Friday, March 29, 2013

A victim of circumstance?

Well, another season of PBR is well underway, and as we all know, that means another season of figuring out what the heck the rules are at any given moment. While I will probably never be reconciled to the rules suddenly changing at least once a season, let alone the PBR's norm of one large change and multiple small modifications per season (whatever happened to the new slap rules, anyway?), I was willing to give the new cut and points scheme a chance. 

Anyone who has followed this sport any amount of time is used to The Powers That Be trimming the field by now, so the evolution to what essentially boils down to a cut every week should not be a surprise. The previous qualifying system, involving money earned for some things and points for others, certainly wasn't the most intuitive; streamlining that was a great idea, in theory. And it has always bothered me that established Built Ford Tough Series cowboys could go regularly to Touring Pro Division events, which are nominally about finding new talent, so I'm on board with whatever makes it less likely for the BFTS regulars to spend too much time at the TPD events. With TPD points worth a quarter of BFTS points, anyone doing decently in the BFTS is probably not going to see value in risking injury by slumming it in the TPD. 

But, as we also know, sometimes the obvious solution turns out to cause more issues than anticipated.  We’re seeing it play out right now.  Getting hot at the top of the season has always had benefits, but the advantages seem to have been exaggerated with the new system.  A guy can get invited to the BFTS thanks to a TPD win, get hot at precisely the right time and score well at one BFTS event, and then linger at the upper level for quite some time while doing very little. 

Coming up by making enough at the TPD events has never been easy, but now a high profile guy like Austin Meier or Valdiron de Oliveira can get injured or cold at precisely the wrong time and with no ceremony whatsoever, be quickly punted down to scrabbling for quarters of points. And we know Austin Meier can ride—even when cut, he was seeded in the Iron Cowboy by virtue of last season's standings and managed to win that grueling event. Valdiron de Oliveira is coming off back surgery and is rusty, but he was the world number one or two for most of last season and is pain free for the first time in yearsthere's no telling what he can do when the rust is knocked off.   But Meier and presumably de Oliveira will be driving from one Podunk TPD to another, getting one-fourth the points a few cowboys raised from the TPD, who will remain nameless, do by occasionally riding a BFTS long go bull. 

Now, I have every faith that Valdiron de Oliveira and Austin Meier will be back eventually. In fact, dominating some TPD bulls and gaining confidence might be just what they need.   And it's not that there is a perfect system, although the PBR clearly hasn't discovered anything close as of yet.  It's certainly not just that I don't want to see the "best cowboys" the PBR has to offer and am just clinging to familiar old guard cowboys, although I’m sure there is some element of that. 

No, where I'm coming from is this: it sounds great that we will always be seeing the best cowboys each week, but with this new system, the "best" seems to have been redefined in a way that makes it very easy for the mighty to fall and face a hard climb back, while the, er, less mighty might just get lucky at the right time and fill a spot long past their expiration date. Watching guys I admire claw and scratch at the bottom while malingerers hang on at the BFTS level is not my idea of a good time.  

It remains to be seen how this will play out for the remainder of the season, of course. Only time will tell, assuming the rules don’t change all around again in short order.   And I'm not a betting person, but I'm pretty sure I would have a safe bet on my hands if I said they will.


shannon said...

I've obviously missed something--can you tell me what the new cut/point system is?

Pearl de Vere said...

The TPD and international events used to use qualifying dollars to determine if a cowboy could move into BFTS events. Now they are scaling the TPD and international event points and there's just one set of standings based on cumulative points. The World Finals also used to use qualifying dollars, but now everything is based on points.

At some point they said that TPD points awarded are worth one quarter of BFTS points awarded, although the original press release about the point structure change said, "The point system will be patterned after the Built Ford Tough Series point system, awarding points for qualified rides and event-average place. The points for average place will be scaled based on the level of competition at each event." Whatever that means -- guys can enter TPDs multiple times if entries are low, so I'm not entirely clear how that works.

So the top 35 cowboys each week qualify for a BFTS event based on their overall points from every event that is PBR sanctioned. Of course between injuries and some guy who is #35 overall in Brazil who might not want to fly to the US, there's a lot of shuffling with alternates.

The PBR's stated goal seemed to be that BFTS regulars would be more likely to attend TPDs and thus presumably get fans to pay to go to the TPDs. But the cowboys get so beat up just doing BFTS events, do we really want them riding in more events for partial points during their "breaks?"

Only time will tell how this will play out, but it's starting to look a little ugly to me.

shannon said...

Thanks, Pearl. That does sound a bit iffy. There were so many things about the BFTS that weren't broke that they just had to fix over the years that I don't like where they've been heading. Maybe it won't be so bad, though.

Pearl de Vere said...

The "scaled based on the level of competition at each event" thing really raises so many questions. I mean, who is scaling it? How are they scaling it? Is it based on how many/what cowboys are at an event, what bulls are at an event, both, something else? I don't get the feeling that the exact cowboys and bulls at a TPD are firmed up until the last moment, so I'm quite curious how any sort of scaling determination would be made. Assuming they are even doing that, which is also unclear.

I do think in this case that they were trying to fix how confusing it was with points and dollars qualifying cowboys for different things, but one always has to wonder what other motivations there might have been, let alone the unforeseen consequences.

Anonymous said...

I have mixed feeling with this new system. I am glad they did away with money determining the TPD standings as not all events paid the same. What I’m not sure about is how the riders move up and down between the BFTS and TPD division. As you said a rider could come up to the BFTS and be on a hot streak, get lots of points, and then fizzle. Alternatively, a rider like Troy Wilkinson, who has been at the top of the TPD for some time, gets a chance every once in a while, but not at enough consecutive events to adjust to the bulls, which they keep saying are ranker than anything in the TPD. I think I like the cut after every five events better. Not sure how a guy in the TPD without BFTS points gets enough quarter points to compete with those who have BFTS full points. I share all your concerns regarding the "scaled based on the level of competition at each event". Guess we will just have to wait and see how it works out.

Pearl de Vere said...

The PBR has never been extremely clear about rules and whatever this system is remains quite murky to me. (They have a placeholder hidden on the PBR site for the rule book-- we'll see if that ever manifests.)

The commentators on TV will say things like, "Ryan Dirteater is here due to his TPD win in [wherever]," but does that mean that by virtue of a TPD win, a cowboy gets an invite to the next BFTS event, or that in this specific case, Ryan Dirteater's TPD win gave him enough points to make the cut for this week's BFTS event?

I agree on your points, anon. If the TPD is about finding new talent, I'm not sure this new system will help get new talent to the BFTS and have a good shot at staying there.

It really does seem to be contributing to a mad shuffle at the bottom of the BFTS/top of the TPD pack, though, and whether or not that's a good thing remains to be seen.

Anonymous said...

in the world of bullriding,its very much what have you done the past there where guys with realy low riding %'s that would linger for ever by riding about 2 good bulls a year.this system gives the best riders AT THE CURRENT TIME the chance to compete in the biggest paying bullridings.this is the best thing the pbr has done i if they would get more money into the go-rounds that would be great ,to. I no every one has favorites,but as they say the cream rises,so in the end the best have the opertunity to earn the best all for seeing the most competitive bullridings that can be had,so i really like this new system.the split points make sence to me, i mean $100,000 added purse full points,$50,000 1/2 pnt $25,000 1/4 pnt. also at tpd events you wont have short rnd/15-15 bulls,but they arnt a bunch of jump kickers either.they are still tough bullridings and just because youve been on bft series dosnt mean you are gonna dominate there,still takes a lot of try.its a best man wins sport every time in this sport and that makes it great.

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