Monday, November 17, 2008

And Then There's That Little Matter of the Event Title

I would be completely remiss in my self-appointed position as humble chronicler of all things PBR if I didn’t talk about Robson Palermo’s stellar performance at the World Finals. In this case, it’s not a chore, it's a pleasure. Palermo has been one of Montana Barn Cat’s favorites since he first appeared on the BFTS in 2006 (the nickname “Jungle Boy” had a lot to do with his enthusiasm), and over the 2008 season, he grew on me, as well.

In many ways, Palermo was riding under the radar till the very end of the finals. Guilherme Marchi’s quest to win his first world title was the main story, and rightly so, but there were also the retirements of Justin McBride and Adriano Moraes to distract us, and of course J. B. Mauney started off riding like a house afire, winning three of the first four rounds. Renato Nunes and Valdiron de Oliveria were both in the running for the world title, as much as anybody could be, given Marchi’s commanding lead.

And then along came Robson, just quietly getting the job done. He rode seven of his eight bulls, only getting bucked off Voodoo Child in round two. Certainly there’s no shame in that—Voodoo Child has only been ridden once in nine outs over the past two seasons. And the more he rode, the higher he seemed to score. His lowest score came on the third night, when he got 85.75 for staying aboard Lost in Paradise. He ended up with three 90-plus point rides, and finished off the short-go by riding Camo for 87 points. It seemed like the judges suddenly woke up that second weekend and realized Palermo was coming up on the outside, and closing on the finish line fast.

All this was an amazing display of consistency and style on Robson’s part, but it is doubly interesting when you consider that he was out with injuries a lot of the season. He rode in 27 of the 33 events, which is no slouch, but also isn’t going to put you in a position to win the world title when several of the top contenders are getting to every event.

His injuries over the past year read like a litany of the kinds of accidents bull riders are prone to. He started off the season riding really well, and almost immediately started getting hurt. In January, he sprained his lower back roping cattle. (Pay attention, boys—maybe it would be wiser to lay off the stuff that doesn’t pay the bills.) Two months later, he fell on his head in Kansas City and suffered a concussion. A week after that, he separated his left shoulder in Tacoma. Another couple of weeks later, and a bull whacked him with his horns and bruised Palermo’s neck. In the first week in April, he got stepped on in Albuquerque and was out for a bit with a bruised leg. When he returned to competition in Omaha in mid-April, he broke his left leg and was out for a month. He came back in San Antonio and sprained his left shoulder again. At the end of June, he sprained the thumb on his riding hand. A week later, he separated his right shoulder when he hit the ground. (I guess he wanted his shoulders to match.) In July, riding with torn cartilage in his left shoulder, he butted heads with the bull and sustained another concussion and bruised up his face. In the middle of August, he finally came to his senses and took some time off, returning in time to compete for Brazil in the World Cup in Chihuahua, Mexico.

Just reading Palermo’s injury report makes me hurt. Incidentally, Robson is a small guy—5' 6" and about 120 pounds. The PBR commentators are always harping about how tiny Brian Canter is, but Palermo is only about four inches taller (assuming Canter is telling the truth about his height, a fact that in my experience most men—particularly short men—either fudge or outright lie about), and he weighs about the same as Canter did before he broke his jaw in August. Palermo is stockier than Canter, but nobody that small is built to take this kind of punishment. It’s hard enough on the big stout guys.

When Robson finally came back, it took him a while to find his groove, but find it he did, and the quarter of a million dollar pay-off had to make all those bumps and bruises feel a little better. He finished the finals ranked sixth in the world. Though I said in an earlier post that Guilherme was peaking just in time for the finals, in hindsight it’s clear that Guilherme never peaked. He just rode, consistently and well, for the entire season. Palermo is the one who peaked, at just the right time. He cowboyed up, and he’s got the buckle to prove it. If he can just stay healthy (and obviously in his case, that’s a big “if”), he has a bright future in the PBR.


Anonymous said...

I agree! I was fortunate enough to meet and have my picture taken with Robson's gorgeous wife. She told me how they kept adding up the numbers and hoping Robson could silently win the Event title!

Stockyard Queen said...

Good to see you back, Flash. His wife is beautiful, isn't she? Must be something in the water in Brazil--I think Guilherme's wife and Adriano's are also spectacular.

shannon said...

The guys aren't that bad, either ;) They make some beautiful couples, don't they?

Thanks for giving us a review of Robson's season. Wow! He really was a stealth rider--while everyone else was focused on the other guys, he just swooped and took the event title. Good for him! I'm even more impressed now that I've been reminded of what he went through this year.

Stockyard Queen said...

In the "damn, I wish I'd thought of that" category: stealth rider. Great description, Shannon!

Jean said...

I adore Robson and was so glad he won the average if Marchi couldn't. Last year when we went to our first PBR event in Glendale Robson won. We've saved a special place in our fanship for him since then.

I agree about the wives. My gosh what's in the water down there and can we bottle and import it?

shannon said...

Thanks, SQ. Occasionally I come up with a good one. I've got nothin' on you guys, though--y'all rock when it comes to witty writing.