Rhetorical Lesson No.9:Questions About Risk

Who is at a greater risk of injury and death? Why?

I love rodeos and the PBR; I could watch it for days on end. The riders I follow are J. B. Mauney and Ryan Dirteater (how can you not like a bull rider with the last name 'Dirteater'?). Last week's World Championship in Las Vegas was a great show with a impressive combination of riders and bulls. Equally impressive were some of the tosses, especially that of bull fighter Jesse Byrne.

Professional bull riding, and other Western sport riding, is a hard way to earn a living. The same goes for bull fighters. Considering the financial payoffs and comparing that to expenses and such, I wondered if the reward is worth the risk. Certainly both the rider and the fighter could earn equal or more money in a safer vocation. However, each is doing what they want to do and, we assume, are fully aware of the inherent dangers.

So when considering the subject of employment and risk, and especially after seeing Jesse Byrne step in and place himself between Doug Duncan and Jiminey Cricket, I have three questions for you to consider and try to answer. It's best if you watch the video first to get the context. These questions aren't simply about firefighting but about interpreting risk within one's employment or delivery of services.

Who is at a greater risk of injury and death?

Does embracing one's vocation also embrace risk, beyond accepting it?

Is placing yourself at risk (or greater risk) more of a priority then the vocation itself?

I'm curious to read what you think. We'll discuss it more after some comments come in.

We encourage and support constructive dialogue and debate. View our comment policy.

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  • Taj Meyers says:

    I think while there are many similarities between PBR and us there’s a large discrepancy when comparing risk and reward. While its easy to quantify our “losses” with LODD numbers, injuries, it is nearly impossible to measure our win percentage.

    With that said, I feel there is a certain amount of risk that surpasses any monetary reward. I can only assume that many riders would still participate even if they knew they’d never make another dime. This is clearly evident by the fact that almost all were not making money when they started and the difference in risk was negligible. While the extrinsic reward (money, fame) is certainly a motivating factor, the intrinsic reward (doing what you love, being the best) is the presiding factor.

    Who is at the most risk? The one least prepared to mitigate risk. That could be the least informed, least prepared, and least capable. If I entered a PBR show, never getting on a bull, and some how in a million to one shot I took home a win, my reward is equal to the better prepared professional. The difference is I am inexperienced and face a greater chance of injury or death- aka risk. This translates directly into the fire service. The same reward, a save, can be given to 100 firefighters but the risk is proportionate to the skill and capabilities to each firefighter. This is why things atrocities such as arm chair quarter backing are so pathetic.

    I think embracing our vocation embraces a certain amount of risk. Some may missinterpret that as duty to die but that’s pedantic. I know my job as a firefighter is just as dangerous as my previous job as a pipeline Forman and my pay is (significanly) much less so one could assume my risk is the same but my reward is lower but this isn’t true. In the pipeline, there is much to be desired in regards to safety and there’s not much you can do about it. As a fire service we have to understand that there ARE risks to this job. If you want to eradicate the increased chance of harm, don’t show up. If you want to decrease the level, make yourself and your men better prepared. We accept that harm is likely but we must not believe its chance can’t be lowered. Tommy truck said it best: “you can do everything right and still be killed” but I must add “you have to do everything right to not be killed even sooner”.

    I don’t think placing your self at risk is a priority, ever. The vocation, your duty, is the priority. The amount of risk you decide to place on your shoulders is both up to you, and you make that choice twice. Once on the training ground, when deciding to train and get better, and on the fireground, when you committ to your duty.

    When you look at it on paper, our risk rarely justifies our reward. But the irony is, without us deciding to take on the risk makes any hope of a reward possible. Ships are safest in the harbor, but that’s not why ships were invented.

  • Bill Carey says:

    So, the bull fighter, in this example, is going above his vocational requirment by placing himself between the bull and the bull rider?


    Bill Carey

  • Taj Meyers says:

    Not if the bull fighter’s vocation is to place himself between the bull and the rider.

  • Bill Carey says:

    Not picking on your answer, but expanding it and the train of thought about understanding risk further; if the vocational priority of the bull fighter is to keep the rider safe from the bull either after eight seconds or after being tossed, then the act of the bull fighter intervening between the two is a actual job requirment. We can then say that the physical act in the video is one method of the requirment, and nothing above the call of duty, right?

  • Taj Meyers says:

    Yes and no.  I like to use cops as an analogy.  They're duty is to protect and serve.  They can protect you buy giving tickets to reckless drivers and they can also protect you by going after an armed assailant to keep him from killing you.  Is a job requirement to jump infront of a bullet to protect a citizen? Not neccessarily, but the requirement is protection.  The method and means of protection are up to the officer.  
    The job requirement of the bull fighter is to protect rider.  How far he takes his duty is up to him and he bases his decision on his experience, skill, and comfort with the comitment.  This all correlates with the risk being the firefighter and not the prediciment.  VES is always the constant, the abilities -both mentally and physically- of the firefighter is what determines the amount of risk.

  • Taj Meyers says:

    ouch, sorry for the typos.

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Backstep Firefighter

“To provide a point of critical thought about certain acts and events in the fire service while incorporating behavioral education and commentary in a referenced format.”

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