ERA instant replay writes history | TheFencePost.com

ERA instant replay writes history

photo by Jamie Begay-Arviso

It won't untip a barrel or slip a wayward head loop around a neck, but instant replay gives rodeo athletes the chance to challenge a split-second judgment call made by the officials.

The Elite Rodeo Association is the first to implement the policy, said their spokesperson.

"This is the first time in rodeo that because of the use of cameras at each rodeo, athletes are given a choice if they feel the call was wrong to have recourse," said Holly DeLaune, Elite Rodeo Association Brand and Communications Directors.

Fans watching on TV or in attendance of ERA's Albuquerque Rodeo June 1 witnessed history being created as three athletes used the option to review their performance with instant replay.

“Other professional sports offer instant replay and its a huge aspect; I feel like it’s about time rodeo brought this in. Holly DeLaune, ERA brand and communications director

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While the ERA has offered their contestants the option of using instant replay since their first rodeo, contestants hadn't take advantage of it until the New Mexico rodoeo.

Stockton Graves, a steer-wrestler from Alva, Oklahoma, was the first to challenge a call upon hearing he'd been flagged on his 3.35-second run for a broken barrier, resulting in a five-second penalty. Graves claimed the neck rope on the steer failed. After reviewing the instant replay video, the judges determined that Graves was correct and he was able to keep his original 3.35-second time. 

Luke Branquinho, of Los Alamos, California, was the last steer-wrestler of the performance and the second contestant to use the instant replay challenge. His take-down was deemed illegal and resulted in disqualification. Branquinho challenged the call, resulting in a reversal as well as the fastest ERA steer-wrestling run of 3.05 seconds. 

"I think that instant replay needs to go everywhere," said Branquinho. "You know we make or break ourselves out here and if we have a chance to get it reviewed and a have call overturned, that's what happens. I think it's the best deal in rodeo right now."

"Other professional sports offer instant replay and its a huge aspect; I feel like it's about time rodeo brought this in," DeLaune said.

Branquinho took first place in the event and Graves second. Graves remains the leader in the ERA steer wrestling world standings with 1,687.5 points. 

Saddle Bronc Rider Cort Scheer, of Elsmere, Nebraska, threw the blue flag for an instant replay review to overturn a judge's call. His challenge was successful and resulted in a ninth place finish in New Mexico, added 75 points to his running total.

"It's been a long time coming. So many times in rodeo, a cowboy has had to walk out and say, 'Well, I guess I got screwed,'" Scheer said. "Now, it's awesome, cowboys got a chance. Everything happens fast, it's not the judge's fault. They're just making calls, they get to go back and make it right…. it's pretty exciting, fans love it, and it's great for rodeo."

"It used to be that that's just part of the game, whether they feel it was right or wrong, the judges opinion stands, the real cool thing is athletes now have an opportunity to come back and say I don't think that was the right call," DeLaune said. "This instant replay has nothing against the judges at all. We're talking about split second decisions; most of the time judges make the right call, but occasionally a replay is necessary."

Elite Rodeo Association focuses on leveling the playing field for its athletes.

"From the very beginning ERA has been about ability," DeLaune said. "All athletes compete on the same level: the same night, each night is its own rodeo so you know who the winners are at the event, the best stock. It's about their ability. Instant replay is another way to give them the fairest run possible."

Utilizing the broadcasting each rodeo receives by using instant replay challenges minimizes risk for athletes.

"The reason we haven't done this more is that ERA uses sports broadcast, and we have the unique ability to capture the rides from multiple angles. Other rodeos might not have that ability. It might be worth other rodeos to do," DeLaune said. "We've seen some calls at other rodeos when they put them on TV and slowed them down, they might have been ruled differently. Bad calls cost world titles, cost thousands of dollars. Being able to take the question out of a run is good for the sport and good for athletes."

There is no limit to challenges, however if an athlete wishes to challenge a judge's ruling, but it stands, the athlete pays $500 to a charity of the ERA Board of Directors' choosing.

Something conspicuously missing from ERA rodeos is an age requirement. "We don't have an age limit," DeLaune said. "It's about ability, if they're at the high school level and they can compete, then they should be able to. We have a tour with fewer rodeos they have to attend."

Ten-year-old Chayni Chamberlain, of Stevenville, Texas, holds the current barrel racing record within ERA. At the Salt Lake City, Utah, stop Chamberlain ran the fastest time of the ERA Premier Tour with a 13.30 second run aboard Dat Flowing Bunny.

"ERA is about elite level; we are very for the cowboy," DeLaune said. "We really want them to perform at the highest level, we take out all factors that might affect the outcome. Everything is done with purpose, and all athletes have the same shot at it. The level of competition has really been fun to watch."

According to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association rulebook, individuals must be 18, or the "age of majority" in the state he or she resides, in order to maintain a membership with that group.