Growing up on New Mexico’s Navajo reservation from the time he was 3 until he was 11 years old, Ronnie King thought he was going to be a cowboy.
In fact, at 18, he tried five bulls and rode three while living in Paris, Tenn., even though he was told, “There are no cowboys in Tennessee, just plowboys.” Now, years later and living in Nashville, he’s been playing the part of a bull rider on the Internet.
King, known online as TNMACK, is one of the more than 10,000 fans who played the “2010 Ultimate PBR Fantasy Road to Vegas” game each week during the Built Ford Tough Series.
And for the second year in a row, he’s one of two regular-season winners to earn a trip to Las Vegas. He won the second half of the 2010 season, and will face first-half winner Chris Lane at the Finals.
Last year, he eventually lost the fantasy title to Dauna Bogan. This year, he heads back to Vegas to win it all.
“I want to do the best I can,” he said, “and however it turns out it turns out.
“It’s different once you get on stage on you’re thinking, ‘Should I pick him or should I pick him?’ and you can’t let it get personal, which I did on a couple of things last year. And it cost me. When you’re standing there and you’re looking at the (riders) in the audience and you’re thinking, ‘Well, I like you and I picked you last time, but I really don’t want to pick you this time,’ it makes it a lot different.”
King admitted that getting swept up into the excitement and fast-paced environment of the Finals is a far cry from making decisions in the comfort of his own home.
He said he has a few rules he follows when making his selections from week to week, but also relies on a gut feeling about who he thinks “is on the verge of riding.”
He shies away from selecting the winners of previous events, and riders who are either competing while injured or coming off injuries. He doesn’t pick his favorite riders simply because they’re his favorites.
“Don’t pick from heart,” said King, for whom first-round matchups are key. “You want your favorite guy to win, but you have to figure your favorite guy is not going to get you to Vegas.
“You’re watching (the top riders) and you just feel they’re about due, especially if you know they’re a good rider and they haven’t rode good in two or three events.”
Still, in winning this year, he did break a few of his own rules, even after learning a lesson a year ago.
He veered a few times from his “gut instinct” during the Finals and then did it again twice this year, when he chose Paris resident Cody Nance and Austin Meier coming off event wins. Neither rider made the whistle.
King also said he pays close attention when normally consistent riders buck off. He will “look at their eyes and see how they hold themselves when they walk out of there.”
The fantasy game makes watching the events on Versus a very different experience than in past years, he said.
He explained that until the last two BFTS events of the season, he doesn’t look at who the other fantasy players are choosing, because he likes pulling for all the bull riders. But “after all the picks are turned in, it shows who they picked, and I’m going, ‘Well, I hope this person doesn’t ride,’ which I hate doing because I always want the bull rider to ride.”
A lifelong fan of the sport, King said, “I never got to ride bulls like I wanted to, and this right here is the icing on the cake, to get to go to the Finals and be a part of it.”
NEWS AND NOTES
TUNE IN and watch the Built Ford Tough Road to Vegas on CBS. The last of the Final Five Showdowns, which takes place in Times Square on Friday at 1 p.m. ET, will be broadcast Sunday afternoon. Check your local listings for times in your area.
RIDING HIGH MINISTRIES will host Faith & Family Night at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, immediately following Round 2 of the 2010 Built Ford Tough World Finals on Thursday, Oct. 21. The event will feature Christian artist Jeremy Riddle, PBR Champions sharing stories of faith, and a unique horse-breaking demonstration by PBR Chaplain Todd Pierce. Everyone with a ticket for Round 2 is invited to attend.
GENERAL PUBLIC TICKETS go on sale Friday, Oct. 15 for the Madison Square Garden Invitational and the Dickies Iron Cowboy Invitational. The New York event, which takes place Jan. 7, 8 and 9, is the first BFTS event of the 2011 season. The Iron Cowboy is the second year in a row the PBR will hold a one day event at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Tickets can be ordered by calling 800-745-3000.
— by Keith Ryan Cartwright
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