He's older, he's wiser and dare he say mature, but J.B. Mauney still approaches winning the elusive gold buckle the same as he always has in the arena.
It's outside of the arena and away from the sport that has changed.
For the past five years, Mauney has finished the season ranked in the Top 5 of the world standings--twice finishing second--and was the top rider in the world, earlier this year, before being hampered by a broken riding hand.
As he prepares to return to the Built Ford Tough Series, in Tulsa, Okla., and finally able to use his customary left hand, Mauney looks ahead to the stretch run between now and the World Finals, while also putting in perspective his personal life as a father and a husband.
After all you've gone through with having to switch hands, is there is a lesson you've learned?
I listened to all those guys say they wouldn't have even tried it because they were worried about getting injured worse than they already were, but the way I look at it is if you're scared of getting hurt you wouldn't ride bulls in the first place. I swapped hands to prove to myself that I could and once the break came I was done. I let my hand heal up and I'm ready to get after it now.
How likely is it that those three rides could really prove to be the difference?
If I do good and I do my job it should be close when we get to Vegas and there, (heck), I lost winning the world by one round. It can be that close. When you lose it by that little amount you sit there and think about all the times you screwed up and you shouldn't have rode and you didn't. You think about all that and I want to make sure this year--I can live with myself losing as long as I tried, but if I would have sat at home and then lost the world by one or two rides it would have ate at me and I would have never got over it.
You're 2,300 points behind; that's not very far.
But we have to factor in that Silvano Alves and Valdiron de Oliveira have proven to be very consistent over the years.
It gives you a challenge, but I was watching some of those reruns the other day and they showed the stats. I get on a lot more of those 45-plus than they do, but I ride a lot more of them. That's where I can make up my ground. They keep their scores and don't take the re-rides, that's where I can make up ground. If they give me a re-ride I take it and try to be 90.
Do you feel pressure to win events or get as many qualified rides as you can to keep pace with them?
Win. You get more points if you win. If you ride all your bulls you're going to place in the top, but I want to win every time I nod.
When you go through a summer stretch like this and you're sitting home because you're injured or it's springtime and you're having to figure out how to ride with your right hand or you're dealing with one injury after another, do you ever find yourself looking around and saying, 'Why am I the one always dealing with this? Why am I always the one who is beat up and banged up and not (them)?'
Oh yeah, but I've seen people hurt a whole lot worse than I am. Brian Canter is a good example. We traveled together forever and then once he started getting hurt it never stopped. When it rains it pours. The little guy hasn't really (ridden) in two years. I look at him and when I start getting down like that and saying, 'Why is it always me that's crippled up?' I just think about him and say, 'Well, at least I can go back right-handed and get on and try.' But it does when everybody is doing good and you have to sit at home. I get to be an irritable son-of-a-gun when I can't go ride bulls.
I imagine. We joked about this yesterday and you said ahead of time you were going to compete in Calgary and come here to Molalla, (Oregon), but other than that this is the first time in your career you actually took the total time off you said you were going to take.
You get close and then-
Go back. When they took that cast off, at first, I couldn't hardly move it. When they took it off, I said, 'There is no way in (heck) I am going to be able to ride a bull with this hand.' I couldn't move it. I didn't have any motion in it, no strength in it and I just kept working it every day getting it to move. It's not near as strong as it was, but it's getting there.
Was staying home all because of the injury or was it as much about being a father and a husband?
That's what I told my wife, Lexie, the other day when we were in Canada, we stayed the whole 10 days there, about the sixth day or the fifth day I was kind of ill and she said, 'What is wrong with you?' I said, 'I'm ready to go home.' 'Well, why are you so bad?' I said, 'For one, I'm ready to be home and, two, I never used to be like that.' I used to never want to go home. I wanted to stay gone and go to as many bull ridings as I could. Now I fly right back home Sunday (night) or Monday (morning) and I love it. I'm around home all the time and I have my little girl. We ride horses and I kind of miss being at home now.
Seemingly overnight you became a family man.
Oh yeah, that little girl come around and it changed everything. It wasn't just me anymore. If I was acting like a fool it didn't reflect on anybody but myself. Now I have a little girl and I'm married. I do something like that it's going to reflect on my wife, my little girl and everybody will be like, 'Your dad did this.' I don't want that.
With all that in mind, are you looking ahead? It used to be that you truly lived in the moment. You still have to take your career bull-by-bull, but you used to live for right here, right now, so do you now look at the future and, perhaps, have a sense of urgency when it comes to what you want to accomplish in the arena and you need to do it sooner rather than later?
Yeah. I won a bunch of money riding bulls and that was the one thing my wife told me, she said as much money as I've won I should have way more stashed back than you do. I said, 'Well, I blew a lot of it.' I said, at the time, I didn't care, but now --having that little girl, married --I wish I would have done things a little different. I feel a lot more focused now. I'm not worried about money, but I know now I need to start putting more back than I already have. This isn't going to last forever. Here one day and gone the next.
It's easy to look back and second-guess.
The way I told her, I said, 'Yeah, I blew a lot of money doing stupid stuff, but there's one thing I did: I had fun and I wouldn't trade it for the world. I had a blast and did what most people never ever get to do in their entire life.
Along the lines of life playing out differently than expected and I was guilty of this too, but, after 2009, we all talked about that race for the world title and we talked about you and Kody (Lostroh) going back and forth and said, 'You'll never be able to talk about one of them without mentioning the other.' It hasn't really turned out like that at all.
The way I always look at it is that if you end up second you're just the first loser. A lot of people don't look at it that way. They say, 'You tried your best.' I said, 'No I didn't. If I would have tried my best I would have won the son-of-a-(gun).' I would have and, yeah, I might have (ridden) all my bulls at the (World) Finals--the only to have ever done that--and, yeah, I might have felt good about that, but I was the maddest person in that arena because I knew it was because of me that I didn't win. I showed everybody at the Finals that I could ride everything you run under me, but still I didn't win and that's because you go back to the wild crap. I wasn't focused. I was more worried about going out than I was riding bulls--is what it boils down to.
But where you're at in your career you could still match the accomplishments of a guy like Justin McBride--win two world titles--so, when it's all said and done, are we going to compare you to Clint Branger or McBride?
I hope McBride.
Neither one is a bad comparison, but only one of them won the gold buckle.
There are a lot of people--a lot of young bull riders--who don't even know who Clint Branger was. I do because I watched those old tapes, but those younger guys coming up would be like, 'Who's Clint Branger?' But everybody knows Justin McBride--everybody. He was--in my eyes--at the time I came around, the best bull rider in the world. That's why I was around him all the time in the locker room and I wanted to be around him to see what he did. He was the best at what you said--taking one bull at a time. He could get on, get thrown off and not let it bother him. Then show up the next day and be 93 points and win the bull riding. I watched that and that's what I wanted to be like. I tried to mold myself to be like that. Whatever happened yesterday, nobody remembers that. It's a new day.
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