Every bull rider who ever climbed in a bucking chute and nodded his head dreams of wearing the gold buckle of a World Champion.
However, most former champions admit the best seasons of their career were not only pressure-filled, but also outright not enjoyable until after the fact.
"It's something that bull riders dream about our whole life," explained two-time World Champion Chris Shivers, "and then to enjoy it while it's happening, I don't think I enjoyed it as much as I did the next year."
Justin McBride, who a pair of world titles in 2005 and 2007, agreed.
In fact, McBride went so far as to say he didn't enjoy having won two titles until after retiring from the sport. He explained that everyone wondered whether he would win the title and then immediately after accomplishing the feat everyone questioned whether he could win back-to-back to titles.
No rider has ever won back-to-back titles in the 18 previous PBR seasons.
Last year's champion, Silvano Alves, is currently ranked third in the world and less than 500 points off the lead. More importantly, he's healthy.
Despite the language barrier - Alves speaks only Portuguese - he's still subjected to numerous interview requests with the help of an interpreter and knows the No. 1 question is whether he can become the first to win the title in successive seasons.
L.J. Jenkins is currently the No. 1 ranked rider in the world standings and although the 25-year-old continues to say he's trying not to think about it, follow riders and friends have said there's no way he's not thinking about the fact that he's the top-ranked rider.
Earlier this week in a podcast hosted by Brendon Clark and Craig Hummer - Ocean Man and the Cowboy - Clark and Colby Yates simply laughed at the notion that Jenkins could take it one bull at time without thinking about the end result.
"There are so many things to think about and so many emotions," Shivers added. "Sometimes it's depressing and sometimes it's the best time of your life, but there sure is a lot of stuff that goes on in your mind."
Regardless of whether the top contenders can focus on the here-and-now, they're faced with media requests - what are thinking prior to riding, after riding, coming into an event or after an event, extending the lead or having the rest of the field close in on the lead.
Guilherme Marchi, who easily won the title in 2008 after three seasons of finishing second, said that having to participate in interviews as well as being accessible to fans and sponsors is part of being professional.
In Jenkins' case, this is the first time he's ever been ranked No. 1, so he's being asked the difference between pursuing the lead versus being pursued.
Last week, he took the lead by 45.75 points over Valdiron de Oliveira and after the first of two days in Nashville, Tenn., he's pushed it to 127.75 points - but everyone still continues to wonder how he'll respond between now and the end of the World Finals to being in a position he's never been in.
"Everybody wants to be No. 1." -- Renato Nunes
Mike Lee and Kody Lostroh are two other former champions competing this weekend.
Lee came from more than 2,000 points back to win the title in 2004. Lostroh not only battled J.B. Mauney and Marchi into the Finals, but he also was contending with elbow and shoulder injuries related to his left riding arm. Lostroh didn't clinch the world title until the seventh of eight rounds at the Finals.
Much like Lostroh, Renato Nunes battled Mauney and Austin Meier the entire 2010 season.
"That's what winning a world title is about," Shivers said, "it's the guy who can handle all the pressure. It's a lot of pressure throughout the year - you have people saying good things, bad things, a lot of thoughts people have and you have to hear all that.
"That's probably the most distracting part."
However, Nunes smiled before explaining that in spite of constant pressure there's no better place in the world standings. "Everybody wants to be No. 1."
Follow Keith Ryan Cartwright on Twitter @PBR_KRC.
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