Thursday, September 25, 2008

Class of 2005

Jacksonville is behind us, Oakland is looming, and those of us who have cheered for Guilherme Marchi all season are getting very, very nervous. J.B. Mauney, who has a bad habit of throwing stuff and kicking gates when he doesn’t ride well, is suddenly riding very well indeed, and though he has a big gap to close before he can hope to beat Marchi for the world title, it’s certainly looking like he’s making a real run for it. There’s a saying in sports that you want to peak at the right time, and Mauney, who has ridden hot and cold all season, does appear to be peaking just in time for the mad dash to the finals. To make matters worse, Marchi is now riding hot and cold, falling off about every other bull, and though he is still gathering up a few points, I’m worried sick that the long season is finally taking its toll on him. Obviously, I’ll be on the edge of my seat this weekend, twisting my hands and cheering him on. I don’t think I will be able to stand it if Marchi chokes this late in the game and comes in third for the fourth time.

In other news, FINALLY the higher ups at the PBR seem to have figured out that we’ve heard enough about Justin Almighty already, thank you very much. Perhaps the body slams the Grand Rapids coverage took on Keith Cartwright’s blog sobered them up a little. Of course, PBR fans are not a shy bunch in general, but still, I’ve not seen before a such concerted and well reasoned outcry before I did to McBride’s miraculous 7.7 second ride that won him $15,000 and put him over the $5 million mark in career earnings. A whole lot of folks were just plain pissed off, and they said so, right on the PBR’s website.

At any rate, in Jacksonville, Craig Hummer and J.W. Hart managed to curb their enthusiasm and get on with the event at hand. Justin McKee, of course, still had to race right down and interview McBride after he rode a wimpy bull to a standstill for a mediocre score, but even McBride’s good buddy J.W. couldn’t resist asking why he rated an interview when he was in about sixth place at that point. McBride had the grace to say he was wondering the same thing, so maybe we can hope that McKee will also take the hint and go talk to somebody else this coming weekend. Anybody, please. The janitor, if nobody else comes to mind.

Having said all that, though, something occurred to me when L.J. Jenkins’s bull fell on him, and I went to the PBR website to check it out. What I found out is sobering in a creepy kind of way, but I’m no different from McKee, I guess—I can’t keep my mouth shut when it comes to this stuff. No doubt it is entirely coincidence. I do not believe in jinxes or bad omens or anything like that, but it did give me pause when I realized that four of the boys most seriously injured this year came onto the tour in 2005.

Maybe I’m more cognizant of this than I would ordinarily be because the 2005 season was the first one that we could really watch with total concentration. We had moved from Maryland to Montana late that winter and by time the new season started up, we were pretty much settled. The fact that we had scored a big new wide-screen TV, courtesy of the Costco Cash we got for using one of their preferred mortgage lenders, didn’t hurt anything. For the first time, we were seeing bull riding like SoCal Jay saw it last weekend, up close and personal, dirt, dust, bull snot, bullshit, and all, and we fell in love with the sport all over again.

So that class of rookies stuck with us in a way that perhaps others have not. Of course riders come onto the tour whenever they qualify (which also depends on when the PBR cuts its lowest scoring riders), so it’s not like all those guys showed up for the first time on the same day, but still, the PBR website lists 2005 as the first year of competition for Travis Briscoe (out with a broken leg), Brian Canter (recovering from a gash to the back of his head and facial fractures, including a broken jaw), and Kasey Hayes (finally back on tour after breaking his neck early in the season). L.J. Jenkins actually is listed on the site as having ridden in 2004, but since there are no stats for him that season, I am ruling unilaterally that 2005 also was his rookie season. Please don't try to change my mind by pointing out facts to the contrary.

I certainly don't want to try to dissect which of these various injuries was the worst, but L.J.’s was certainly the weirdest, what with the bull racing off down the arena, stumbling over the barrel, and falling with L.J. aboard. At first I was sure he’d fractured a leg, but when he got up with his arm drooping, I knew for certain it was a broken collarbone. I broke mine when I was a kid and once you’ve experienced it, or seen it, you will never mistake it for something else. It’s not an easy injury to recover from, either, since there’s no way to really set the bone if you don’t opt for surgery to pin the broken pieces back in place. As of last weekend, L.J. hadn’t decided to go under the knife. Take my advice, L.J.—go ahead and get it over with. You’ll be better off in the long run.

So now it’s looking questionable whether any of these guys will be back for the finals, although Canter might be the closest to getting back in the game. Of course, as Tandy Freeman observed last week, Canter’s jaw has been wired shut since he got hurt, so he’s lost “about 10 percent of his body weight—about 10 pounds” (with accompanying snickers), but a 10 percent weight loss resulting from an injury is no joke. Let’s just hope Canter’s mom, or his girlfriend, or somebody is feeding him milkshakes and protein drinks through a straw so he’ll have a fighting chance to get his strength back up before he comes back on tour.

As I said, I don’t want to make too much of this odd occurrence, because almost all of the riders are injured to extents minor and significant at some point during the season, but I will say, as my good friend Jan says in times like this, that I. Don’t. Like. It. Not one bit. Let’s hope that the rookies of 2005 have had all the bad luck they ever will, and that we can all look forward to seeing them ride unscathed for many more PBR seasons.


shannon said...

That is an odd coincidence, SQ. I didn't know they all started in the same year.

Seriously, is this the worst year for injuries or has there been another season this bad? It's been tough to watch and I hope they all recover well and quickly.

"I broke mine when I was a kid and once you’ve experienced it, or seen it, you will never mistake it for something else."

I broke mine 30 years ago and I remember every detail of that day like it just happened last month. I knew it was his collarbone, too, and felt so bad for him. JW said that he may be back in the morning and my first thought was "No way in hell...." Poor kid.

As for Guilherme, I'll be right there with you wringing my hands. He's making me nervous and I don't like it.

Anonymous said...

I'm posting after Oakland:

JB one for three, Guilherme and Valdiron three for three and tied the short go with 91 points each. Kody, Mike slipped a little. Guilherme back on top, but just gained 66 points over Valdiron.

Beau Hill--class of 2005......