Monday, December 27, 2010

What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas

As a competitor it’s pretty exciting to be in Vegas, to go to Vegas, even to anticipate going to Vegas, yet, ten days of Vegas for most cowboys stokes a pretty good yearning for the reality of home. Home becomes an escape.

Much of what I saw in this year’s NFR team roping was amazing, and for those who did amazing things, going home is necessary for their reality (how well they actually did) to digest. Those who suffered what was obviously not the roping that got them there, are anxious to get back to their “reality”, the reality-roping that put them in the top 15 in the first place.

Definitely, I admire the competitive spirit of 2010 NFR team ropers, and I want to applaud Trevor Brazile for coming a thin thread away from proving that a guy can reach and catch all 10 steers on the end of his rope. If only one strand more had snagged on, he would have done it!

Though this year’s average Thomas-&-Mac run was somewhere around 6.5 seconds, we saw many 4s and 5s, and nine of the 15 teams stuck one in 3 (seconds). In fact, 3 seconds at the T & M has become common.

Analyzing the great debate, “Which is the wiser way to compete at the Finals? Go for day money or go for the average?” of course, depends on personal agenda. Regardless weather a guy’s there for business, the experience, his grandpa…etc., one must assume all ropers would like to win enough to put their entire rodeo season in the black ($30,000.00 finals money is about the mark). Because ten of this year’s 15 teams met the quota just in day money, it seems a guy could ignore the 10-head pressure, just rope for “day money“, and enjoy himself. Ah, but what happens pressure-wise if by the 3rd or 4th go he hasn’t placed?

Granted, today’s kids don’t have the survival stresses of yesteryear, so winning and money might not pump the same pressures it did back in the day; but if money and winning does matters, the anxiety of slimming chances can be crippling.

Before I preach game theory, lets consider two basic methods of roping: fast and furious. Furious roping is (Thomas & Mac style), “going for time”, day-money gunfire with the clock as a primary focus. Ropers come (across the line) swinging and throws are designated by variables (i.e. when the steer moves, or his horns reach a certain point out the gate, etc.) that determine allotted time frames. After (if) the loop goes on, then the run falls into place.

Fast roping (old fashioned roping) is efficient roping, utilizing solid fundamentals with the primary focus of catching. Opposite furious roping, fast roping sets the run up first implements team components, and throws are designated by positions that ideally seal the deal.

Fast roping sounds too tedious and meticulous for today’s blink-of-an-eye action, but I guarantee when focused on setting things right, high percentage shots appear, and speed, luck, and phenomenal unfolds (just like we witnessed with team Brown & Lucero, the only team to catch all 10 steers) along with consistency. Average winners, Brown & Lucero, proved in rounds 2 and 8, it’s not impossible to speed-strive and catch all 10 steers, but it takes discipline. You’ve got to think about your roping--your run, (not the style of the day) and rope appropriately (steer for steer, rather than round for round). In round two, Brown & Lucero knocked it back and hammered one in 3 (seconds) for a first place check of $17,512.00, but in round 9 got out late and had to follow a steer around for 12 seconds to win $44,909.00. At this year’s NFR their game was about catching, and their only competitors were themselves.

Arguably, five other teams were in it to catch, however, the majority of the 14 teams that went out of the average, played for speed. Two teams impressively caught 9 of their 10 steers (Brazile & Smith and B. Tryan & Long). Three teams caught 8. And while each of the 14 placed in at least one round, Brazile & Smith placed in a total of 8 out of 10 rounds, seating one of the top 3 slots in 5 of those 8 rounds. As day-money leaders they won close to $84,000 and were given a 2nd place check for the average. Though, Daniel and Twissleman didn’t win a single round they roped nine out of 10 steers too, seating consistently 2nd or 3rd in four rounds, taking one 4th place (round 8), earning a total of about $54,000 in day-money.

Not far behind Brazile & Smith in day money, were fierce gun-slingers, Brady Tryan and his heeler Jake Long. Though they missed two of their 10 steers, they won rounds 4 (3.5 sec.) and 7 (3.9 sec.), placed 2nd in rounds 3 and 6, picked up additional checks in rounds 8 and 10, earning the second highest round-money total of around $70,000. I can’t argue with those figures.

Certainly, this year’s day-money strategist chalked up the chips with each round. However they and their many opponents faced and suffered considerable risk. By the 3rd round 5 teams were already out of the average; by the 5th round 11 teams were out, leaving 8 guys a guaranteed minimal payoff of over $21,000.00 just by tangling up 5 more steers. In the 6th round another team went down increasing the Average payoff to almost $29,000.00, and by the end of the 7th round 14 teams were out leaving Brown & Lucero almost FORTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS just for doing what they do everyday on 3 remaining steers. As an “Average” winner, and one who’s always searching for that path of guaranteed money, it’s a no-brainer for me…“Come on man!”

Admittedly, we all enjoy today’s high speed in the roping arena. It’s impressive, exciting, and keeps the show alive, but when we’re talking a 10 header, roping for speed with disregard for catching glares a lack of event-integrity. But who cares, right? I think I’m the only one. I also believe average payoffs should pay those and only those who went the distance, ate the whole elephant, caught all their steers. Where else in rodeo do they pay average money to a team that didn’t catch all steers? When only one finals team catches all 10 steers, that’s a mighty feat, and that team should be rewarded with mighty recognition and a mighty check. “Average money should go to Average winners. not competitors who came close.

Until the producers set a new bar (highlighting average compensation) we won’t see significant “average” competition. Voiding all integrity, NFR producers encourage speed and the gamble for “day money” (why hell, we’re in Las Vegas, that’s what they do), leaving “average” winning it’s nickel’s worth of consideration. .
The sad thing is all those talented ropers we just watched will probably go on and to their credit probably add another finals feather to their hat, only to come back and cast their fate away again with their day-money loops. The average is merely an aftermath. For most competitors, there it will sit, the surest way to win, hidden in the shadows of discipline.

That’s all I know…
Rope Smart!
The Lion

Friday, December 10, 2010

Deja Vu?? - Mistakes Repeated in 2010

Am I watching the 2009 NFR or is it 2010? It’s the 9th round and again there’s only one team that has caught all steers. Back in the day, it was not unusual to have only one team catch all 10 because back in the day there was an ability problem, hence the reason for 3 loops. Today, the problem is not in their ability, it’s in their head. Last night at the conclusion of the 8th go ‘round, 12.9 won 5th in the round, yet I ask, “Where were the other 9 teams?” My guess is they stepped out of their hotel rooms, threw their ropes and hit the strip. It’s the N-F-R boys, we play to win the game. Come on man!

When you stumble across the Camarillo name in the rodeo archives the definition reads: we rope for food. Along the way you may win a significant trophy like an NFR buckle, or 6, but it was serious salsa every time we backed in the box. Never…I repeat NEVER, any mucking around. We always showed up, and we always left some kind of evidence that we’d meant business. If a partner took a flash-shot and cost you a paycheck being a show off he was fired on the spot. I had a hot-shot heading for me one time try to ocean wave one to please the crowd and his fancy ocean wave-off! cost me a perpetual award that had a $5,000.00 bonus to it. As you guessed, I gave him the rest of his life (with me) off.

Today, catching 10 head pays two and a half times the money of what a round pays. Do the math. To the NFR qualifier I ask, “Did you work all year long to make it to the NFR so you could gamble it all away? Did you go to Vegas intending to launch your rope from the hotel room and get back to the slot machine as fast as you can or did you go to Vegas to do business?” Understandably, my plan for a competitor my be completely my own, nevertheless, it pains me to watch the many careless mistakes. “Just catching” 10 steers buys a lot of groceries boys. As well, it just might get you a gold buckle.

That’s all I know…

Rope Smart!
The Lion