FORT WORTH, Texas ― On a Sunday afternoon, in Corpus Christi, Texas, Clint Adkins sat with J.B. Mauney following the conclusion of a Touring Pro Division event.
Neither man had established himself as a perennial on the Built Ford Tough Series.
Mauney had just won the first of two TPD championships and the Rookie of the Year title, while Adkins was still a year away from becoming a full-time BFTS in-arena announcer alongside Brandon Bates.
There was a couch on the loading dock behind the arena.
Adkins pulled out a copy of the latest issue of Pro Bull Rider magazine to show the youngster from Mooresville, N.C., that he was on the cover. Mauney, who was still a teenager, was both surprised and excited.
"My mom is never going to believe this," he replied.
In the seven years since then he's appeared on the cover of not only Pro Bull Rider, but also on the covers of other magazines and newspapers from the East Coast to the West Coast ― too numerous to list them all ― as well as having appeared on nearly every television show to feature the PBR.
Like Justin McBride before him, Mauney is as much a media spectacle as he is a fan-favorite.
At any given event the introduction of his name draws the loudest applause from the crowds whether the event is in California, Oregon and Washington, or in his home state of North Carolina.
This weekend, in St. Louis, the crowd will not hear either Adkins or Bates announce, "…and from Mooresville, N.C., J.B. Mauney."
Mauney is recovering from an injury to his lower left leg ― a possible fractured fibula ― and is hopeful for a return to competition next week in Kansas City,Mo., which is a good thing for him considering he's ranked third in the world standings and locked in a battle atop the world standings with his brother-in-law Shane Proctor, 1; two-time defending World Champion Silvano Alves, 2; Jordan Hupp, 4, and Agnaldo Cardozo, 5.
Being injured and missing events is never a good thing.
As a sport you hate to see any of the riders hurt and have to miss time, but truth is the absence of Mauney hurts the PBR more so than just about anyone else.
Truth be told, Mauney sells tickets the same way other top athletes draw record-crowds in their respective sports.
I remember back in 2008 the Tampa Bay Rays made it to the World Series and were facing the Philadelphia Phillies. Initially there was a fever pitch of so-called excitement that it was the Rays and not the New York Yankees.
Yankee haters might be loud, but they certainly don't have strength in numbers.
Game 4 of the Series drew only 6.1 million viewers ― the least viewed World Series game in history ― compared to 1986 when the New York Mets and Boston Red Sox averaged a record television audience of 36 million.
The same holds true in other sports.
In 2003 and again in 2007, the San Antonio Spurs advanced to the NBA Finals and both series' rank as the two lowest rated Finals in the history of the Nielsen ratings system.
As powerful as the Super Bowl has become ― there's talk of some wanting Super Bowl Sunday to become a national holiday ― they slightly suffered in 1995 when the San Diego Chargers advanced to face the San Francisco 49ers.
The truth is, while dyed-in-the-wool fans will watch just about any matchup, casual observers and mass audiences want to see marquee matchups.
That's a fact.
When it comes to the PBR, people admire and appreciate and anticipate the likelihood that Mauney is going to step up on the shark cage prior to the Built Ford Tough Championship Round and select Bushwacker ― something he's done eight times in the past two years.
That old school "you have to ride the best to be the best" attitude is why former CEO Randy Bernard likened Mauney to NASCAR legend Dale Earnhardt. It's about accepting challenges.
Bushwacker, who won the World Champion Bull title in 2011, will be in St. Louis this weekend and, unfortunately, there's no chance of Mauney selecting him.
This is the 16th time in 20 seasons the PBR has come to this sports-crazed town and one that would have surely respected another matchup between those two.
Fortunately, this is the first of a three-week run for Bushwacker and despite Mauney's injury one can assume that if he has an opportunity in either Kansas City, Mo., or Arlington, Texas, he'll gladly accept a ninth matchup.
The Scottrade Center will be loud this weekend.
It's been two years since the BFTS was in town, so it ought to be a heck of a three-day event in what has already been a record-setting start to the 20th anniversary season of the PBR, but if it feels like something's missing, it's because there is.
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC
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