Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Baby, if you've ever wondered . . . .

The first sign of trouble came a week ago Thursday night, when I fast-forwarded through the listings on Versus to find out if the PBR Cincinnati Invitational scheduled for November 30 through December 2 was going to be televised. I came up empty--a real bummer. I'd been without any PBR action since the World Finals ended in early November and I was starting to get panicky. Maybe that frustration is why I immediately assumed that the broadcast wasn't available in our viewing area, which set me off on a rant that Barn Cat really, really wanted to escape.

But come on--we are in the heart of rodeo country here. If the PBR can't be bothered to broadcast to us, who are they broadcasting to? Who could possibly be more important? And believe me, this has happened before, thought Versus is less guilty of it than Fox has been on the few occasions they cover the PBR.

As the weekend lumbered on, however, it became increasingly evident that something had gone awry. The definitive clue came at various points on Saturday and Sunday, when Versus rebroadcast the 2007 PBR event at Nampa, Idaho. (Weirdly, the event in Nampa is one we are going to try to attend next summer, because it's one of a handful within driving distance. If I'd seen it in person, I might have been less bored by the prospect of watching it all over again--but then again, no. Once you've seen it, you've seen it.)

So, finally convinced that I needed to check the situation out more carefully, I saddled up and trotted over to the PBR website, and what did I find? A press release dated November 26 that started off thusly: "The Professional Bull Riders, Inc. (PBR) announced today that the Cincinnati Invitational has been rescheduled to September 2008 at the U.S. Bank Arena. The event originally was scheduled for this Friday and Saturday, November 30 & December 1."

Excuse me? They cancelled the event on the 26th, less than a week before it was scheduled to take place? Granted, the tickets will be honored at the new-and-improved invitational in September, and refunds are available for those unable (or unwilling) to attend then, but still!

The press release continued: " 'As we worked to expand the 2008 Built Ford Tough Series schedule to thirty-four total events, I scheduled the Cincinnnati event to occur shortly after the completion of the 2007 PBR World Finals with the expectation that all riders, staff and other production elements would be ready to go,' explained PBR CEO Randy Bernard. 'Over the years, PBR events have become more complex and we were just not able to get the set design and production elements up to the standards we expect. We have a large and loyal fan base in the Cincinnati area, and rather than proceeding with an incomplete show, we felt it was in the best interest of those many fans that we reschedule this event to later in the season.' "

I'd give something to know what "set design and production elements" were at issue here. Did somebody misplace the flame-spewing bull heads? Did somebody leave the gasoline can and his NASCAR Bic lighter behind in Las Vegas? Did Flint forget his Johnsville Braut bazooka? What exactly are we talking about? I'm not really sure I would be happy with any explanation, simply because the date the event was cancelled was so close to the time when the lights were supposed to go out and somebody was supposed to strike a match, but I would certainly be more sympathetic if it were a matter of too many injuries or even bad weather.

So here we are, a week past all this drama, and I'm still not over it. It's going to be a long, dull slog to the end of the year, when we can finally tune in for some live bucking action.

Barn Cat, who is by definition reasonable, pointed out that at least one other possibility lurks, which is that my fine local cable company may just not have gotten its scheduling updated in time to save me all this angst. I daresay the folks at Versus were among the first to know there was a problem, so maybe they did instantly get on the horn with the cable providers. Perhaps the miscommunication lies closer to home. But as far as I know, there was no announcement of the cancellation anywhere besides the PBR website, though it's certainly possible Versus ran something that I just didn't see.

Let's be truthful--the only time I tune in to Versus is to watch the PBR. I have better things to do than to watch endless hours of boys shooting birds and deer and wrestling with catfish. (Barn Cat would probably say that Ina Garten and "Sex and the City" reruns are no improvement, but different strokes for different folks.) I don't have any objections to hunting and fishing provided somebody eats what gets bagged, or the fishes are released unharmed, but I also don't find it particularly relaxing to watch people blasting around in their big bass boats or stumbling through the brush behind their dogs all day. Come to think of it, watching the dogs work is the best part of that gig.

So if we assume the worst--that the PBR postponed the Cincinnati Invitational at the last minute and only announced it with a press release on the website--how did they expect us to find out about it? What happens to PBR fans who don't have internet access? I daresay there are several such unwired souls still out there. Surely the folks at the PBR aren't so naive that they believed news services worldwide were going to shove everything else aside and run that press release on the front page.

But though I am in serious PBR withdrawal at this point, I have to admit that I've always thought the season is too long and too overscheduled, and that it definitely starts up again too soon after the World Finals. I have to wonder if even the most gung-ho cowboys don't feel a little bit jaded when they are expected to haul their battered behinds back aboard within a month of the all the drama in Las Vegas. And calling these events in late 2007 the start of the 2008 season is just ridiculous. I could stand it if the PBR opted to wait till January to open up the gates. If it meant the World FInals would have to be pushed further into November, so be it. They could buck in the middle of November and then the winners and the unscathed loosers would all have something to be thankful the next week.

But I do think this particular instance could have been handled a lot better. We were expecting to see some bucking, and instead got the rug pulled out from under us at the last minute. How could they not have knows at least a full week out that the event wasn't going to fly? Who's on first?

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