In an attempt to rope in fans with little or no rodeo background, the 2014 Fort Worth Stock Show will feature a single-night show that will offer competitors $100,000 and will use uncommon methods to determine champions.
The Fort Worth Super Shoot Out will feature the top finishers from some of the largest Western riding shows in North America, such as RodeoHouston, the Calgary Stampede and the Fort Worth Stock Show’s renowned Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association show, a 17-day competition in late January and early February.
But unlike the Stock Show’s traditional PRCA show that determines single-event champions by aggregate results at the end of an exhausting 2 ½-week run, the Super Shoot Out will determine each event winner within a two-hour performance.
“The problem with rodeo is fans do not see a winner every night like they are accustomed to from pro baseball or football grandstands,” said Brad Barnes, president and general manager of the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. “We’re trying to address nonrodeo fans.”
The Super Shoot Out, which is scheduled for Jan. 23 at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum, will feature bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding, barrel racing and steer wrestling.
The competition will begin with eight credentialed riders in each event. After that, the top four will advance to a final round in which no previous scores will count.
The Super Shoot Out also will feature team competition, which is rare in rodeo.
But at the Shoot Out, seven major rodeos — Denver, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston, San Angelo, Calgary and Reno, Nev. — will each be represented by a team of competitors.
“Not only will cowboys and cowgirls be competing for individual titles and money, contestants will also be competing on their respective teams,” Barnes said. “You will see Team Fort Worth competing against Team Houston, Team Calgary and so on. That should go over well because the general public understands teams.”
Break with tradition
Since its humble beginnings in Old West communities, rodeo organizers have used a random draw, for the most part, to determine which wild bronc or bull a competitor will face.
But at the Super Shoot Out, competitors will be asked to pick their broncs and bulls and make comments as part of the entertainment. During the draft, each competitor will announce his selection in the arena while being interviewed by Pam Minick, a former Miss Rodeo America who has served as a rodeo sports TV commentator for many years.
“The Fort Worth rodeo has always tried to stay traditional, and the Super Shoot Out is a step out for them,” Minick said. “I like the fact that they are using methods such as a team concept, which will give people a way to come out and attach themselves to their community by watching Team Fort Worth take on a team from another city. It will raise the level of visibility for the Fort Worth rodeo and will give fans something to hang their hats on.”
The National Western Stock Show Rodeo in Denver has featured a similar Shoot Out competition for the past two years, and it has helped fans understand the sport and its contestants better, said Susan Kanode, who operates a public relations firm that helps some of the biggest pro rodeos in the nation.
“It’s fabulous, and fans have been receptive,” Kanode said. “Fans see things from a different perspective. When they watch the contestants chose their stock and talk about it, fans have chance to get to know the contestants. Fans get to hear locker room talk, and that’s great for the sport. As a result, they become fans of the individuals and not just the rodeo.”
Making new fans
Five years ago, the Professional Bull Riders began using a draft system, which became a big hit with fans. At the Aug. 31 PBR tour stop at the WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla., for example, fans watched each final-round qualifier step on a stage in the arena and pick a world-class bull.
Like the PBR, which uses only the toughest bulls in a final-round draft, the Fort Worth Super Shoot Out will feature only broncs and bulls that have performed at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
The Super Shoot Out will be held the night before the start of the Stock Show’s PRCA event, which will feature roping events.
“We’re trying to talk to the folks who don’t think they are a rodeo fan,” Barnes said of the Super Shoot Out. “This is an example of how we’re becoming more and more concerned about what we’re presenting to our guests.”