatting with another rider. I'm not dissing him, really. I LIKE the guy and, as I said, he's wonderful for publicity, but I wish he were a bit more outgoing like some of the others.

However, I do think it must be getting really old to have to deal with fans who are constantly trying to give him advice and saying things like "you have to win this year". Talk about pressure! I'm sure that has something to do with him being a bit more withdrawn.

shelia said...

I agree! Plus he has a serious girlfriend--Frank Newsome's niece. She's cute, not gorgeous like his "BBs." His Mama warned him that he'd better be serious about her and not hurt her (and Frank) and JB tokd her (mama) that "She's the one!"
I've never been to an event that JB wasn't there on time, friendly, gracious, and stayed until the last fan was satisfied!

Shawk said...

Well, it's all anecdotal, but I've never seen J.B. signing after a regular season event that I have attended. In Sacramento this year, he had been injured, so that was the reason there, but I've been to Sacramento for several years, and Fresno last year and not seen him. This is not to say that he didn't have press duties or some other reason I am not aware of, but...

Interesting that this newest Pro Bull Rider magazine has a little blurb about Kody Lostroh, who has apparently been helping with Junior Rodeo, which is nice, but I can't imagine it consumed all his time.

Black Boots said...

Kody was not at the last two PBR events I've attended. To be honest, I didn't miss him. I don't wish him any harm, I just find him yawn-inducing. It doesn't surprise me at all that he's somehow avoided being the media face of the PBR this year. I look at the riders who went to the event in NYC today and I'm proud of all of them. It took them way out of their element and their routine and they did a good job. Should Kody have been there, ringing the NASDAQ bell and walking the red carpet? Probably. Did the PBR suffer without him? My answer would be "nope."

And after I read your comments about McBride's desk slapping, SQ, I burst out laughing every time he did it on the show last night. If we made it a drinking game we'd end up snockered every Thursday night!

Katie said...

My name is Katie and I work with a digital advertising agency that is doing some work for PBR. I'm wondering if I could have your email address to contact you with some information your readers may be interested in about PBR events.