Michael's Monthly Column "Throwing My Loop"

Throwing My Loop…    

By:  Michael Johnson  



     We mention it once in a while.  In a way, we know what it is…sort of.  We don’t pay much attention to what it really is, and what it could do for us.  But you know who does?  Household names, that’s who.  The people we’ve heard of all our lives. The ones who wrote all the songs we know.  Those who won the most golf tournaments, or played quarterback on the championship team, and stand up comics know it is the key to success.  The people who dance for a living live by it, as do those who sing.  Hang around with some PRCA cowboys for a while, and it won’t be long before you hear them talking about how vital it is.  Doesn’t matter if you are riding rough stock or roping.  This “it” I’m referring to is called “tempo.”  Or maybe some call it “rhythm,” or “balance,” or “timing.”  You might hear the phrase “in sync,” or “being in the flow,” and “in the zone.”  And every rodeo cowboy knows the critical importance of “getting tapped off.”  Tempo, rhythm, timing, flow…whatever we call it, “it” offers something of great value…rich potential to help improve our performance.
     Some time ago now, my roping was mired in an awful slump.  Couldn’t seem to do anything right.  I called my old partner, Darrell Buzan for help.  Darrell (my other brother, Darrell) in addition to being a good hand with the rope, is a talented musician, a tremendous piano player, and a true teacher.  Sitting in his lawn chair in the arena, Darrell watched me run perhaps a dozen - only catching three or four - and not looking good at all on those.
     “Do you see anything that might help?”  I asked.
     Darrell thought a moment and said, “I always told my music students something.”
     “What was that?” I asked wondering what in the Sam hill we were talking about music for at a time when I’m about to cut my wrists.
     “I always told them, ‘You can’t play a piece of music fast unless you can play it slow first.’ ” 
     “Uh…okay,” I said.  “What’s that got to do with me?”
     “The Miguel I know always ropes smoothly,” Darrell answered.  “The guy under his hat today is in a dreadful hurry.  You have no tempo, no timing, and no rhythm.”  And he mounted his big cowboy truck and drove away.  I worked on what he said. Slump went away.
     My friend, Jerry Vessel, attended a roping school put on by the famous Camarillo brothers in Mesquite, Texas in 1976.  After watching the students make several roping runs, Jerold Camarillo rode by Jerry V. and said, “You rope too fast.”
     Jerry said, “I thought you were supposed to rope fast.”
     Jerold eyed Jerry and said, “You are.  Your times will be better when you stop trying to be so fast.”
     I’ve played golf for many years, and competed in perhaps over a hundred amateur events in the last three decades.  While I scored well at times (a 2 handicap in 1985) there was one recurring problem.  Suddenly with no warning, all the field mice left of the fairway would be in terrible danger.  A dreadful duck hook would ruin my round.  I never knew why.  The swing felt just like all other swings, but the result was too painful to watch.  Eventually, that swing flaw would drive me away from the game.  (Couldn’t afford all those lost golf balls.)  For the last fifteen years, most every night I have wondered why that ball would go left.  Then I saw the girl…
     I had heard about her.  Chantry won the Texas 3-A state golf championship as a junior, then repeated as a senior.  The University where we live has a really good golf team, and we were lucky enough to recruit this talented young woman to play for us.  There is a small driving range close to our farm, and on most days, you can see an old man out there still working on his golf swing.  At first, you might think he was a player at one time, but when you saw that awful hook, you would know he was not – and of course, the old man is me.  One day last spring, I sat in a lawn chair behind the driving range watching the college golf team hit balls.  My eyes were drawn to one.  She looked like a ribbon unfurling in the wind.  Time after time with smooth and silky grace, with effortless power, time after time she lifted the ball into the clouds.  The whole team had stopped hitting balls and stood transfixed watching her.  And all of a sudden, I had an idea.  I realized Chantry was using something I had completely forgotten.  Her fluid movements were the result of perfect balance, timing, and tempo.  I went to the far end of the range and imitated her swing as best I could.  Not one ball went left.  The hook still comes, but not as often as it once did.
     All the great ones know about it.  Here a couple who knew a lot about it…
     “I got rhythm.  I got rhythm. 
     Who could ask for anything more?”

    - George Gershwin - 1930

“We want to be quick…but we don’t want to be in a rush.”

                                                      - John Wooden
                                                        UCLA  basketball coach
                                                        Ten NCAA Championships

          Michael Johnson

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