Matt Sherwood was a businessman first and a professional team roper second, and that shows in his no-nonsense management of the PRCA’s team ropers. As the event rep for the ProRodeo’s team ropers, he’s tasked with representing NFR qualifiers, contenders and circuit cowboys alike—a job that’s not for the faint of heart. Not to mention, he’s a two-time world champ, eight-time NFR qualifier and George Strait champ with $1.3 million in career earnings.
Sherwood’s a straight shooter, and that makes conversations like this one golden, brought to you by Manna Pro.
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Transcript courtesy Sarah Scott, Dickinson State University
The Score: Season 3, Episode 10 with Matt Sherwood and Chelsea Shaffer
[Chelsea] This is season three of The Score, The Team Roping Journal’s regular podcast, where the team roping world talks. We’ve told the stories of some of the greatest cowboys, horses and moments in the sport and we are so far from done. In 2020, we’ll bring you more of what you’ve come to expect, like interviews with the best cowboys and cowgirls we know and we’ll dive even deeper into subjects you care about. Look for more audio additions of the The Team Roping Journal’s stories that you might have missed in print and learn about the great horses shaping the sport and great challenges facing our industry. All of this and more in 2020. I’m Chelsea Shaffer.
[Chelsea] Matt Sherwood was a businessman first and a professional team roper second, and that shows in his absolute no-nonsense management of the PRCA’s team ropers. As the event rep for ProRodeo’s team ropers he’s tasked with representing NFR qualifiers, the contenders and the circuit guys, everybody. That’s a job that’s not for the faint of heart. Not to mention, he’s a two-time world champ, eight-time NFR qualifier and George Strait champ with $1.3 million in career earnings. Now Sherwood’s a straight shooter, and that makes conversations like this one golden. Enjoy!
[Chelsea] Full Disclosure, Matt Sherwood and I sat down to record this interview at Denver’s National Western Stock Show and Rodeo this January. An interview recorded before the corona virus outbreak seems partly silly to air, really because the reality we were discussing seems so very far away right now with rodeos canceled left and right and so much in question. But there is still a lot in here and we still wanted to share it, so just take a listen and let us know what you think.
[Commercial] Today’s episode is brought to you by Manna Pro. At Manna Pro they believe in nurturing life. Since 1985, Manna Pro has been committed to providing high-quality, wholesome feeds, supplements and treats to your horses at every stage of their lives. Their passion is happy, healthy pets and they’re your trusted partners just for that.
[Chelsea] So one of the things that’s really fun about podcasts, and especially this one is like stories that me and Kendra and Julie Mankin have told for years in print, it’s like a whole new audience or I might remember everything I’ve ever asked you, but people listening
[Chelsea] might not remember your whole life story. So one of my favorite things about you is your really unique way that you came to rodeo in the last couple decades. Can you kind of back track how your, the trajectory of your career? When did you buy your card?
[Matt] I bought my first card probably ‘92. I was twenty-two years old and I lived in Florida actually. I bought my permit when I lived in Florida. Got married when I lived in Florida. So I bought my card permit there first year and then my card the next year. Lived there for two years and went to school right after I got married.
[Chelsea] What did you go to school for?
[Matt] I didn’t know what else to do at the time.
[Chelsea] (laughing) Okay.
[Matt] I wanted to get an education. I wanted to get an education. I was trying to get into physical therapy. Occupational therapy was the direction I was going. So then, I went to a junior college for two years in Florida. I had just got married and my wife and I were both from Arizona, so we wanted to get away, go somewhere.
[Chelsea] Yeah I was going to say, you’re not from Florida.
[Matt] No, but my Mom was born and raised in Florida, graduated from the University of Florida so my grandparents still lived there. And so I’d been there for every third year for a week or two, so I was like let’s go. Found a little single wide mobile home to rent from a friend of mine and moved to Florida and went to school for two years.
[Chelsea] Did you make Southeast Circuit Finals that year?
[Matt] I did. I bought my permit and I guess you can go on a permit.
[Chelsea] Yeah you can.
[Matt] I went to two circuit finals there. I roped with a kid named TJ Smith the whole time.
[Chelsea] Nice. Now, what happened in between the early nineties buying your first permit and then your first Finals? A lot, right?
[Matt] Well, what happened in life or what happened in changing?
[Chelsea] Yeah, both.
[Matt] Well, so I went to school for two years. Did fairly well, so came back here. Went to Grand Canyon University for a year because they had an occupational therapy program that I was going to get into. Okay so then after, but you had to be a resident student to get into it because I had met all of the requirements. I had went to school there for a year. What I didn’t have was a bachelor’s degree. So then, when it came time to apply for the program they gave first preference to degree holding students. Well, so there were thirty spots available and there was something like three hundred and forty-nine applicants for that one program, so I realized. I waited to hear to see if I got in, but I didn’t. By then, I had two kids and so I quit school and went to work.
[Chelsea] And you went to work in?
[Matt] I was working part time doing installing carpet and tile. Okay so then I just went to doing that full time.
[Chelsea] Did you have a business of your own or did you work for somebody?
[Matt] I did later. I kind of had a business of my own, but I worked for someone else for 10 years. And then really slowly just as we got busier and busier -the economy was doing great- so I just started doing side jobs on my own and still working full time and then pretty soon I was getting more side jobs and not working. So pretty soon, I was just working for myself.
[Chelsea] What kind of horses did you have during that? Did you have any horses?
[Matt] Yes, I had horses. I probably had my card almost every year. So the first year that I really felt like okay I’m getting too old to rodeo, if I don’t do it now I’m going to do it was 2005. From mid early nineties until then I had my card probably every year. I don’t remember, but I don’t remember never having it. I went to circuit rodeos. I made the Dodge Circuit Finals several times throughout that period of time. A couple years it is so hot in Arizona. A couple years I would leave for the summer and go to Wilderness area, the Wilderness circuit and go to circuit rodeos in the summer time.
[Chelsea] Where you going to the Strait? The big jackpots at all?
[Matt] Probably the Strait roping every year and none of the other ropings. The first time I ever went to (inaudible) was 2006. The U.S Finals most every year, not every year but none of the other. You know the circuit ropings in Arizona, I went to that some but I wouldn’t go to any of the big ropings in Texas. My little brother rodeoed and he ended up maybe 17th in the world sometime in that period of time. He wanted me to go head for him down the stretch and I didn’t have the confidence in my roping one, but I hated being gone. My kids were little
[Matt] and my wife was home. I was like there is no way I’m going to you know quit doing what I’m doing and go out.
[Chelsea] Did your kids get to a point that let you go rodeo or you just felt like you were too old or you were going to get too old? What made you?
[Matt] I got to a point financially that I felt like, well I got more confidence in my roping. Okay so a little bit that was definitely part of it, but I got to a point financially that I could go rodeo for a couple months and I didn’t feel like I was going to lose my home.
[Chelsea] Can I ask you how much? Like what is a point financially that a guy can go rodeo with?
[Matt] That’s a fair question. I don’t know if it’s dollar wise like you need to have x amount of dollars in the bank but I had my own home. I had
[Chelsea] Paid off or no?
[Chelsea] Not paid off.
[Matt] but my payments were manageable. In that 12 or 13 years so I was running my own business by then. I had bought, first thing I ever did that was a good financial investment for myself was I bought 5 acres. I bought 5 acres. It was in Queen Creek, kind of. It was so far out of Queen Creek it didn’t have power or water. Okay, it was $10,000 an acre but at the time that’s how things were headed. So I bought this. Power was headed that way. So by the time I bought a tiny little mobile home and had a 500 gallon water trailer, that the water depo was 3 miles down the road, so I bought a pressure tank and twice a week I would take my little water trailer and drive into town fill it up. Twenty five cents a gallon or something you know drive it back out take the hose and hook it up, but I wanted my own place. Okay so, over four or five years they finally run water out there. The property becomes more valuable. I sold that little place. I built a little house. I sold that house. I went a little bit farther out, so in that 12 years I made some good real estate investments. Small if you will, but I got myself in a situation that I have 2.5 acres. Wasn’t you know. I didn’t owe a ton on it. I probably owed $150,000 on it on a $300,000 place. My payment wasn’t high so I knew that I’m making enough money through my business that if I don’t place for two months, I’m going to be okay.
[Chelsea] So you had enough guys underneath you?
[Matt] So I had a few guys working for me and probably enough money in the bank that if things went bad, I’m $10,000 out I’m not going to, my wife is going to be okay.
[Matt] My kids are going to be okay. That and a combination of finally kind of getting to the point that there’s a possibility I rope good enough to make it, so I wanted to try and financially I was good. So between the confidence in my roping and the money side, the money side I would’ve never went. If I would’ve never gotten to a point that I felt like. Because it is, that part is the hard part but it’s the stress of. You know if you’re twenty-two years old and it doesn’t matter. If your horse (inaudible) hopefully you move back home, but when you have a wife and seven kids and all of a sudden. So it wouldn’t have been worth it, to try to rodeo with a weight of
[Matt] if I don’t have the money to do it. Funny story, so I rodeo in 2005. We don’t do great. I rope with four or five different guys and win a little bit. Probably 20th in the world standings half the year. Okay so switched partners a couple times. I didn’t love the partners I had and different things. Anyways, I kept doing okay at the tour rodeos. Okay so at Colorado Springs, that’s when Walt says “Hey what are you doing next year?” I was unhappy with where I was at so he was like “Hey if you want to rope next year I would love to rope.” So he is like give me a couple of days, so “Yeah, lets rope.” Okay so then I told my partner “Hey I’m done. I’m going home.”, but I had a bunch of tour points. So then I was like well crap. I still have to go to the tour rodeos. It was a long shot so I kept going to (inaudible) and placed, Pendleton and placed so I made the tour finals but it was the first year in Omaha. As far as I know it was the only year that Omaha was one, it was two perfs, one full round, then top 8, then top 4. I drove all the way to Omaha and roped with Mark Scobie. We got a leg on the first one and we ended up 9th, but they take the top 8 back so that was my NFR dreams.
[Matt] So I had already talked to Walt about roping next year, so I went home. Kind of got back into running the business. So at the same time is when the economy started to go south, and so it was the perfect time for me to go rodeo. Because unless you were working for a track home builder custom homes were you know, you could buy foreclosure homes half price for what you could build a custom home for so everything pretty much dried up. It worked perfect. We went to, so we started, it was the first year, 2006 was the first year team roping was mandatory. Okay so we leave, we go to Odessa. I think we went to Odessa, roped one. We went to Fort Worth, roped them both. Went to Denver roped them both. Went back to Odessa, roped the second round and came home. Missed at Odessa. Didn’t do any good at the jackpot. Caught them both at Fort Worth, didn’t place. He missed one, I missed one at Denver, so now we went 5,000 miles. We go back to Odessa. We were 4.8 at Odessa. We win like 5th or 6th in the second go round and won $800 dollars. (laughter) So my first year rodeoing, I love rodeo, I drove all over, I was gone for 10 days, won $800 dollars and honestly that close to saying this is the dumbest thing in the world. This is the dumbest sport. Why would you drive all over the world on a whim hoping to place against the best guys in the world. There is no way.
[Matt] But Walt wasn’t staying in Arizona. Hey I’m going to come to Arizona. We are going to practice. I’ll do better. We’ll do better. And so then we started roping again. We practiced every day. We worked hard, tried to do better. So then first of February comes around we go to Jackson, Mississippi. We win the first round, win the average at Jackson. We win, place in a round, and win the average in San Antonio. We place at Tucson, maybe Yuma, Arizona. You know so by the end of February, we have twenty some thousand dollars won. You know it’s just the opposite
[Chelsea] So it was perfect!
[Matt] experience. So then All of a sudden we were like
[Chelsea] Now, it’s fun.
[Matt] maybe we can do it. So we kept going and then both of us went into the NFR in the lead of the world standings, which is the hardest thing in the world.
[Matt] By far harder to do that than win a world championship. I truly believe it.
[Chelsea] Yeah, I can think of lots of guys that I thought were going to win world titles going into the NFR and first in the world. I thought this was surely their year and the finals just
[Matt] It’s tough.
[Chelsea] like quick sand.
[Matt] Yup exactly, and then another guy goes in there 13th, barely good enough to make the NFR. But the right set up, the right horses, draws good and nothing to lose attitude and is super successful.
[Chelsea] Totally. Now something you said a little bit ago was that you had gained the confidence in your roping. What did you like about your roping better? Where did you find the confidence in your roping?
[Matt] Okay so, the whole time right then mostly I heeled. Almost the whole time from the early 90s until I started rodeoing I heeled. Sometime in the mid to late 90s Rub Woolsey had quit rodeoing and came home and needed a partner for the circuit rodeos, so I heeled for Rub and I had the best little gig ever. He just didn’t want to leave. We’d go to ten jackpots here in Arizona and I bet we won 3 or 4. We roped really well together. We didn’t have to be fast. All we had to do was catch and we could catch and so we did good in our circuit. We couldn’t do good, we won Tucson one time, but we didn’t rope good enough to rope with the best guys in the world. But we roped plenty good enough to do good. Anyways, so as that’s all happening I evaluated it and so many good heelers, so many good heelers, and there wasn’t many good headers. And so I felt like I’m going to go to heading. So I started heading maybe at the end of 2004, somewhere around there. And I would go, the carpet mill was on 75th avenue. Okay, I lived in Queen Creek. 75th Avenue was way west of Buckeye. It was an hour and a half from my house. They opened at 5 o’clock. So I would leave my house at 3:30 in the morning, so I could be there at 5 o’clock and get loaded up and get back to Phoenix before traffic would just shut the freeways down. So three or four days a week if I had to go pick up supplies I would leave at 3:30, get all of my crap. Ninety percent of my jobs were east valley, so east side of Phoenix. So then I would be done by 10 or 11 o’clock in the morning. My guys would be laying tile, carpet, whatever so then I’d go home. Most of my kids were in school. There was a buddy of mine that broke in, we probably broke in 500 steers every winter. Okay so I would go home, get two or three horses, and I would go rope from 10 o’clock, 11 o’clock in the morning until 3 o’clock in the afternoon. So I roped, I say every single day, but three or four days a week. Great steers. You know they’d bring 16 or 17 steers. There was four of us over there so we would just rope every single day really good steers so.
[Matt] You’re either an idiot or you’re going to get better.
[Chelsea] (laughing) Yeah.
[Matt] So finally, it felt easy. It felt like I was roping better so all of a sudden I’m heading a lot, roping better. My horse, I told Rub I’m going to heading, and he said “What are you going to head on?” But he didn’t know my heel horse, and neither did I in fairness, I mean I know he felt good to break steers in but…
[Chelsea] And that was Nicholas?
[Matt] That was Nick. He ended up winning head horse of the year once and reserve horse a couple of times. I was thinking about it the other day and I’m sure a lot of guys have, but well over a million dollars that I’ve won on that horse.
[Chelsea] And you just put him down this year, right?
[Matt] I put him down last year.
[Chelsea] Last year, okay.
[Chelsea] How old was he?
[Chelsea] Twenty-four, man.
[Matt] It broke my heart.
[Chelsea] Yeah, I bet.
[Matt] I am not an animal lover. I hate dogs. I hate cats. I don’t even love horses but that was tough. I cried. I didn’t think it would be like that but. And I mean, part of life.
[Matt] I didn’t see myself headed there. He was really healthy and somehow through like I would feed him all the time. I would feed him as much as he would eat. We had rode him all day. My daughter took him to the 4th of July and carried the flag on him so we put him in a pen and fed him a bale of hay and some really rich and somehow he hay foundered really bad. He was still really healthy, but he couldn’t walk so it was like
[Chelsea] Yeah. I hate that for old horses.
[Matt] For a day or two you know no way, so I’d just leave him by the trough. But finally you just gotta realize as sad as it is.
[Chelsea] Yeah. So how he died was more sad than the fact that he died then?
[Matt] I think so because I felt like he was still really healthy.
[Matt] Like people would come over and we would ride him. “Hey head some on Nick.” You know he had lost a step, no doubt about it, but so it wasn’t, if he would’ve got old and deteriorated and he looked poor. I mean he looked old, but you’d turn him out and he’d run around wouldn’t limp. You know so then all of a sudden one day he goes from like he’s going to live for years to we’re going to put him down tomorrow.
[Chelsea] Yeah, totally.
[Matt] I felt bad about that.
[Chelsea] Yeah, absolutely. So you heeled on him for how long?
[Matt] I heeled on him, I think when I started he was 11 and I started riding him when he was four. I rode him at the US finals in ’99 so.
[Chelsea] Did that make him score better?
[Matt] I truly believe that. You know heeling is so relaxing to me for a horse. I heeled on him for 3 or 4 years before I ever even headed on him. So then like I would go to the jackpots and heel on him in the open and head, which was then the 11 and even the 9 sometimes. So I’d head on him a little bit. He was green, but he just got better and better. But yeah I think he was so easy in the heel box that one of the very first rodeos I take him to he scored like a champ. I mean scored good from the very first steer. I would practice on him and I would run 10 steers and never score a steer. It wasn’t like he was that personality.
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[Chelsea] Switching gears a little bit, what has changed in the last decade or two, or the last decade and a half, since your first world title, your second world title, and now you’ve made the finals quite a few times since then, what has changed about team roping? Are you roping as good? Tell me about that transition. Is it just gotten tougher?
[Matt] It’s gotten tougher.
[Matt] And it seemed like then it was tough. You know it seemed like when I started rodeoing it was tough, but to me what’s happened is every year there is more guys that rope at the top level. I won a go round in Reno in ‘94. I roped pretty good for a circuit, you know a circuit guy, they’d say well you won a world title later, but the circuit (inaudible) it got more teams. The competition level, like Jake and Clay roped good, Speed you know, but they didn’t rope that much better than the circuit guys in my mind at the time. So everyone had a chance. But now the top guys rope so good. There’s so many of them. There’s 20 guys that rope amazing. Where I think in the early nineties if you will
[Matt] there was a few guys that roped good. No doubt about it but they don’t dominate. When there’s 6 or 7 guys that rope better than the circuit guys they spread out.
[Matt] They break the barrier. They still make mistakes. Well now you go to a what I think is a good one head circuit rodeo and you can name twenty-two guys and they’re going to win 6 of the holes.
[Matt] Now it’s so hard for circuit guys when there’s a really good rodeo so it’s made the competition tougher and its harder to be, I’m the team roping director, so it’s made it a lot harder to manage. You know because you want your circuits to grow. You want your top guys to have a chance. You want all that, but it’s made it harder to manage because your top guys rope so good. You know there’s so much money in it that they ride better horses, they can justify spending that much money on a horse so it’s just made the gap
[Matt] a little bit wider.
[Chelsea] I’m really glad you brought up that you’re the circuit director so now if that’s opened the door, the event director, so now that’s opened the door for me to talk about that.
[Chelsea] (laughing) I think it’s fascinating what you said about the circuit guys or the open guys, the elite level guys. My husband was like 4.1 at Craig and then Luke and Jake Long pulled in and were 3.9. You know like it was a circuit, the circuit guy needed it. It was Craig, Co nobody’s there.
[Chelsea] And of course it’s the best of the best, it is the PRCA. What is your philosophy I guess on balancing that sort of situation?
[Matt] Well, I don’t know how long this thing is but what I would like to see. Here is truly what I feel and it’s not that hard if the board would get on board and you know. But to me the best guys in the world, it’s ridiculous that the best guys in the world drive 10,000 miles a month if you will, all over the place. I think the best guys in the world, so take the best 12 guys in the world and find a system to where they go to one rodeo every week and they compete Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Or Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday. Okay so now you have the best guys you can build a system around the best guys. Okay so then your next best guys, so 13-25, they go to the next best rodeo of the week and they stay there. So the rest of your guys, now you take the top 24 or 25 guys out of the mix. You throw them a really good, you know you’re going to have to work with the rodeo committees, but you set it up to where your best guys are competing at the best rodeos every week. They’re not traveling. They compete 3 or 4 nights in a row for 3 or 4 thousand bucks a night. They eliminate tons of travel expenses. You can increase the fees. If you want to charge a thousand dollar fees. Most guys pay way more than a thousand dollars per week in fees in the summertime anyway. Okay so now you take your next, the bottom how many ever, so now you let those guys go rodeo at all the other rodeos where they don’t have to beat the best 24 guys in the world. They don’t have to be 4.1 and don’t even win the rodeo. Because what happens is we’re losing membership. We’re losing rodeos. The circuit guys are just getting beat to death. The amateur rodeos, there’s not that there’s not people team roping, because the amateur rodeos are doing good. But guys get tired of not having a chance. And I think the PRCA has made some terrible mistakes. The All American system that they did was a terrible idea because now you tell the best guys you have to go to all these circuit rodeos
[Chelsea] Go to all these tiny rodeos. Yeah.
[Matt] and beat up on. You know and like I said in fairness I can lock myself in any group. I circuit rodeoed for twenty years before I ever pro rodeoed. You know so you have to go to thirty rodeos that you’re not going to count. So the top guys, you know, but you want to go to Waco because it pays so much.
[Chelsea] because it pays and sometimes it counts.
[Matt] Right. Yeah now you have to drive this much more, beat up on the circuit guys more. The circuit guys go to a rodeo in Iowa and they win the rodeo. Well, next year there is an All American deal, so all these guys have to get to this same rodeo so this circuit guy shows up and he’s like I was 8.8 here in the calf roping last year and won it. I was 8.8 this year, I didn’t place. It doesn’t take many years of that and you’re like screw this I’m not going back.
[Chelsea] Yeah, you’re not wrong.
[Matt] So I think that we’ve done some things. To me we need to be, the top guys rope great. They deserve to make a living rodeoing. They’re phenomenal athletes. Okay, but we shouldn’t be forcing them to drive all over the world spend you know, Trey told me today he’s got 70,000 miles on his truck. He got it in November a year ago. So he’s had it for 14 months. He’s got 70,000 miles on it. You know to me we are doing some things that we shouldn’t be driving back and forth. Last year I drove from Caspar to Napa, ID back to Cheyenne back to Napa and Salinas.
[Chelsea] Salinas, yeah that was.
[Matt] You know the PRCA can do some things better were we’re not wasting people’s money, time, its endangering. You know so to me that’s how if we did a good job with that in two or three years, now you have your top guys. Hey these guys are making $200,000 a year before they get to the NFR. And you can do it really easy. Like we talked about a little bit already, but my favorite rodeo of the year used to be Omaha, Nebraska. The tour finals there was only 12 guys there. The best 12 guys in the world, but every time you made a good run you got paid.
[Matt] You see in the NFR, if you make a good run you get paid. Okay so if you put me in group A and I’m competing against the best 12 guys in the world at the biggest rodeos, I’m so happy about that. If you put me in group B, I’m competing against the next best guys but the pay offs not quite as good but the competitions not quite as good I’m happy about that. If you put me in group C and now I don’t have, I’ve gotta travel a little bit more, but I get to go to all these rodeos that are still pretty, so I think that’s better for everyone. I think that system suites everyone better. Take seven guys out of group A to the NFR. Take five guys out of group B to the NFR. And take three guys out of group C to the NFR. You know you can reward everyone. It doesn’t mean these guys are seated at the NFR. They still need to try. You know, so but 7 out of 12 get to the NFR. They’ve got a better than 50% chance, you know. So I think that there’s some things that we can do to still reward every group. And now we can grow the association instead of everyone, “why’s the membership going down?”
[Chelsea] What are the barriers to making that happen? Is the board just completely in opposition to it or the different factions like the committees? What are the dynamics?
[Matt] Well your dynamics you know there’s so many parts of rodeo, there’s the board, the PRCA, so then you have all the rodeo committees, you have all of the stock contractors. And so the committees want you to do what’s best for them. They’re the ones, okay so in my mind it would take the board getting with, it would take a really good President realizing the need for change. You know real change not just. He would have to go to how many ever rodeo committees and say this is what we are going to do. We’re going to build a goal system and these are the rodeos, outline them before, you knowthese are going to be the forty if you will best rodeos. If you want to be a gold rodeo then this is what you have to do. You have to add x, you’re going to get the best 12 guys in every event, no turn outs. The committees are because they pay for all the stock and then (inaudible) horse isn’t very good, they turn out. I don’t blame them. So now the rodeo committee says “I want to be the gold rodeo.” You have to have $25,000 per event or whatever the number is. No problem. We will get it. So then you go to silver rodeos if you will, or tour B, and you say hey we need 40 rodeos you have to add. Great. And these other rodeos you say, but you can promote that. This guy’s winning the bronze tour. This guy is on his way to the NFR. You can promote that if you do it right. But to me you would have one good rodeo every weekend with your best guys. Now you can start selling some TV stuff because the hard thing about TV and I’ve said this before, I wouldn’t watch professional football if I had no idea who was going to play quarterback for the team. You know we have rodeos on TV and we don’t even know who’s going to be in the rodeo. If Trevor Brazile, if you will, if he doesn’t make the short round he’s not even there. Now we have a rodeo every single week, show the Saturday night perf once a week. These same guys are on the rodeo every single week. Well I tell you what I would do better. Here’s the next step, I would put them on a team. I would put each guy on a team and I would get a huge team sponsor. To where now you didn’t win the calf roping, if your team didn’t have the most points at the end of the night, because now everyone understands a team concept. Okay. There’s fans out there, a friend of mine, I live in Pima. The first year I made the finals he went to the finals. He said “Best Professional sporting event I’ve ever been to. I’ve been to the Superbowl, I’ve been to NASCAR. I’ve been everywhere. I’ve never been to a rodeo. That was the most enjoyable.” We have a great product, but the way we sell it is so hard for people to understand. So I would put the best 12 guys, I would go get 12 title sponsors. It would cost you a million dollars to be a title sponsor but now you have 12 guys on your team. Do a draft.
[Chelsea] Why didn’t that work the last time? Because we did the teams.
[Matt] There’s a reason it didn’t.
[Matt] In my opinion
[Chelsea] Yeah, tell me.
[Matt] The top guys went to the bottom rodeos and the bottom guys were pissed. Hey you want to go to your rodeos, go, but don’t come to freaking Buckeye, Arizona and take my money.
[Matt] You want to go to the top rodeos, go. But you can’t let the top guys go to all the little circuit rodeos and win both. That was before my time but that’s what, and I’ve looked at it
[Matt] and how to do it. And there’s so much more money and so many things that are different now. And maybe we do it for a year and we have to tweak it. Obviously things are going to have to be, but now if you go to Wrangler ,or you go to whoever and say hey for a million dollars you own a team. These guys are going to 40. Part of the problem was because when we had the Winston tour.
[Chelsea] Well the Winston Tour and what was it called just recently? Like a couple of years ago. The I don’t know why I can’t remember that but remember we had that.
[Matt] Champions Challenge?
[Chelsea] Champions Challenge! Yeah. That’s what
[Matt] So those I thought worked pretty good but and I went to some of those rodeos but I wasn’t involved in the production.
[Matt] I don’t know where the outside money came from. But if you do this, if you sell a team sponsorship then you know hopefully, maybe a million’s too high, maybe it’s too low. I don’t know but there’s a lot of money in the world right now. You know a million dollars is not that much to hey you’re going to own a team. So now when I rope I don’t have all these sponsors on. The back of my thing says Cinch. I’m on the Cinch team. Okay so, they put up a million bucks so now if you will these guys now get $112,000 bucks a piece for being on the team. Every time I compete, I compete for Cinch. Cinch wins the rodeo. Matt Sherwood doesn’t win the team roping. If I don’t place in the team roping and my bareback rider doesn’t place, create a points system to where at the end of the deal the top 7 teams advance to the NFR. Because to me you have to get outside money involved if you want to do good. The committees can only raise so much money, the guys you know. So if you get some outside money besides individual sponsorships. If you get some outside money into the rodeo and you can do the same thing for the B league. You know
[Matt] it could cost you a half a million dollars to be a team sponsor and set it up in a way that the fan base can understand and we can market it because we have the same group of guys on Tv once a week. I know how is going to be on TV. I’m behind the Budweiser team. You know I love those guys. I could follow it, but if you just keep spreading it out like this and granted rodeo’s better than it’s ever been. So I don’t want to sound like
[Chelsea] Sure. No, no.
[Matt] But there’s so, you know professional athletes make 4 million dollars a year and these guys if you will, myself, if you end up 16th in the world, the 16th best calf roper in the world has $75,000 won and he spent 85 to. You know I just think there’s so much more. There’s so much more.
[Matt] There’s so much money in the world right now that I think we’re not. We have the best guys in the world. You go to a rodeo and you feel patriotic. We have the best guys in any professional sport. You know I think you could build a fan base behind it. You know, anyway.
[Matt] That’s my opinion.
[Chelsea] Yeah, no I wanted your opinion. That’s what I asked for.
[Matt] Surprised that don’t call me (inaudible).
[Chelsea] (laughing) Oh man. How? You wanted to be an event rep again. You were the team roping event director?
[Matt] I was the team roping director. I was going to keep doing it. There’s a lot of things not to love about it but I liked being involved.
[Matt] You know I liked feeling like I can do whatever I can make change or to not change, but you know. A lot of the changes that are happening right now with some of them I disagree with so. But anyway, so then I got out voted so I wasn’t going to do it and was fine not ever doing it again. Then I had several people ask me, “Hey will you please run for team roping director again?” so,
[Chelsea] So here you are.
[Matt] so here I am. Doing it again. At least one more year.
[Chelsea] Yeah, at least one more year. You brought up money a little bit ago when we were talking about what it costs to rodeo. Do you like to spend a lot on a horse? I don’t know if anyone likes to spend a lot on a horse. Are you in the camp that will spend $100,000 on a horse?
[Matt] You know what I’ve never done it and that’s been one of the downfalls of my career. I can look back and honestly admit, and it started because I had one really good horse.
[Matt] And I rode him everywhere. And so in my mind why am I going to spend $30,000, which you know is still a ton of money but even then it was why am I going to spend a ton money on a horse that I hope I never ride. Because I’m going to ride my good horse everywhere. And so then all of a sudden my good horse got older. I could still ride him some but not, so then I didn’t have a very good back up. So it put me in a bad situation. You know it’s kind of a circle. If you’re winning a ton, going to the NFR every year, you have the money to buy. But then you don’t make the finals for a couple of years, you’re broke as crap, but you need to spend $50,000 on a horse and new trailer. And all of sudden you’re $200,000 bucks in so.
[Matt] That’s been one of my hard you know. So a good horse let’s say $50,000 for a really good horse. And so you need a new trailer. If you buy a good used trailer, which I think is the best way to go, because a used a good used trailer is 40 or 50 thousand dollars and a truck payment is $900 a month. And all of a sudden you know it’s like you’re $150,000. This is what you’re doing to make a living. You have to spend $150,000 just to start the year. So yeah you just get yourself. I’m a fan of it because I see the importance of a good horse. I mean I see the importance of. I tell my wife you know can you imagine riding in a bicycle race and you got the only pedal bike out there and everyone else is riding a 10 speed.
[Matt] You but that’s really what I’ve tried to do and a lot of guys try to do throughout the year. You can’t draw good enough often enough to win on a crappy horse.
[Chelsea] Is Murphy about done? What’s your horse plan?
[Matt] I’m in the same boat I was you know so.
[Chelsea] (laughing) Yeah.
[Matt] She’s phenomenal. She’s older. She’s got a big knee. So I have a mediocre back up that I almost rode today just because but.
[Chelsea] Did you ride her today? I didn’t
[Matt] Yeah I rode her. My steer wasn’t very good.
[Matt] But we caught so.
[Chelsea] I heard you knocked one down.
[Matt] 6.4, yeah. We almost made a good run. Got it on him fast and then he followed me all the way around in a circle.
[Matt] But the format here is and I’m against this.
[Chelsea] Yeah that was going to be a question.
[Matt] I don’t like the format.
[Chelsea] The tournament style deal.
[Matt] It’s terrible. Okay and we are in Denver. I don’t want to say anything bad about Denver. They stepped their added money up. They’re doing great. But so here is what happened, there are twenty performances so there’s 16 performances before the finals. So guys come up and rope last week Saturday. So it’s a week before the semi-finals. And they go 12 on 2. For example, the top 24 guys out of
[Chelsea] On two?
[Matt] How many make it?
[Chelsea] I don’t know.
[Matt] Sixteen, so eighty guys. So the top twenty-four advance. So if you go 12 on 2 you drive back to Oklahoma or Texas or where ever you’re from you don’t even know if you’re going to, you haven’t won any money so you don’t even know if you’re going to advance. So Friday night you find out hey you made the semifinals.
[Matt] You’re in Oklahoma City so now it’s a random draw. You don’t even know when you’re going to be up until right then and then they call you and say hey you got the first perf. You have to be here in the morning at 11 o’clock. It’s 13 you know.
[Matt] Just too many things about it to me. I understand the committee is trying to sell tickets. I understand that. But they have to also look at the cowboys and say “hey what are we doing to these guys?”. You know what are we doing. If we make them drive all night often enough someone is going to wreck and die. So there’s enough things about it like that I think we have to figure something out to where we can work with the committees and sell tickets but we don’t have to put out guys in a situation that we have to drive back and forth to Denver, CO from.
[Matt] You know those top guys don’t love it because they have to go back and forth. The circuit guys now you’re telling me you have to rope, drive home, just
[Chelsea] Now a long time ago I did a story and I think you were the event director way back then and it was about where the committees get the idea of tournament style rodeos and one of the things was that I remember from that story was based on a study done, the reason, the rationale for a lot of this was it was based on a study done at rodeo Houston. Most of that survey was their own committee volunteers that they ended up surveying. Has that been updated to your knowledge?
[Matt] I don’t know the answer to that.
[Matt] But I think you’re right. San Antonio and Houston they add $200,000 an event. Okay, so every night they have a winner. But when we go to San Antonio and Houston it pays $3,000 a night and we get to rope three nights in a row. Okay so, we have an opportunity to win. You know if you place once, win once, and don’t place once you win $3,500 bucks. You know that’s still a lot of money. A lot of people work all month to make $3,500. Okay, but you go to rodeo and I’m going to pick on Colorado Springs. You go to Colorado Springs costs you almost as much to drive to Colorado Springs so you get to rope once, not three times. It only pays $1,200 to win first and then if you win third it pays $800, but you don’t even advance. So I love tournament style rodeos, but they have the committees have to have enough money to justify the guys. You know this rodeo has 20 performances, if you’re going to do a tournament style rodeo then we need to cut the guys back have enough money to justify
[Matt] them coming up here. You know so I that there’s but spectators love to know who won today. So that’s their theory is, it’s so hard to sell tickets when you say this guy is winning fourth we will know next week how he does.
[Matt] You know so a little bit of that I know where the committees at. They want to have a champion today. They want to have a champion every single day because it’s hard to promote someone that might win ten days from now so.
[Chelsea] Gotcha. Now your partner this year is Trey.
[Matt] Trey Yates.
[Chelsea] You guys are hooked for how long? Seeing how to winter goes? Planning to make the, I mean obviously the goal is a world title at the end of the year but tell me the plan for the year. Is there a plan for the year other than that?
[Matt] Absolutely, yeah I’ve got to find a head horse or in fairness I have to tell Trey, hey look you have to find a better partner. You know like I said my horse is super good at most rodeos. She’s getting old. I’ve got to find a better head horse, but yeah our goal is rope good together, be successful. The last two partners I’ve had I thought would be my last partner. I’m 50 years old. I’ll rope with this guy until I’m done. And then someone else comes along that I think ropes amazing you know, so hopefully I get a chance. I really enjoy roping with Trey. Hopefully, I get a chance to rope with Trey for two or three more years and whenever I feel like I’m ready to be done I can be done.
[Chelsea] Surely, Trey might know where some good head horses are.
[Matt] I know but man Trey has great horses. I got to find a good horse but I know what you’re saying.
[Chelsea] Yeah, no. And there’s a price tag that comes with the ones that Trey knows.
[Matt] It is. It’s so tough. (inaudible)
[Chelsea] Yeah, for sure. So what is on your good horse, what is on your wish list horse shopping? What will be it? What will feel like it?
[Matt] What I look like, what I look for I’ve tried so many horse okay so most horses don’t score good enough. Ninety-five percent of the horses don’t score good enough. You know and the average person doesn’t understand how important that is. So if I can talk about myself for one second.
[Chelsea] Do it!
[Matt] Last year I roped with Hunter Koch. I rode my good horse at 100 steers roughly. I had a backup horse I rode for maybe 15, so maybe 120 steers. I broke the barrier one time out of 100 and some steers because my horse scores good. So most people don’t they think well you rope good you can get on a horse and you can do good. Most of the reason I rope good is because I’ve been blessed to have good horses. So you have to have a horse that scores good and they have to have enough run. Okay, so everything else can be improved on. You know if this horse is a little bit green but if they don’t score amazing and they don’t have enough run, they don’t have the ability to be quick footed enough to make things happen. So many rodeos you know when I started even in 2006, so many rodeos had a short go. A lot of the rodeos had a short go. Okay, so now a lot of rodeos that used to be two and a short now they’re one head. You know some many rodeos 4.4; 4.5; 4.7 is last hole, You know where it used to be three sixes. So man you’ve got to have a horse that just scores, runs, ducks, faces.
[Chelsea] Sure. All of the above.
[Chelsea] Is It making, Is the world series so you know a lot of time you guys will go out in the backwoods and find a jackpot or a #5 that has an amazing horse. Has the world series start made that harder for you guys to find a horse?
[Matt] I believe so, yes.
[Matt] And there’s still great quality horses out there, but if you just go with the gates go with the gates for a thousand runs in a row, then hey you can try my horse it’s hard to just get on them. And there’s great horses that will.
[Matt] You know they respond to the pressure. You’re going to pull on them a little bit they’re going to wait until you go but it’s made it, I truly believe it’s made it where head horses are, it’s made it easier to have horses that you can get by that aren’t amazing. You know when you have to score every horse (inaudible). Now a horse, head horse is pretty good, but he doesn’t score well who cares. (laughing) Just go with the gates every time anyways. So yeah it’s made it harder.
[Chelsea] Gotcha. One thing I wanted you to tell me about. You switched ropes at the finals this year. Did you?
[Matt] I did.
[Chelsea] You used a future?
[Matt] I did.
[Chelsea] What do you like about it?
[Matt] Man it’s the best rope. I’ve been with cactus, I’ve thought about this I want to say longer than anyone. So I love cactus, but it’s the best rope that they have that you take the twisties off you pull on it one time and its ready to go. Every one of them feel the same. So for me a lot of the times, I used a Mini Mag forever. Okay, to cold it would get soft to hot it wouldn’t so you know you have to feel like you’ve got four or five different ropes. Well if it’s hot I’ll use this one, if it’s cold. But it’s the best rope that I feel take the twisties off, it’s 40 degrees outside no big deal, if it’s 80 degrees. So it just feels the same. Good weight. Good body. It doesn’t going to spring back open. It just feels really good to me. And heel ropes feel amazing too.
[Chelsea] Had you been testing those ropes all year, so going into the finals you at least knew what you had or?
[Matt] I didn’t even know about them. Riley had one and maybe Steven Duby had one that I saw but I didn’t really. So they’d been testing them for a while, but I never tested them until maybe after the year was over. First time he finally sent me some was October, but first one I used I called him and told him “that’s the best rope you’ve got.”
[Chelsea] That’s awesome.
[Matt] You know.
[Chelsea] Very cool. Well Matt I told you I would take you for thirty minutes, it is forty-two minutes in so I will let you go have dinner with Trey
[Matt] Okay, thank you!
[Chelsea] before the second perf here.
[Matt] Thank you very much.
[Chelsea] (laughing) Thanks!
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