After a rough career in bull riding, maybe all a cowboy needs is some rest and relaxation. But after retiring from the circuit in 1996, Cody Lambert decided to devote his free time to making the sport tougher for riders.
Lambert, 45, is the livestock director for Professional Bull Riders (PBR), an organization that did away with more tame events like calf roping and devoted itself solely to the top draw: bull riding. He spends his days searching for the meanest -- or as the riders call them, rankest -- bulls to keep the tour's riders challenged and its audience entertained.
"He knows more bulls than anybody," said Adriano Moraes of Brazil, the defending and three-time world champion.
When Lambert is not out scouting new talent, he is at home doing research. Lambert has information on thousands of bulls stored on his computer and on videotapes and DVDs that breeders send him in hopes of landing a coveted spot with the organization. But competition is tough.
"I'd say nine out of 10 times they don't have anything I can use," Lam-bert said.
This weekend, PBR is hoping to capitalize on Lambert's eye for bulls when it rolls into New York City's Madison Square Garden for the season opener of its top circuit, the Built Ford Tough Series. It is the arena's first top-tier professional bull-riding event and part of PBR's effort to popularize bull riding east of the Mississippi.
All 105 of the bulls in the series were hand-picked by Lambert.
"He's got the second-toughest job in the PBR aside from the judges," Moraes said.
It is arguably the most important job in a sport where the bulls are often more popular than the men riding them. Their statistics appear alongside those of the riders on PBR's Web site, and their likenesses are re-created on hats, key chains and bobblehead figures, which sell more than the riders' merchandise.
With colorful names and violent behavior, bulls like Scene of the Crash and Big Bucks command a growing audience.
Their brashness is also important for riders because a bull's performance accounts for half of a rider's total points.
Lambert's job is to make sure the bulls consistently earn high marks. "In other places, you'll see low scores," he said. "In the PBR, that's not acceptable."
He observes bulls during competitions, and those that cannot score at least 39 points out of 50 are quickly culled. "If there's not a legitimate reason, we might never see him again," Lambert said.
His efforts have earned PBR a reputation for high quality bulls. "It's never the bull's fault if you get a low score," Moraes said.
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