Friday, August 8, 2014

Too Much Bull?

The divine Pearl and I hesitate to interrupt your summer break from bull riding, which we are sure you are spending wisely by lolling around the pool, drink in hand. But we feel compelled to direct your attention to this outstanding article, “Too Much Bull,” by Andrea Appleton, which appeared in SB Nation about a month ago. We encourage you to read the whole thing at your convenience, but the premise of the story is that many bull breeders are sending their not-quite-ready-for-the-PBR level bulls to high school rodeos and other events for kids. The bottom line is that these bulls may not be up to the PBR standard, but they are too hot for kids. Obviously, many parents are justifiably very concerned because a lot of kids are getting hurt, some of them very badly, but almost as importantly, many kids are getting discouraged and dropping out of the sport entirely. 

Cody Custer, who is one of the founders of the PBR, is taking this issue on in a startlingly forthright manner. Check out his Facebook page, Answers for Bull Riders by Cody Custer, for his analysis of this situation and his recommendations for fixing it. In a post on July 11, he notes that at the International Finals Youth Rodeo this year, there were about 140 outs on bulls and only 10 qualified rides. With odds like that, it’s no wonder kids are abandoning the sport of bull ridingthese statistics sound like the ones at the big leagues that are being lamented by commentators and fans, and there’s no way that is a good thing for kids learning the ropes.

As Cody Custer and others note, with all the trumpeting about J.B. Mauney and how much money he’s made, young American kids should be pumped up and flocking to the sport.  However, this is not what’s happening. If the current trend continues, we can foresee a time when there will be even fewer American bull riders on the PBR circuit, which is interesting to consider, given the unmistakable antagonism against foreign riders even at this early point.

We thoroughly agree with Custer that the practice of over-matching bulls with young riders should be changed. The people who can change it are those who run the organizations that stage youth rodeos—they need to be getting bulls (and possibly even steers for the youngest riders) for the events that are appropriately rank for each age level, but are not eliminators.

We would also like to point out that one way to deepen the ranks of young talent is to quit banning half of it from participating, namely, young women. Yes, we’ve ridden this horse before, but it’s not dead yet, and thus we plan to continue beating it.

We have seen some mumblings about how much even PBR stock contractors get paid per out (hint: it’s not a lot), and we can’t imagine that outs at high-school and lower-level kids’ events pay in some spectacular fashion. (There’s probably not a lot of money in breeding fees and advertising for high school rodeo stock, either.) We get that making a living as a stock contractor, especially a stock contractor not in the leagues of, say, a Jeff Robinson, is not an easy proposition—with droughts, high feed costs, and all the rest that goes with it, nobody (well, hardly anybody) is making a fortune. 

But regardless of the struggles of stock contractors, the short-sightedness of taking over-rank bulls to events for kids, and thereby discouraging or even seriously injuring youngsters for a measly pay-out, is obvious. Besides the youth organizations themselves being more stringent about what stock they accept at their rodeos, the only other solution we can see would lie with the successful PBR stock contractors and the PBR itself. If they invest in the future riders of America and the future of the sport by forming some kind of non-profit organization to supply appropriate stock to high school and other events for children, maybe there’s a way out of this mess.

If, on the other hand, those who could help choose to look away, then we anticipate a day when there will be even fewer bull riders from the United States, and we anticipate that day arriving sooner rather than later. If young riders get paired with too-rank bulls too often at the beginning of their careers, they may decide they're not having enough fun to justify the pain and the discouragement. That would be a shame not only for the individual rider, but for the future of professional bull riding as well.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama

I would like to invite you all to head over to Bullridingmarketing blog to savor Kris DiLorenzo’s most excellent post about one of the PBR’s more recent blunders, a marketing survey conducted over a period of 30 days with a group of invited participants. The Divine Miz D has a field day with this subject, and I would not want any of you to miss a single salient, laser-guided observation.

There’s no need for me to recount here the details of her observations, but her principal point bears repeating: Despite the PBR’s continuous efforts to force its fans into little boxes (cowboys? cowgirls? SAHMs? heavy-metal fans? extreme fighting fans?), the bottom line is that there is NO typical PBR fan. 

You’d think that finding this out would actually make marketing the sport a lot simpler, because those developing the campaigns could focus on the obvious: It’s the sport that’s the draw, not the so-called culture of the sport, the existence of which is suspect to begin with.

That’s it, folks—the boys versus the bulls. Straight-up competition, one on one, no guts, no glory, no pain, no gain, no balls, no babies. That’s what makes my heart beat faster, that’s why I’m still here despite all the crap that the PBR keeps dishing out, and it baffles me to now end why somebody in Pueblo can’t just grab hold of this one fact and follow it where it leads.

This could be the idea with the potential to finally take the sport into the mainstream: People love to watch the boys and the bulls square off on the dirt. It’s time to just acknowledge it, embrace it, and run with it. All the rest is bullshit that unfortunately is not being produced by bulls. It’s time, as Grandma Lee famously said in her too-brief run on America’s Got Talent several years ago, to cut the crap. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fresno (Once Again)

S. returned to Fresno, and has kindly agreed to tell us about her adventures this time around.

Flint "protects" Brady Simms on the shark cage
To be honest, I waited a little too long before writing this, so it may be more brief than the usual as details are escaping me by the moment.   I'll be sure to pad with a lot of photos.  Friday is also kind of a blur as I worked a half day before driving the nearly four hours to Fresno through not great traffic, checking into the hotel, and hustling over to the event.

There's nothing very new or exciting about the pre-event festivities, except the fan club now has something called PBR Passport.  You get a card that hooks up to your information, and you get it scanned at the events you attend for the chance to win prizes.  Most of the prizes seemed pretty good too, like VIP tickets to the same event next year, or $500. Unfortunately, I didn't win any of them, but at least they seemed worthwhile.  Also, they've gotten rid of the Bass Pro Shops shooting arrows at the deer practice target or the fishing thing, and now you have to guess the monetary total of the items Luke Synder is putting in his cart at Bass Pro Shops.  Amazingly, someone won this on Friday.

Silvano Alves stands alone...
Anyway, I was keen to go to the Friday event for multiple reasons.  Firstly, the PBR kept going on about testing a new chute clock, and I was very curious to see what that meant.  Secondly, it was to be the first event after ABQ where the invitees J.W. Harris and Guytin Tsosie would be competing with a 5 event invitation.  And finally, and most importantly, it would be my chance to see Bushwacker buck in person  in the 15/15.  So let's run it down:

Chute clock: I was curious but filled with trepidation about the PBR's latest foray into screwing around with the rules.  On the positive side, I think it does really help the guys to have a clear visual cue about where they are with the timing, rather than it totally being the whim of the chute judge, who might be yelling something incoherent.  However, one minute is really not a lot of time, and since the judges have "discretion" to add several more 20 second intervals, it's all just as arbitrary as before.  And while it's hard to make a direct attribution, I feel like there were a lot more nasty wrecks and hangups than I am used to seeing, and one has to wonder how much of that might be due to guys hustling to get out before the minute runs out.  So far, not a fan.  Bulls are unpredictable and both rider and bull safety need to be considered-- at the least, the initial clock time should be increased.
Horrified amusement or amused horror?

J.W. Harris and Guytin Tsosie: J.W. Harris showed he is the real deal to the PBR audience with a pretty little ride on Hot Blooded. Guytin Tsosie unfortunately did not do as well.  I suspect he got overwhelmed and was trying too hard-- he was overriding the bulls.  Thankfully he seems to have figured things out since.

Bushwacker: They actually trotted him out in the introductions, although I don't think he really appreciated it, as he spent the whole time circling around near the chutes, apparently wondering why he was there and just wanting to leave.  I think he knows his job and he knew this wasn't it.  Bushwacker is huge, by the way!  And, although we only got a few seconds of action from him as he dumped L.J. Jenkins, I was very happy to have seen him buck in person.

Kody Lostroh and Valdiron de Oliveira
At the end of the 15/15, there actually were a number of rides, but Silvano Alves was triumphant with a Silvano-of-old style ride on Rango.  He was pumped up after the ride, but it was extremely bizarre the way the PBR had a handler or two trot him up on the shark cage, where he just stood by himself, doffing his hat, until they told him to come down.  I hope that looked better on camera because it was super awkward in person.

The other notable thing about Friday's event was that Brandon Bates wasn't there, so the in-arena announcers were Clint Adkins and Matt West.  I enjoyed West's calm take on things, and his response to Flint's twerking speaks for us all.

Young guns Gage Gay and Matt Triplett
Oh, and since the entrance for the on-the-dirt fan club signing was all the way around the arena from us and we were in row B, we were unable to get on the dirt (well, maybe we could have, but it would have been after most of the cowboys went around). I guess if we'd left before Bushwacker bucked, we could have made it, but I wasn't going to do that.  It's too bad there isn't an easier way for this to play out, but I suppose there's always next time.

On Saturday, we had made plans to meet up with a fun PBR friend and enjoy the day (for some reason, this was an evening event).  After ending up in a gun store because it looked like the hipster coffee place (Clovis, what can you do?) and breakfast, we ambled to Boot Barn, because we had coupons and because there were cowboys there.  I didn't end up buying anything at Boot Barn, but I did get some photos that kind of made up for the inability to capitalize on the on-the-dirt signing the night before.  We got a nice tour of various parts of Fresno with our pal, and ended up chatting with some of the Brazilian riders at the hotel, who were kind enough to pose for a photo -- Emilio Resende seemed especially pleased by this.
Brazilian brigade

The bulls by and large were fairly decent at this event, although many were pretty squirrelly; probably bulls act up at all events but we just don't see it on TV, for obvious time saving reasons. In another not-seen-on-TV-moment, we got to experience the event itself being delayed in order to fit into airing live on CBS Sports Network. The in-arena announcers kept us up to date with overtime shenanigans of whatever we were waiting for, while Flint did his thing. 

Flint discovered that pickup man Julio Moreno's horse really didn't like him, so he spent some time taunting the poor thing.  He's lucky the horse didn't give him a swift kick.  Speaking of Flint, since I no longer pay to see the LEC stream, even though his act has not really changed, it was more bearable.  Also, Matt West gave him some new material by having attended a Miley Cyrus concert by himself.  Good for him.

Flint tempts fate
Not much terribly notable happened at the event overall , although there were a fair amount of rides.  also, Cody Lambert must have yanked Stone Sober from the Championship Round after his performance at the 15/15, since he wasn't there and Hair Trigger was.

I do hope, however, that someone told Tanner Byrne, who was so elated after his ride, the last one in the round, and who clearly thought he won, that the crowd was booing his score and that he hadn't won, not him.  He looked really confused, poor guy.  I'm sure his time will come, even if it ended up being Cody Nance's  victory this time.

Unique artwork transportation provided by...
There was one amusing little story I can tell about Saturday.  I had done a drawing for Robson Palermo, but he didn't come out either night, I assume because he was pretty battered.  I decided to ask Renato Nunes, who I had previously done a drawing for, if he could maybe take it to Robson.  He seemed pretty confused by this request, and more confused by what to do with it as he did his rounds, but he agreed to take it.  His ultimate decision was to put the drawing down the back of his jeans, which was quite an entertaining image.  It may be the only artwork transported by cowboy jeans. 

So, in conclusion, chute clock reception is mixed, Bushwacker is a plus, PBR friends are definitely a positive, and amusing cowboy moments keep us all entertained.  The recipe for another successful trip to Fresno.  Too bad I had to drive back home for four hours right after leaving the event... 

Thanks to S. for sharing her tales of Fresno!  Hopefully I managed to insert her photos in a somewhat organized fashion.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Oversharing, the Beta Version

This is what happens when you get really, really bored: A week or two ago, like a fool, I made the mistake yet again of sauntering over to to see if anything there might amuse me for a few minutes. And naturally the first thing I stumbled over was one of the ongoing series of pablum titled “The Women of the PBR,” this time featuring Dana Lee. Something about the title struck me as odd, so, like a fool, I clicked on the link, and then, as F. Scott Fitzgerald observed, the holocaust was complete.

What that ill-considered click revealed is that apparently Mike Lee is no longer married to his childhood sweetheart Jamie, about whom we learned so much in Fried Twinkies and various posts on the PBR website, including the 2008 announcement that she and Mike had become the parents of twins. Nope, this is a brand-new Mrs. Michael Lee, hailing from, of all places, New York, where she apparently met her husband in a bar during the Madison Square Garden event in 2010.

What a stunning revelation this all is! The mind boggles at its implications! Which end of this tangled rope shall we pull on first?

Well—none of them. Begging the pardon of Kurt Vonnegut, I don’t give a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut whether Mike Lee is married, divorced, remarried, a polygamist with 15 wives and 60 children, or a partner in a line marriage of 10 men and five women. I would not care if we learned that he’s gay and holds hands with other riders behind the chutes, and if that were the case, I most certainly wouldn't give a rat’s ass if he and his friend ran away together in Las Vegas this fall and got hitched at the Tunnel of Love Drive-Through Wedding Chapel in their brand-new Ford F-150 with Ecoboost.

No, what I care about is that clearly, back in the Stone Age, somebody (or several somebodies) at the PBR decided that the riders should be extolled as role models of upright behavior for all the world to see. Mike Lee has come in for more than his justified share of this shit because he is a profoundly religious man, and that is just ambrosia to the dudes at PBR headquarters—they can’t wait to talk about what a fine Christian man he is, along with all that implies.

In all sincerity, I respect the fact that Lee’s faith is central to his character. But in equal sincerity, I shouldn’t know a damned thing about his religious beliefs or a single detail about his personal life. I shouldn’t know the names of his ex-wife, or his children, or his new wife. None of that is relevant to bull riding.

Despite all protests to the contrary, professional bull riding is not a mainstream sport, and this endless nattering about the riders’ personal lives is one of the biggest reasons. You don’t see this shit in other professional sports. Just waltz on over to the National Football League’s website, and you’ll see instantly what I’m talking about. What you’ll find there are factual stories and analysis about the SPORT. That’s the way it should be.

Here's the point: When a sports organization starts incorporating information about the athletes' personal lives into the narrative that drives the sport, that organization is forever after obligated to tell EVERYTHING about their personal lives, including the embarrassing parts that make it clear that doing so just set the athletes up for failure from the beginning. 

And when that organization deliberately leaves out the embarrassing details, that action exposes the flaw at the heart of the narrative. What's even more embarrassing is the fact that the Powers That Be should have been able to look far enough down the road at the beginning to anticipate such potholes—or washed-out bridges, as the case may be.

I wish Mike and Dana Lee all the best. I hope they have a long and loving marriage, but no matter how it works out, I hope to hell never to hear another word about it from the PBR spin machine. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Here we go -- Iron Cowboy Conclusion

Well, I already know who won thanks to Twitter and the PBR website, but I'll pretend to be excited about this anyway.

Third Round
  • J.B.'s "internal music."  Sigh.
  • It's weird to see a bull with a nose ring.
  • Gage Gay has almost Mike Lee-esque form.
  • J.B. Mauney's buckoff was ugly, yikes.
  • At least we are hearing less about guys not wanting the million enough, but I don't have hope that will continue.
  • Gage Gay is pretty canny with his interviews, neatly dodging awkwardness in the questions.
  • These buckoffs onto the chutes are really unfortunate.  Ouch, Robson.
  • Eduardo Aparecido looked good for most of that ride, but Silvano stuck it out, separated shoulder and all.  Sorry to see him making pained faces, but he's working through it.
  • Stormy Wing is lucky. That Stone Sober is something else.
  • Okay, this voiceover lady is better than the sex hotline operator one they had before, but sometimes she sounds super goofy.
Fourth Round
  • "Sweet Caroline," of course.
  • Watch out for Gage Gay, guys.  Kinda wanted Guilherme to move on and make his 500th ride, because he looked good for a bunch of that ride, but oh well.
  • "Two scoops of hoops."  Let that one sink in a bit.
  • David's Dream didn't seem excited about his cameo with J.W. Hart.
Final Round
  • That was a lot of hype for a second and a fraction.  Just goes to show that you can never count out bulls like Asteroid.
  • It's kind of anti-climatic to have the Iron Cowboy champion buck off in a jump and a half; I'm glad this is a one-off event.
  • Bushwacker was putting on a show!
  • Joao didn't look like he was really enjoying the Dr. Pepper someone unceremoniously shoved in his hand.  He looked a lot happier with the giant 50K check.
  • Interview with Gage Gay. And no interview with Joao. Shall I assume from this the translator really is toast?
So ends another Iron Cowboy.  Even if the format is funky, we learned a few things: Gage Gay proved he's definitely worth watching, Silvano proved he can power through the shoulder injury, and Guilherme got this close to his 500th qualified ride.  Not to mention that there are a number of very impressive bulls to keep an eye on for the future.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Iron Cowboy Semi-Live Blogging

Blah, blah, blah, million dollars, J.B. Mauney, blah, blah, hype, blah.

First Round
  • Valdiron squeaks one out.  And hey, an interview.  Amazing!
  • Mike Lee is lucky to have walked away from that one.  That was terrifying.  But how 'bout that Gage Gay?  This kid is fired up.
  • I appreciate Kasey Hayes' shirt, but Ryan Dirteater moves on.
  • Shepherd Hills Trapper has some funky moves, but I have no idea why Billy Robinson fell off when he did. However, Ty Murray's nattering about guys not putting out the effort for the million dollars is going to get old fast.  That's worth betting on, let me tell you.  That and Craig Hummer saying things like, "Pound the Alarm is able to pound Palermo."  Oh, dear.
  • Sean Willingham versus Chase Outlaw highlights one of the issues with this bracket style event -- two guys can ride but one of them is still going home, while some guy in another bracket who didn't ride moves on; hard to feel good about that if you're Sean Willingham.
  • Fabiano Vieira, back to his old form!  Now that's nice to see.  Not so nice to see is Douglas Duncan "dispatched."
  • Man, Matt Triplett, you screwed up my bracket picks!  But hey, your buckoff heralded the return of the long gone, perhaps lamented Telestrator?!
  • Many of the Aussies seem to start spurring even if they don't have a good seat, which doesn't tend turn out well, as in this case for Lachlan Richardson.
Second Round
  • Blah, blah, blah, million dollars, J.B. Mauney, blah, blah, hype, blah, "Bad to the Bone."  Texas Tea wasn't looking so challenging, though; more like Weak Tea.  Valdiron's bull was much more difficult-- yet another issue with the bracket style event.  Sometimes these "equal" bulls aren't so much.  Of course, if Validron had ridden, that would have sucked for J.B., who had the weaker bull.
  • Crap, why is it always Frank?!  Spartacus, indeed.
  • Who is it behind the chutes with the acid-wash tie-dye look shirt?  Stylin'.  Nice to see Renato Nunes helping Gage Gay, who keeps rolling on.
  • A well-deserved tribute to Kent Cox.
  • Guilherme Marchi marching right towards his 500 qualified rides and maybe a million dollars.  I wouldn't complain.  Hate that he's in the bracket with Robson Palermo, though.  Also hate Ryan Dirteater's freaky buckoff.
  • It confuses me that Cody Nance has a new helmet and vest, but we can always identify him by his weird hanging tavern sign.  Impressive stickiness from Robson Palermo!  
  • It is disconcerting to see Shorty without a hat.  Part of it is the hat tan.
  • Wait, the PBR was picking on Silvano Alves' ride average when he has the second highest of all time?  The yelling at Silvano in the chutes is really uncalled for -- that was quite hostile.  And gee, ya think a screwed up shoulder can affect a guy?  Come on, now.  Good to know the whole booth is psychic and can tell what is or isn't affecting a cowboy.  
  • Fabiano is looking pained but he should be happy with moving on.  But he's out due to injury?  Noooooo.
  • Wow, Joao Ricardo Vieira (1.98 seconds) is moving on because Reese Cates slapped (1.83) and it comes down to fractions of seconds in less than two seconds?!  How unlikely.  
  • Marco Eguchi makes a pretty little ride.  Not sure that was a 90.5 ride for Stormy "Bats for the Fences" Wing, but so it goes.
  • Blah, blah, blah, million dollars, Guilherme Marchi, Gage Gay, dirt, blah, blah, we're not gonna show you the rest until tomorrow.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Revisionist History?

This post brought to you jointly by Pearl de Vere and The Stockyard Queen, in the brief moments available in our current crazy schedules.  Watch out, folks, free-form long-program ranting, perhaps soon to be an Olympic sport!

With J.B. Mauney out (and a whole press release dedicated to it--you'd think after all the time they invested in making him their star, they'd be worried about announcing he'd not be someplace), we had a moment of desperate hope that we could have a break from the PBR's sort of gross need to pick away at Silvano Alves. But no, scroll down to this: "ALVES REMAINING OPTIMISTIC IN SLUMP (2-12-2014)."  In it, we see such proclamations as:
...his pedestrian-like average continues a three-year trend in which he’s gone from 69 percent in 2011 to 60 percent in 2012 followed by 55 percent last year, when he lost out on winning his third consecutive world title on the final day of the season.
What contributes to his declining average, I surely don't know (but certainly expect that hassling in the chutes isn't helping), but I do know that a 55% average is higher than Joao Ricardo Vieira's right now, and he's #2 in the world.  Probably having his every decision analyzed in a poor light and constantly being asked questions that boil down to why he sucks this year isn't too encouraging, either, in addition to articles that question the entirety of a strategy that succeeded two times and nearly a third.

The PBR has apparently forgotten how scattershot the first part of the season is, where someone unlikely will be #1, and someone else will jump up or fall down 10 or more spots based on his performance over one weekend.  Silvano Alves has always played the long game, attempting to steadily accrue the most points by the end of the season--being in the 18th position at the start of the season is somewhat surprising, but the way the PBR has been treating it, you'd think he was 105th, running out of time, and could never possibly recover.  And this is not to mention that the PBR implies in their television commentary that if only Mauney were at the event, he would be dominating, rather than talking about people in front of them who are actually riding.  People such as Silvano Alves.

Particularly distasteful is Ty Murray's ongoing shaming of Alves, implying that Alves is just not trying hard enough and has an attitude problem (calling him "lazy," even). Ty would do well to remember that Alves is the FIRST back-to-back PBR world champion. I don't recall Ty banging on Kody Lostroh the season after he won, or chewing on Justin McBride's ass when he slumped after winning his first gold buckle in 2005. As a matter of fact, what mostly happened was the commentators became apologists for the champ, opining that the PBR had a "long season" and that champions inevitably experienced a let-down, or took time off to actually get nagging injuries dealt with, after finally achieving the pinnacle of the sport the previous season.  Of course, in our case, the previous season was only over six or seven weeks prior, which is hardly enough time for the guys to get their holiday ya-yas out and settle down to business as usual again.   And then there's the small fact that the new point system encourages cowboys to hit the TPDs, meaning they rarely get a break of any kind, even if those of us not paying CBS a gajillion dollars for the LEC aren't seeing it.

But, let's forget about all that, because the champion returns "in true Mauney fashion" this weekend! Thanks, PBR, for putting my mind at ease.  I'm now hoping we can get press releases for each and every event about whether the most important cowboy in the PBR will be attending, so I'll know whether to watch, and if I'm supposed to feel that all his decisions are mature, rather than sad and misguided like Silvano Alves' apparently are, even when sometimes they are essentially the same decision.

Seriously, PBR, don't frame it like this, and we'll all feel a lot better, Alves and Mauney included, I'd guess.  J.B. Mauney is J.B. Mauney, and he proved himself among the greats last year.  Silvano Alves is our first back-to-back champ and he's more than proved himself. The PBR doesn't have to focus on trying to tear down the history Silvano Alves made in order to make Mauney look better--their seasons will develop as they may, no matter what the commentators say or the PBR writes. While the PBR's ridiculous posturing about both riders may sway some, the history is and will be there to be seen, and in the end, all this crass nitpicking at Alves really does is make the PBR look completely petty and classless, and all this hyper-focus on Mauney does is create a standard no mere mortal can attain, let alone maintain.  Nobody wins, if only the PBR would see it.