One of the things I was curious to visit with my cowboy friends about at slack at the Oakdale (Calif.) Saddle Club Rodeo the other day was which team roping teams were getting ready to pull the plug. It’s an annual phenomenon that typically comes with the change of seasons.
After several “mights” and “maybes,” and the news that some guys were roping with this guy at the California rodeos and that guy in Texas, I turned to Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith to talk in more general terms about why people swap partners, and why some teams mix magically while others are a little more muddy. I figured Trevor and Patrick were a perfect team to talk to, not only because they’ve experienced the gold-buckle high but because they were the most miserable team at the 2009 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
To all our disbelief, they didn’t even stop the clock in six of 10 rounds, and $2,764.42 a man for sixth in round three was their only check. Many if not most teams would have called it quits. Instead, Trevor and Patrick entered their fourth straight season together, heads high, eyes on the ball, ready to go back at it with their trademark positive energy and enthusiasm. Why?
Trevor: I used to be the worst about changing partners. If you look back over my career in the past, if I wasn’t winning I was changing. It seemed like the easier thing than riding things out. Changing partners is the easy way out. But I’ve rodeoed enough now to realize there are 70 rodeos in a season, and you don’t have to win at every rodeo. Nobody does. If you don’t have a good winter, you have to remember there’s a spring, summer and fall.
How hard I practice helps me not panic. If you aren’t winning and haven’t been working at it, that works on your conscience and breeds panic. When you come out here with the attitude that you’ve worked hard and just want to enjoy the fruits of your labor, it sure helps your outlook. That’s how I look at it. I’m going to enjoy the hard work I’ve put into it. I love what I do. You’re going to draw bad, and you aren’t always going to win. But it’ll all come out in the wash. There’s no need to panic if you’re making good runs at home.
There’s so much more to our partnership than just roping. A lot of teams’ lifestyles don’t fit, but ours do. We both have kids about the same age (Trevor and Shada have Treston, who’ll be 3 in December, and baby Stella; Patrick and Christi have Kylee,who was born three months after Treston), and we share the same outlook on life. I’ve seen guys who are winning and are miserable together, and guys who aren’t and are still having fun. How a team handles failure is huge. Winning is easy.
Every team splits things up however it works for them. I enter us, and Patrick handles the trades. My alarm goes off at the same time every day, about 30 minutes before any rodeos close. Every once in awhile, the time change gets me. I missed the books at Corpus Christi (Texas), because I was in Vegas and it’s two hours earlier there.
Patrick: The majority of guys make changes when there’s a little break between winter and spring or spring and summer. That gives you time to get with your new partner, and it’s hard to change when you’re right in the middle of a lot of rodeos and entering two or three a day. To switch partners in the middle of that is too confusing.
Trevor and I are on our fourth year together. We’ve done great and we’ve done terrible. No matter who you are, in order to be a winner you’re going to have to learn to lose too. There are too many variables in rodeo not to be on the down side of it sometimes. When you lose faith in your partner or yourself, things won’t go your way. Nobody likes to lose, but if you keep working hard and keep the faith, you can come back.
The idea is to work together and minimize the down time as much as possible. Change up your practicing or your horses. Change up whatever variables are holding you back. Sometimes guys get impatient and panic mode sets in, but there really is no need to panic.
Last year’s NFR was a tough week. We were so pumped every night, and it just didn’t happen for us this time. But you enjoy the mountain tops more when you’ve been to the bottom of the valley.
It was a good reminder for me that those years I was doing so good out there, and throwing my hat, somebody else was back there in the tunnel with his head down. It was my turn to feel that side of it. There are so many ups and downs in rodeo. I was up in the stands after the team roping last year during the 10th round of the NFR. (Tie-down roper) Scott Kormos’ family was so excited when he was 7.1. Then Cody Ohl came out, was 7 flat and stole Scott’s thunder. Cody’s family went crazy, and Scott’s sat back down. Then Cody’s calf got up, so Scott ended up winning the round. What those two families went through in 60 seconds is a perfect example of the highs and lows in this business.
If you’re friends outside the arena, it helps. Whether you win or lose, you need to enjoy the ride. We love what we do. So we need to stay focused on what’s ahead. You have to look at the big picture and your whole career. Each disappointment is just one ripple in the pond. Everybody goes through valleys. Rodeo is a roller-coaster life. The most successful people are the ones who can go through the low spots, but keep their eyes on the high spots and what’s next.
Editor’s Note: Naturally, right after Trevor and Patrick visited with me Friday morning at Oakdale about their strong belief in sticking it out through the tough times, they won both rodeos that very weekend (Oakdale and Logandale, Nev.). They shot up the world standings, from 19th and 20th in the world, respectively, to sixth and fifth. What a difference two days make. Destiny delivers yet again, and I love it.