NFMS Freshening Part 3: Limit the Numbers

Published March 03, 2012 06:56AM, by Jake MorganViewed: 2058 timesTweetFacebook

Jody Ross didn't make the cut for the 2011 NFMS, but won the preliminary session and got third in finals of the 2012 event.
How is it that one of the best aspects of the Farm show is also one of its negatives? Exclusivity. This show is supposed to turn people away each year. It's not a show that everyone can pull at. For the most part you get to see the best of the best; sure there are always one or two tractors that we all think should have made the show, but usually it's only one or two. With so few competitors getting rejected how is that exclusive? Is this show exclusive anymore? And better yet, should it be?

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the farm show should be ultra-exclusive with only the very, very, very elite getting invited, I think we all know that would be pretty boring year after year because there just aren't that many elite pullers in most classes. What I am saying is that some of the elite should be rejected one year and then invited the next year. The lineup needs variety and unpredictability and there's only one way to accomplish that, and that's through rejection. exclusivity.

Sure rejection can be difficult to deal with, but it's a necessary part of growing, and it's necessary for the farm show. Whether it's getting rejected by someone of the opposite sex, being rejected for a job, or being rejected from the farm show it should have the same effect; it should drive you to be better, do better. Rejection is a necessary catalyst for constant improvement.

Unfortunately in American society we are taking away the necessary reality of rejection. Now days everyone gets a gold star. In some areas of our country youth sports teams play games but don't keep score because they don't think it's "fair" and kids may feel rejected. Some sports teams don't even have "cuts" for fear of rejecting a player and having to deal with the helicopter parents. I'm a firm believer that you earn your place through life and occasionally you get rejected and you learn to deal with it and not mope or throw a tantrum. You strive to turn the negative of rejection into a positive.

Unfortunately some classes at the Farm show are getting to the point where rejection is becoming less and less of an occurance. I've heard discussion in years past about certain classes only having one or two applications rejected! The Farm Show is exclusive, the farm show is prestigious and it's an honor to be accepted and we shouldn't see all the same pullers year after year after year.

It would be OK with me if they didn't accept all my favorite pullers every year. It would keep the show much fresher to know that getting invited is not an afterthought. I honestly didn't look at the line-up after it was first introduced. I know of a number of people who looked at the lineup when it was first publish and then never looked again. We all already knew who to expect, well, we knew 95% of who to expect; the usual cast of characters that I mentioned in my first opinion article in this series. Yes, it seems weird to me, and I still can't believe I'm writing this, but I actually want more rejection. I want more suspense and a greater rate of turnover year after year. I want to look at the line-up multiple times to remember who got in and just as importantly, who didn't. I want to see some different tractors from year to year.

Personally, I was excited to see Jody Ross run this year primarily because he didn't get invited last year and I knew he'd make the most of his passes this winter, and he did, man was that IH running hard (yes I know it's not an IH hood, but it's an IH!). I honestly think a rejection or snubbing make's all of us work that much harder next year. That desire to prove their worth and helps the show. When top pullers like Jody Ross don't get in every year it makes the show that much better when they do.

Now I know that most the people reading this aren't convinced yet (and may never be) that less is more, but I honestly believe that in this scenario more is not better, it's just watered down and predictable and some classes are getting that way.

I know there are some fans that are class specific and they want every tractor in the country invited for their favorite class. They want to see how everyone would do against each other. They want to see the off chance that a dark-horse tractor might have a magical run or the perfect combo for the short track. Unfortunately those fans may never agree with me, but this isn't about one or two classes. This is about the overall health of the event and keeping it fresh and new, keeping it prestigious and honored. Don't give up on the article yet, I know there are pros and cons to all ideas. Let me get to the specifics of my idea:

Session Numbers:
First, I'd limit the number of sessions for each class to 2. That's right Pro Stock fans, two sessions only. There's really no need to have three sessions of ANY class. There is so much diversity right now, so many more classes, and the resultant is that class sizes have dropped for almost all classes and no class can support three sessions (not even Super Farm). For Pro Stock fans who will struggle with this, here's the harsh reality: unfortunately the Pro Stock class is contracting and the numbers just aren't there anymore. The class is shrinking. The class is quickly becoming a "National Only" class and it shouldn't really have three session anymore. Two sessions is plenty. Two sessions of anything is plenty at the Farm Show.

Class size:
Next, I'd limit the number in each class to 12. Yes that's right; I'd lower the class numbers from the current 15 or 16 to an even dozen. Twelve monsters of the midway from all over the country. If your class has two sessions (not all classes should) that means fans are going to get treated to 24 of the most deserving and/or intriguing tractors in that class.

So less classes and less vehicles? Where's the value in that? Well, don't give up on me yet. This is about keeping the show fresh, and you can't keep it fresh by having the same show (vehicles) year to year. So here are a few downsides I see:
  1. As mentioned for Pro Stock fan, but applies to all fans of certain classes, If you love one class and only one class you're going to see 3 or 4 less tractors in your class. (I'd argue that if you want number you should go to Bowling Green, Hillsboro, Tomah, etc… those non-invitational events all feature big classes.)
  2. It makes the committee's job much more difficult. How do you tell Larry Roberts that only the Big Toy is coming to the show this year? However, next year the committee might take Ryan's Toy and Big Toy 2. The selection process just got a whole lot more difficult for the committee. (The average fan doesn't care about this, but it is a factor)
  3. You will definitely see some of the same pullers year after year (more on that in a second), but there might be some tractors that just don't make the cut from year to year. It may take a guy on the fringe three or four years (or more) to make the cut.
So how would I pick the dozen or two dozen vehicles for a class?
Well, I think there should be a few automatic invites:
  • If you're the reigning National Champion in NTPA or PPL you should get an automatic bid.
  • If you're National points Runner-up you should get and automatic bid.
  • If you're the previous year's NFMS class Champion you should get an automatic bid.
  • If you're the previous year's NFMS Runner-up you should get an automatic bid.
Carlton Cope's Massey is not only capable of winning anywhere, it's true variety makes it a fan favorite.
After that it's a free for all. Just because you ran 9th in national points it may not mean you deserve a bid over the Mid-South (for example) champ in the same class. However the 9th place nation point's puller may actually be more deserving of a bid, it really all depends on the results through the year, whom you beat, when you got hot and starting winning, etc… It's really like the BCS for college football where the committee ranks the different vehicles and looks at strength of schedule, results, and any other factors that helps bolster the show. One of those other factors for selections should be variety, if you build a capable "off-brand" you should have a little better chance of getting invited compared to an equally capable red or green tractor. I'm not saying they should invite a sub quality "off-brand", but when two tractors are fairly equal the variety variable should be part of that equation.

Again, this make's the committee's job much more difficult, and some of the top guys will get a rejection letter.

So that's my idea in a nut shell. Less is actually more in this case and I think this show needs to separate itself. This show needs to be the cream of the crop and it needs to stay fresh.

Let me compare my idea to eating: if you go to a really fancy restaurant, something in the 5-star range, you usually get smaller portions, more courses, and superior quality. The fancy restaurants usually change their menus on a regular basis but they keep a few core entrees that are consistent performers. They rely on season flavors and the finest quality ingredients. That's what separates the 5-star restaurants from ALL the other chain options.

If you simply want quantity you go for the buffet, and if all you care about is numbers you should go to one of the big outdoor events.

The National Farm Machinery Show Championship tractor pull is fine dining. The cost of the show says so, but the current menu doesn't

So if we have less tractors and a maximum of two sessions for each class we obviously have plenty of time to hit the concession stands for some… fine dining right? Well, obviously we need to backfill with something, but what? Maybe an appetizer course or two…

Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 02/17/2014 07:34AM by Jake Morgan.



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