A: I got to spend it with my family. My oldest daughter - I have three daughters - turned 12 on Easter Sunday, so I maximized my time at home, which is very rare. She’s very much into cooking and her idea of a good time is go out to restaurants, which I have to be dragged to, since all I do is eat out when I’m on the road. That’s her idea of fun, so she made a big Easter buffet for everyone and then we went out for dinner for her birthday.
Q: Being that you’re not a typical 9-to-5 guy, what are the days like when you’re lucky enough to be home?
A: My kids are in school and I either walk them to school or pick them up every day that I’m home. Much like most married men, I usually have a pretty long list of errands to do, so usually there’s a good portion of my time doing that. I still work out and train a ton. I do a lot of biking and lot of swimming and stay fairly active physically, so I spend a good portion of every morning on that—we get up pretty darn early and so that’s still something that’s pretty darn important to me. You always find something to do, right?
Q: Now it’s time to turn your attention back to the PBR, so, I’m curious, how much preparation do you do leading up to an event?
A: I probably spend – away from the event itself – about 10 hours a week doing prep work. I put together a book every week. I call it my athlete Bible, which is a sheet on every guy that’s there for that event, and so, as you can imagine, I update it every single event that they attend. Therefore not only do I do things like their rankings have to be updated, but it’s basically their bio file. Not just what they’ve done as bull riders, but I try to have some personality stuff in there as well, on top of if they went 2-for-3 on the weekend and one of their rides was 7.8 seconds. It’s a very labor-intensive 10 hours, but yet it’s perfect, because it keeps it fresh in my mind. I’m looking on Web sites to see if there’s anything, and certainly if I hear of anything I’ll follow that up. I try to use all my resources. I figure I travel four out of every seven days and I spend another full day of work during the three days that I’m home getting ready for the next week.
Q: You’re the guy in the booth who has to be ready to start or carry a conversation at any moment.
A: My whole job is to set my partners up to let them be as knowledgeable as they are. I’m the most dispensable guy on the crew. I can be replaced at the drop of a hat, and I’m fully aware of that, but I am the guy who has to know not only what my producer (who’s talking in my ear) wants me to do, but I’ve got to be able to figure out the guys I’m working with and how best to set them up. If something goes wrong or they don’t carry a conversation through like I thought they would, there’s a lot of thinking on your feet. So instead of me being ready for a conversation to go A, B, C, I’ve got to be ready for it to go all the way to Z, and that’s where my job comes in. I’ve got to have it planned out, or at least have the ability to think on my feet to deal with 20 different scenarios that might happen any second.
For every show Joe Laverro [Versus producer] puts together a format, and the biggest stress I put on him is that I want that format as soon as possible, because I look at how he’s planned not only to come in at the top at the show, but at every single break, there’s usually something he’s planned to come in from or go out to. If it’s something about a bull or something about a rider, I’m looking through that, and I’m looking at the 13 segments of our show. I never want to repeat myself, or I want to try not to. I plan it out so that if I have to mention Kody Lostroh five different times in the show, then I need to have five different ways to say great stuff about him and not sound redundant, but yet still keep people interested.
That’s again is the whole point of our TV shows, right? It’s to keep people interested. The hardcore fans are going to watch no matter what, but that’s not what the show is about. It’s about drawing new fans. My partners do such a good job of this, but it’s explaining what the sport is about for people who might be tuning in for the first time. We can’t ever lose sight of that. Maybe there might be a day where you guys on the Web site just stream every single ride with no commentary for the hardcore fans that just want to see bull riding, but for the average sports fan you need more than that. You need storylines - a reason to care.
I can’t say enough about how great Justin McKee is, because his whole line is the bulls and how great they are as athletes, and how important it is to know them. I always rely on him for great information about that. Then obviously depending on whether I’m working with Ty (Murray) and Michael (Gaffney), Justin McBride or J.W. (Hart), or if we have a guest like Adriano (Moraes) or Mike White or somebody – those guys are obviously going to talk about their sport and why the ride itself is good. Primarily my job is to ferret the stories out of them and draw information out of them.
Q: It’s not an easy gig because sometimes they might not initially realize how interesting a story is with the viewers.
A: They’re fantastic about commenting on something, but the thing you always have to talk about is that you need to explain it. Say what it is you’re seeing, but then say why what you’re talking about is important – which is a big difference, if you think about it. I’ll give you an example that has nothing to do with bull riding: Let's say you’re driving by an accident on the side of the road, and you simply say, ‘Hey, there was an accident.’ But that’s not going to be that exciting. But if you add things like, ‘Hey, there was an accident on the side of the road, because this car cut in front of seven cars and it almost made it over to the right-hand lane, but the third car spun around and ended up causing a 17-car pileup.’ All of a sudden now, you have a great story.
Q: What about during the event? How much time do spend off air, over the course of the weekend, preparing?
A: I probably spend a four to five hours after every night going over the sheets of the show that just happened to update numbers in terms of riding percentages that have dramatically changed, which are never really going to happen after one round. We have guys who give us all the stats, but, there again, I have to filter through all that and come up with story patterns—that ebb and flow to figure out where best those are going to fit in, and the way I do that is by going over my notes and updating my sheets after each round. For a three-day event, we won't be on television (like tonight), but yet I’ll have to go over all the results of Friday night before Saturday in order to have an idea of what to talk about going into Saturday, because Saturday is a draw day and that adds a whole new element. Now I have to go back and look at the last time there was a draw and start talking about percentages, how guys ride when they get to pick their own bulls. It’s cool because it keeps it fresh in my mind, but it's labor intensive because I try not to rely on anybody for my information. That’s just my own thing. If I do it myself then it’s going to make me more in tune with what I need to say.
Q: Gives us a quick glimpse into your background as sports commentator.
A: I transitioned into commentating from being a professional athlete myself in this really random sport called Ocean Ironman racing. I used to race professionally down in Australia for years. It’s like a triathlon, but it's four things—swimming, running, kayaking and paddle boarding. I did that as a professional for over 10 years, and then transitioned into commentating. I’ve covered about 50 different sports for many different networks and hundreds of television shows, which, to me, is why I love what I do, because in every sport that I do I’m so interested in finding the stories and finding why these guys tick. As a former world-class athlete, I know how my brain works and I know how it still does in the athletic pursuits that I do at 43 years old, and that’s why I do it. I love trying to get inside the heads of these guys.Q: Give us glimpse into the future.
A: I love what I do with the PBR and I love what the PBR is doing internationally. I would love to see instead of one World Cup event, for there to be four different World Cup events a year on different continents. Selfishly, I love travel and I love this job, so the more I can get to travel to exotic locations and still do this, the better for me.
I cover the Tour de France for Versus every year, and I’m going to be hosting that for them this year. I’m doing the Olympics and I’ll be in Beijing covering four different events—triathlon, open water swimming, cycling and whitewater kayaking.
But the reason I do what I do is that bull riding is so fast-paced, so ever-changing. Bull riding at a glance is 8 seconds. But then we go back to that traffic accident on the side of the road: I mean, if that’s all you tell somebody that bull riding is, well, you either don’t do a good job of explaining it, or you haven’t noticed what it’s really about. That’s why I like this. I’m going to stay with bull riding as long as everyone will have me.
The lifestyle that these guys have, the integrity that these guys have, the honesty that these guys have as athletes, I just feel really lucky to get to be around.
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