Texas Rattlers: Local team brings new concept to familiar sport of bull riding

The Texas Rattlers: Team President and General Manager Mark George (foreground) and (from the left): Brady Oleson, Ednei Caminhas, Brady Fielder, Cody Jesus, Joao Ricardo Vieira, Braidy Randolph, Rafael de Brito and Daniel Keeping (Photo courtesy Bull Stock Media)

Folks in Fort Worth love their bull riding. And, like sports fans everywhere, they love winning.

The newest team in town, the Ariat Texas Rattlers, are giving them plenty of both.

The Rattlers, sponsored by the California-based Ariat boot-footwear company, are part of the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) Team Series League, now nearing the end of its inaugural season. The league features some of the world’s top bull riders competing on teams in 5-on-5 bull riding “games” during an 11-event season that began in July and culminates in a team championship at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas Nov. 4-6.

The PBR Team Series builds on the existing structure of professional bull riding with the same basic rules for judging and scoring qualified 8-second rides. Events are staged in a tournament-style format with all teams competing in head-to-head matchups against a different opponent each day.

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During the recently concluded 2022 regular season, each of the eight teams hosted a three-day homestand. The teams are: Fort Worth, Austin (Gamblers); Glendale, Arizona (Ridge Riders); Kansas City (Outlaws); Nashville (Stampede); Oklahoma City (Freedom); Ridgedale, Missouri (Thunder); and Winston-Salem, North Carolina (Cowboys).

There were also neutral site games in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Anaheim, California.

The new league has been a hit everywhere it’s gone in the first season, said Andrew Giangola, vice president of strategic communications for PBR and author of the new book Love & Try: Stories of Gratitude and Grit from Professional Bull Riding.

“The launch of this new league has exceeded expectations,” Giangola said. “One highlight was the event hosted in Fort Worth at Dickies Arena, broadcast on CBS. PBR Rattler Days in Fort Worth (Sunday, Oct. 9), peaked at 3.2 million total viewers on CBS. The broadcast was the third most-watched sport during that Sunday’s afternoon window (1-7 p.m.), behind only the NFL and NASCAR.”

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All PBR Team Series events are carried on either the CBS Television Network, streaming live on Paramount+, CBS Sports Network, or RidePass on PlutoTV.

The regular season wrapped up Oct. 16 in Glendale, an event won by the Rattlers, who are on a 10-game winning streak. They finished second in the regular-season standings with a 16-12 record (they actually tied the Austin Gamblers for the best record, but Austin owns the tiebreaker). The Rattlers earned a bye in the first round of the playoffs in Las Vegas.

There is an individual MVP Award, which was won by Jose Vitor Leme of the Austin Gamblers.

When the idea for the league came about, putting a team in Fort Worth was an obvious choice, said Rattlers President and General Manager Mark George.

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“Fort Worth is the center of the cowboy universe and has cowboy culture in its veins,” George said. “When we bought the first PBR team, the league gave us the latitude to pick any home market we wanted in the continental United States. It was a no-brainer to pick Fort Worth, where the West begins.”

“The city has a cowboy heritage, and almost any night of the week you can catch a rodeo event at Cowtown Coliseum,” he said. “Fans come from thousands of miles to see the Cowgirl Hall of Fame and visit Billy Bob’s, and we hope they’ll add seeing the Texas Rattlers compete to their list of ‘must-see’ activities in Fort Worth.”

The Rattlers’ popularity is enhanced by having North Texans as part of the team. Head coach Cody Lambert lives in Bowie, about an hour from Fort Worth. Assistant coach Cade Swor lives just outside of Fort Worth. Daniel Keeping, one of the star riders, is from Gorman

“Most of our riders live at Cody Lambert’s ranch during the season, or in Decatur, so we have a lot of local representation on the team, one way or another,” George said.

Giangola said that as popular as individual PBR competition has been for nearly three decades, adding a team series seemed like the clear next step.

“The team element brings to professional bull riding more highlight-reel moments frequently seen across team sports,” he said. “The team series brings new drama and excitement – each day of the event has four head-to-head games – that produces four different payoffs for fans with a winner, compared to waiting for the end of the weekend for one rider to win the event. We’ve seen walk off, game-winning rides and big upsets – moments that sports fans can relate to.

“Additionally, teams are durable. They span generations. Riders’ careers last a few years. Teams endure for decades. Fans love cheering for their home team. We are barely one year into this new league and expect the home team fan bases to grow significantly.”

PBR Team Series final regular-season standings:

1. Austin Gamblers, 16-12-0 (won tiebreaker)

2. Texas Rattlers, Presented by Ariat 16-12-0

3. Oklahoma Freedom, 16-12-0

4. Carolina Cowboys, 15-13-0

5. Arizona Ridge Riders, 14-13-1

6. Missouri Thunder, 13-15-0

7. Kansas City Outlaws, 12-16-0

8. Nashville Stampede, 7-20-1