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Murray reflects

8/26/2008

PUEBLO, Colo. (August 15, 2008) — Ty Murray finally tied the knot.

The 38-year-old seven-time world all-around champion wed pop star Jewel Kilcher during a private ceremony in the Bahamas on Aug. 7.

When the couple began dating almost a decade ago, it was curious. On the surface, it seemed somewhat out of the ordinary. Here was this pop star dating the most successful rodeo cowboy of our time.

However, the more fans of western sports learned about Jewel, the more they saw that she and Murray fit each other like a pair of handmade boots. Jewel spent childhood years on an Alaska ranch and always felt at home at Murray's picturesque 2,200-acre ranch near Stephenville, Texas.

Since the couple began their relationship, Jewel, 34, has attended many PBR shows, and she fits right in. She's graciously used her celebrity to help advance the PBR by sometimes singing the national anthem during a performance or one of her new songs on the PBR's national telecasts.

In the past year, Murray, 38, has reached a new level of transcending his sport. He has starred in Miller Lite TV commercials with film icon Burt Reynolds. Last summer, Murray strapped on a racing helmet during a prime time ABC special about celebrity racing and drove around a NASCAR track.

And he also taught a small posse of celebs Bull Riding 101 last summer on a CMT television series. Among the celebrities were singer Vanilla Ice, actor Stephen Baldwin, former football star "Rocket" Ismail, Ultimate Fighter Josh Haynes and X-Games motorcycle legend "Cowboy" Kenny Bartram.

Murray, a founding father of the PBR who now serves as a top advisor, invited them to his ranch to learn about bull riding and asked them to compete in Nashville in conjunction with a PBR tour stop.

In a recent interview at his ranch, Murray answered questions about Jewel, his career, and factors that makes the PBR successful and compelling to fans.

Question: Both you and Jewel have celebrity status. Do you advise each other?

Answer: We'll run a lot of things by each other. We bounce things off of each other all of the time, just like any couple does. We're closer to each other than anybody else. What's nice about she and I being together is that we both understand each other's worlds. But the thing that we both try to do is remain true to ourselves.

Q: Jewel has been a great help to the PBR by attending the events over the years and sometimes singing at a tour stop. What are your thoughts about that?

A: She's very supportive. We try to support each other in different ways. She's gotten a ton of press for the PBR just out of a genuine love and an interest in the sport, and in what we're doing and trying to build at the PBR.

Q: The PBR consistently provides an all-star cast of competitors and bulls for fans. Why is that important?

A: When I competed in rodeos, I don't know how many big rodeos that I went to that I didn't have a chance (because of drawing poor stock). You'd pay $3,000 to out of your pocket to go and you didn't even have a chance. When I compare the PBR to rodeo, someone could easily think that I don't have anything good to say about rodeo and that's certainly not true. I have a lot of great things to say about the memories and the fun of traveling around to all of the great rodeos when I was young. It was a blast. But I also like seeing what the PBR is providing for people who want to go get it. For the people who want to get on the world's rankest bulls every time the gate opens and compete against the toughs, that fair and competitive atmosphere and great opportunity is there for them. It pleases me to see all of those guys get to go do something that was a dream 15 years ago.

Q. How is the PBR cost and time effective for competitors?

A. There's no entry fees on the Built Ford Tough Series and you get paid to go. The performances are on back-to-back days so there's no going back and forth like you do at many rodeos, which cuts into your chance of breaking even, even if you win. You're gone to PBR events on Friday and Saturday and you're home by Monday. In many cases, cowboys load up their families and go to the events on the weekend and then they're back home the rest of the week, taking their kids to school and watching them play soccer. Another factor is the prize money that top bull riders earn in the PBR is all profit. For example, when Clayton Williams won $525,000 (at a two-day show in February ) at Oklahoma City, that was net profit. He took all that home and put it in the bank.

Q. The PBR is able to go into major cities such as New York and draw large crowds, places where pro rodeo would have a hard time. Why?

A. We are a followable sport on television that's live and you can tune in and follow us every weekend. Bull riding is dangerous and even if you don't know a lot about bull riding, you can go to a PBR event and be entertained. We also do a good job with our media and advertising relations. We have a good business model in general. You know when you go to a PBR event, you'll see the best guys and the best bulls. If you go to many rodeos, even some the bigger ones such as Fort Worth, you see guys you've never heard of. I've ridden at the Fort Worth (Stock Show) rodeo and didn't know 90 percent of the guys that I was riding against. So, if that's the case, how can you expect fans to know? But when we go to Madison Square Garden, fans already have watched our top cowboys on TV. They already know about Justin McBride, Guilherme Marchi and Brian Canter. By comparison, if you go to watch pro basketball, you want to watch a star like Michael Jordan. You're not going walk across the street to watch guys that you've never even heard about.

Q: What makes the PBR successful?

A: It's not one thing, it's a lot of particles. It's like Michael Jordan being a great basketball player. It's not one thing that makes him great. It's not only that he's tall, that he's fast, can jump really high, and not only because his accuracy is impeccable, on so on. But it's all of those particles together and you have Michael Jordan. By comparison, the PBR is successful because we've put many particles together for a long time for the fan and we're still trying to make it better. One reason that bull riding does well is because it's dangerous and compelling and has an awe factor, but that alone is not enough to drive the sport.

Q: Over the years, you've been very willing to talk to reporters about your sport. Why is that important?

A: I tried to keep my main focus with my riding in the arena. But I wasn't like a lot of young guys that acted like they're doing the media a favor to talk to them. But actually, the media is doing them and the sport a favor. That's something early on that (six-time world all-around champion) Larry Mahan showed me. Before I came along, Larry Mahan was the only guy who I saw who really did something beyond rodeo. Today, there's the Larry Mahan Cowboy Collection (of western apparel) and he's still synonymous with being a cowboy. That's because he was willing to get out of "my world of rodeo," and did innovative things that brought recognition to himself and the sport. He was not a close-minded, redneck cowboy, something that's very easy for cowboys to fall into. For Larry Mahan to have an influence on me at a young age was a great help.

Q: Larry Mahan did a great job of transcending his sport and you've also done a remarkable job through being a commentator, doing beverage ads, driving in nationally televised celebrity auto racing and producing celebrity bull riding. How has all that helped the sport?

A: Those are things that make people ask, "What about a bull rider? What about a cowboy?" For example, my idea behind the celebrity bull riding was to get people who are outside of our circles to start taking a look at the sport and what goes into it. My idea was not to make fun of (the students), but rather to see how good I could get them to ride, so that the people watching could say, "Wow, there's a lot more that goes into bull riding than I thought."