At 11 years old, Smooth Operator still dominating PBR
“He’s like Michael Jordan special.”
Local stock contractor Chad Berger has high praise when referring to his title-winning bucking bull, Smooth Operator.
Of the more than 100 bulls Berger owns and enters into bucking bull competitions, like those hosted by Professional Bull Riders (PBR) and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), Smooth Operator is notorious for being one of the hardest to ride, and among the quickest to buck riders off.
Berger, a Mandan, North Dakota native, said he possesses about 300 bulls, but only enters around 100 of them into such competitions and events.
Coming off his 107th career PBR ride during the ‘Unleash the Beast’ tournament in Arlington, Texas, Smooth Operator is still going strong at 11 years old. The cream-colored bull with black speckles and a glare that could kill earned final scores of at least 46 in each of his last three rides.
For those unfamiliar with PBR scoring, bulls and riders are each given a score out of 50 for the ride. Riders are only given a score if they can remain on the animal for at least eight seconds without touching anything with their free hand. Bulls are awarded a score regardless of outcome. The higher the score, the better the bull performed. If the rider was able to stay on for the requisite time, the scores are added to produce a final score out of 100.
The bovine’s share of points come from its performance immediately following the release of the gate. Everything from spin to directional changes to the quality of kicks in the back to the drops in the front end of the bull following jumps are considered.
In layman’s terms, the wilder the bull performs in attempting to buck off its rider, the higher its score will be. The leaderboards at PBR events are usually comprised of scores in the mid-to-high forties.
Smooth Operator has earned a score of at least 45 in seven of his last ten rides, and only twice in that span has he been unable to buck off his rider before eight seconds had elapsed. His last time out in Arlington, he successfully vaulted Ryan Dirteater from his back in just 2.6 seconds.
“He’s got a heart as big as his body,” Berger said. “This bull should’ve never, ever been able to buck. He had some serious injuries as a young bull, and we had to nurse him along. He had such a heart, and he just never gave up. He won his first world title at nine years old, second one at ten. The oldest bull to ever win a world title. That’s unheard of.”
The injuries, Berger recalled, were to his tailbone, which tore away from his spine, and a shattered kneecap. Both took about a year to completely heal. Berger stresses, though, that he and his family take excellent care of their animals, and were careful not to force Smooth Operator back into competition before he was ready.
“He was just that special kind of bull that never gave up,” Berger remarked. “When we saw that he was pretty active at home and didn’t look like he was sore anymore, we took him back out on the trail and he proved to everybody he was the best one in the world for two years.”
Indeed he was. Smooth Operator “had amassed an impressive 45.84-point world average and earned a league-leading six YETI ‘Built for the Wild’ Bull of the event honors,” for his efforts during the 2019 season, according to a PBR.com release.
In the 2020 Finals, Smooth Operator seized the top spot in come-from-behind fashion, besting Chiseled after trailing by 0.03 points. He became the fifth bull to win back-to-back titles, and the oldest to ever win a title, after needing just over six seconds to buck off two separate riders, PBR.com reported.
Smooth Operator isn’t even the only stud athlete in the family. His half-brother, Hot & Ready, won the 2019 PRCA Bull of the Year. Elite bucking-bull blood courses through their veins.
Along the way, Smooth Operator brought his owner his ninth career Stock Contractor of the Year award to close out the 2019 season. Berger was bestowed with the honor for the sixth consecutive season, but if you ask him, he’ll give all the credit to his bulls.
“I couldn’t be more proud,” he said. “The best way to explain it is they’re like my kids. You throw your kids out on the wrestling mat, with everybody they come up against, you just can’t get any more excited or feel any better than that.”
Berger said his star cow’s next task will be in Okeechobee, Florida later this month. For a bull as old as Smooth Operator, the next competition isn’t always guaranteed. Berger will keep a close eye on the animal’s performance, and when he feels like retirement is the best option, he won’t hesitate to give Smooth Operator the life he’s earned and deserves.
“Yeah, we’ll see how it goes and if I feel like he’s lost a notch, he’s just going to hang out with a bunch of girls and make a bunch more Smooth Operators.”