The first time I ever used the term Dream Team I was talking about Jake Barnes and Clay O'Brien Cooper. It was half a decade before Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were dubbed the same name during their gold-medal run at the 1992 Summer Olympics.
Jake and Clay's dynasty and total domination of their sport was simply amazing. No one team ever owned it all like that before, and I laugh when I think about all the shy pauses the three of us had back in those early-day interviews.
I say no team had ever owned the throne like those two before, but one team has found out what it's like to walk that walk since. Speed Williams and Rich Skelton tied Jake and Clay's seven-title feat last year, and in seven straight years. So when I heard about the Match of Champions between these two team roping super powers, which was held in June between the second and third rounds of the Reno Rodeo Invitational, I-like everyone else-got very excited.
What a blast it was to watch team roping's clash of the titans, and RRI Producer Perry Di Loreto's take on Jake was the same thing I saw.
"The thing that stood out for me more than anything else was Jake's intensity," he said. "That's as intense as I've ever seen him. Jake was into that match 110 percent, and the sweat was pouring off of him. He was in the zone. It was so neat to be able to showcase all four of those guys. What ropers. What people."
The match was run over the 13' 6" RRI scoreline and out of the 19-foot box at the Reno Livestock Events Center. Three loops were allowed, with a 30-second time limit in place and no-times translated into a 30-second run. Jake and Clay roped first the first five rounds, then they traded steers and Speed and Rich went first the second half. Flying T Cattle Company's BFI short-round steers were used for the match.
In the end, Jake and Clay won the $10,000, winner-take-all match, 97.64 to 1:15.22, but all four walked away winners for the show they put on. Jake and Clay also promptly donated their $10,000 haul back to Perry's charity efforts.
"This match, which was sponsored by the Reno Rodeo Invitational, Wrangler and Merlin Jones, was (Wrangler's) Karl Stressman's idea, and it was a good one," Perry said. "We knew it'd be entertaining, and it was. These four guys aren't just the champs, they're absolute solid citizens and great role models for our kids. They're class acts, all four of them. We had a chance to show them off a little bit, and they did us all proud."
That's for sure. And they had fun doing it.
"This was like Muhammed Ali and Joe Frazier-the two heavyweights," Jake grinned. "Clay and I are always compared to Speed and Rich, so all of us getting together like this was good for the industry. It could have gone either way. If we did it again tomorrow, they might beat us by 50 seconds. You never know in these deals. That's what makes them good watching."
Jake rode former NFR steer wrestler Terry Lee Thompson's 10-year-old chestnut head horse Peppy Doc. Cooper rode daughter Bailey's 13-year-old palomino, who goes by numerous names.
"We call him Yeller, Blondie and Habanero," Clay said. "But today I called him Atta Boy."
All four cowboys said they felt honored just to be a part of the popular RRI tradition addition.
"For the top two teams from different eras to come together was fun for everyone," Clay noted. "Speed and Rich are the greatest team in the world today. No one's been able to touch them in the last seven years. I came here knowing we were the underdogs, but I also knew if we roped our roping we had a chance. We just made the fewest amount of mistakes today, but we all had a good time, so everybody wins."