Monday, November 15, 2010

Update: Pics are Here!

Hi, folks--As you can see, we have managed to get S's fine reports illustrated with her equally fine photographs, and through the miracle of professional help, we have even managed to get them where they belong in the posts! Take a gander while you (continue to) wait on the Stockyard Queen to free herself from the ol' salt mine long enough to get up a new post. Soon, I promise.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Divine S Reports from Vegas: Part 2

Folks, the Stockyard Queen is saddened to report that today, there's good news and bad news. The bad news is that even though the magic button for uploading pictures has FINALLY reappeared on Blogger, something is still not working, so she STILL cannot post the Divine S's final report of her adventures in Vegas with appropriate illustration. The good news is that the Divine S is sufficiently succinct that you won't have to wade through a multitude of reports about the finals--let's face it, this has been a done deal for two weeks already. For that reason, I am going to go ahead and post this without the pictures, and I'm then going to go nag the folks at Blogger till they get this fixed. So enjoy, please! And stay tuned--we are about to reveal some important news about Turn Him Out!

Part 2

Saturday: Big Green Egg Cookoff

We decided to ditch the draft, which already had gathered a large crowd, and instead stake out some of the bleacher seats for the Big Green Egg Cookoff. Now, I know nothing about the Big Green Egg, and as a vegetarian living in an apartment with a small patio, I don’t have much call to use a giant BBQ contraption. According to the woman sitting next to me, they are amazing and you can even make cakes with them. I had no idea. I guess they must have some amazing convection properties (and at their price, they’d better have amazing properties of all kinds).

Anyway, the set up was that three chefs from local restaurants (Gilley’s, Rare 120 at the Hard Rock, and another one I can’t recall—the Palazzo?) were each paired with a cowboy (Colby Yates, Tater Porter, and Cord McCoy). The event had “Dr. BBQ” and Clint Adkins as MCs, and Adriano Moraes, Ty Murray, Michael Gaffney, and J.W. Hart as judges. It was much like Iron Cowboy Chef, with a basket full of “secret” ingredients and the directive to impress the judges. In this case, the ingredients were meat (steak), more meat (sausage), and Jack Daniels, and there was a “pantry” of additional items the contestants could use to supplement the surprise ingredients. [SQ: Damn. Sounds like my kind of meal.] And the race was on.

Colby Yates and Cord McCoy quickly demonstrated that the best thing they do in the kitchen is stay out of the way (this was confirmed by the wife and fiancee, respectively). Tater Porter, however, seemed to really know his way around a kitchen knife. I won’t go too much in detail as this went on for awhile, but I will say that I did have to wonder exactly how much proficiency J.W. Hart and company have in judging the presentation of a meal. In the end, Yates and his partner’s Asian twist on a cowboy meal won them each a Big Green Egg of their own. (The others took home cookbooks and some publicity.) I honestly hadn’t thought about Tater Porter in years, but seeing him slice and dice like a pro increased my fondness for him quite a bit. But on second thought, a guy named Tater ought to know how to cut veggies.

And by the way, apparently the meals made by all the chefs aren’t really anything they serve at their restaurants, which is unfortunate because the Asian twist meal looked much better than anything I ate or saw at Gilley’s (there was a very pretty salad and a corn dish in addition to the meat, meat, and more meat.) Also, there was apparently a magical sauce that seemed to defy cowboy description other than “It’s good!” (said in a tone of wonder by both Colby Yates and Clint Adkins), and the corn dish was described by Adriano Moraes, who is apparently quite fond of corn, as one of the best corn dishes he ever ate.

It was nice to see the guys getting some ribbing in and being their natural selves (Cord McCoy’s natural self is so goofy, which is of course part of his charm). Ty Murray even got a little potshot in at Adriano, more or less along the lines of, “Based on his shape since retirement, I think Adriano must be an expert in judging food.” The crowd let out an “OoooOoooOOoo,” as Adriano mocked outrage in the background.

So while I can’t say I’ll be running out to purchase a Big Green Egg, it was a nice promotion for the cowboys, the product, and the chefs. Maybe the year if they do a vegetable cook-off, I will buy one. Since this will never happen, I should be safe from ending up spending $900 on a BBQ contraption in which one can bake cakes. The thought of J.W. Hart’s face if he was presented a plate of vegetables warms my heart, however.

Sunday: The Main Event

And at last it was Sunday, and I can’t express how wonderful it was to be away from the dim interior of Gilley’s and instead be in the nosebleed section of the Thomas & Mack. Who thought I’d ever be saying that? On the plus side: our seats were positioned nicely on the corner above one set of bucking chutes, so our view was not obstructed by rigging, and we weren’t too incredibly far away. On the negative side: Ford once again provided those inflatable whapper things to annoy everyone. The only good thing I can think to say about them is that no one directly around me was using them, and that this is apparently the last year they will be giving them out.

Because likely everyone has seen the event on TV except me (thanks, NBC, for airing the show once semi-live and then never again), I won’t go too much into detail, but I can cover some things that I am guessing weren’t shown on the broadcast, or probably felt different for those of us in the arena.

Apparently earlier in the week, there had been some sort of interesting pre-show in which the much-discussed kabuki screens had been made off with by one of the Cirque groups in an artistic way, which would have been very interesting. However, what we got was commercials and various features projected on the hanging screens, the cowboys entering and being silhouetted behind the screens in the four corners, all your usual pyro, a slowly spinning Ford truck, Air Force flag presentation, the anthem and enforced prayer, and the screens being dramatically dropped. Thankfully, I believe that we have lost the video featuring the fighter jets. (And there was great rejoicing!) [SQ: Is this the one that starts with the American flag and segueways into the jets shooting big contrails out into the western sky? Hallelujah!]

Once again, I think it was probably way more exciting to be there than to see the event on television. It was fairly obvious as the day wore on that Renato was going to win resoundingly, but there was no sudden voice-over telling us the precise moment that Renato clinched it, which I’m sure there was on television. I’m also sure we saw a lot of rides (well, likely buck-offs, as there was a pretty high number of those) that had to be cut to fit the event into NBC’s reduced format, and of course, we got more Flint.

Flint has new material, at least, new to me, and a new sponsor, apparently. It was definitely a strange moment—Flint got to his Fan of the Night segment, and started saying something about Enterprise and what a great sponsor they have been. I wasn’t paying the closest attention, but next thing I knew, he was peeling off his clothes to reveal a rather lackluster Cooper Tires ensemble underneath. He then handed the clothes to the Enterprise guy and proclaimed he’d always be their Captain Enterprise. I’m sure the whole thing was meant in the best possible spirit, but it sort of put Enterprise on the spot for pulling out as a sponsor, and was likely incredibly mystifying to those in the crowd who weren’t aware of Enterprise’s general “pull back and fade away” ploy over the past year or two. Nothing was said to really explain it further, and it was on with the show.

One interesting thread through the event was a sort of dancing theme/victory dance theme. Shane Proctor, apparently feeling the lack of his own victory dance, threw in a medley of other riders’ greatest hits after his successful effort aboard 7 of Hearts. There was a little of Ben Jones’ chicken dance, a dash of McKennon Wimberly’s boxing, Ryan McConnel’s surfer dude schtick, and I believe he topped it off with a little Austin Meier strut. I guess he wasn’t feeling up to the Renato back flip (and at that point, Renato hadn’t even been nearly plowed over by the bull after an ill-timed back flip celebration!).

Flint also went on a tear about how he wished that just once, instead of stalking off or throwing things, a cowboy would do a dance. He demonstrated the dance he had in mind, a sort of spinning, pirouette-type move that spanned most of that side of the arena. Indeed, he was so captivated by this idea that he was willing to put up the princely sum of $20 to the first one to do said dance. A few cowboys declined, but Travis Sellers, quite hilariously, obliged with a quite credible twirl across the arena. No word yet on if Travis is indeed $20 richer, but the world is richer for pirouetting cowboys. In another curious moment, Guilherme did a strangely endearing victory dance that culminated in a headstand into his hat. I definitely enjoyed the exuberant, joyous atmosphere that pervaded much of the event and was outwardly shown through amusing dances.

From these highlights we go to a low-light, the giveaway from one of our new sponsors, Stanley tools. We had the, er, joy of seeing the “Stanley Stud Finder of the Night,” as the in-arena screen scanned over three men in the audience, beeping repeatedly when it found a “stud.” Because that’s totally tasteful, and of course women don’t use power tools. (I guess I’m glad my power drill is Black & Decker.) [SQ: This reminds me of one summer when I was remodelling a house with the help of my BBF Elisabeth. She was putting up towel racks in the bathroom and managed to find what we dubbed “The Only Stud in the House, nearly breaking her hand in the process. I still have the pictures.]

Outside of these moments, there was, of course, the bull riding. Silvano Alves continues to impress with his slow and steady way of racking up the great rides. Watch out next year when this guy has a full year with which to play. It was definitely nice to see guys like Guilherme Marchi and Skeeter Kingsolver getting back into the groove, and of course there were revelations like the newcomer Wesley Lourenco. Seeing Robson Palermo come back from what could have been a catastrophic accident and score a 91.25 to win the championship round was another one of those great PBR moments. It was a bit depressing to see Austin Meier lose his trajectory, but he seemed to handle the situation with grace. Seeing him pull Renato’s rope for his last ride revealed that he’s a classy guy, showing the very best of the “cowboy way.”

Of course, the story of the night was Renato Nunes, who gathered up all the mojo he’d lost after the button-pushing fiasco and simply out-rode them all in his particular crazy style to win the event and the title for the year. Although I would have been happy with pretty much anyone in the top few slots ending up the winner, it’s obvious that Nunes really wanted it, and it would have been a shame if he had lost due to head games caused by an action that was entirely justified and lead to direct results and hopefully improved judging.

I only wish Renato would have been able to stick it out on Major Payne [SQ: Bite your tongue, woman!], because seeing those two unorthodox athletes battle for the full eight seconds would have been electrifying, but seeing his giant, infectious grin as he stood behind two giant fake checks and held the trophy high was completely perfect.

Well, if Bones wasn’t rewarded for one good out by being made bull of the year, then things would have been perfect, but we can’t have everything. For now, I will savor the hilarious interviews with Renato, and look forward to another year of talented guys battling it out to the last, just as it should be. As much as there are things about the PBR that make me crazy, and as much as I feel they have added all sorts of useless frippery of late (how useless was the Final Five Chase?), as long as at the heart this sport is full of moments like Austin Meier hanging with grim determination on the side of his bull for an astoundingly long time, Major Payne befuddling nearly every cowboy who gets on his back, and Renato Nunes overcoming his demons to pull off a triumph, I’ll be watching.

If anyone wants to know more about anything, or there’s something I didn’t cover that you wanted to know more about, fire away!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Divine S Reports from Vegas: Part 1

Breaking news: For some unexplained reason, Blogger won't let me post pictures, so I am posting S's report without her lovely images for the moment. Working to fix this, because her pics tell at least 10,000 additional stories.

My dear friends, please join me in pondering the adventures of the Divine S, who attended the PBR World Finals in Las Vegas and who has submitted this immortal report. I must confess that I pretty much laughed my, er, fanny off, reading this. Hope you enjoy it, too!

Part 1

It’s always more fun when your team wins. Well, of course, as everyone probably knows, my favorite “team” going into the finals was Team Valdiron, but unlike last year, this year I knew that whatever the result, I would probably be quite satisfied. And it turns out that my expectations were exceeded.

Hotel Adventures

My Las Vegas experience started with Treasure Island, one of the three host hotels this year. One does have some questions about the how or why of there now being three host hotels, but they remained unanswered. I also found myself wondering how they figure out which cowboys stay at which hotel (and if they all pay the same for their rooms, even though I imagine the hotels must have different rates) as I was riding in an elevator with Skeeter Kingsolver and his giant arm brace. And unless Austin Meier favors walking around random places while covered in Saran Wrap and ice packs, I highly suspect he was staying at the hotel as well. Most of the hotel-related cowboy-sightings were on Friday, the evening the -after-party was at Treasure Island’s Gilley’s, so I have no idea if the cowboys were staying at the hotel or just avoiding the after-party (which I was also avoiding). I tried, because I understand that after-parties are going to be a thing of the past after this year, but it was loud and crowded long before any cowboys could realistically appear, and I just couldn’t do it.

Speaking of Gilley’s, what a weird place it is. TI is known for its silly Sirens show. Having seen this strange spectacle once, complete with pyro and click track of dialogue and music, my friends and I have decided that the show actually tells the epic gay love story of a ship’s captain who can’t bear being separated from his cabin boy and must pretend to love the head siren to get him back—this makes the ridiculous thing much more entertaining. Anyway, smack in the middle of the piratical theme of the hotel is this incongruous cowboy bar with a bucking bull machine and waitresses in various stages of undress, depending on the hour. Really. In the morning, they wear jeans and tank tops, in the afternoon, micro-shorts and tank tops, and by the evening, we have descended to bikinis and chaps. Yes, that’s what I said, bikinis and chaps. I hope the evening shift gets paid more, and while I don’t really want to see anyone dressed in bikinis and chaps, I found it rather unfair that the waitresses had to wear this get-up while the waiters and the male bucking machine operator were not dressed in similar style. [SQ: I would bet the evening shift might get paid more, but I also bet those girls get nagged constantly about their weight, just to make their jobs even more wonderful.]

As you can probably guess, I would become all too familiar with Gilley’s. Because of the expense factor, I only had tickets to the last day of the finals, and as the rooms did not get Versus and Gilley’s was showing the PBR on 3/4ths of their televisions as well as on a big screen, they reeled me in. How clever of them. Sadly, I was never able to watch the event on the big screen because three hours per night at Gilley’s was already pushing it, and showing up even earlier for a good seat might have been the end of me. Multiple meals of starchy sides (I am the token PBR vegetarian) and too many rum and Cokes, punctuated by occasional drunken mechanical bull riding (by others, I hasten to add) had a certain charm, but I was certainly more than ready to watch the final day live when we finally got there.

Gilley’s did provide one exciting moment when a man was nearly flung onto our table as he bucked off the machine, but sadly, he was too young and not what we were looking for, so we threw him back. The staff was appalled and perhaps afraid we were going to sue them, as we had not signed any sort of liability as those getting on the bucking machine had, but no harm, no foul. In addition to all its other charms, this fine establishment also apparently has “World Famous Bikini Bull Riding.” I did not stay on Sunday to observe this phenomenon, although the folks at the front desk, who called me every day to tell me about the viewing parties at Gilley’s, also helpfully told me about the bikini bull riding so I could easily avoid it.

Friday: Production 101 Fan Club Tour

At the unfortunate hour of nine in the morning (or more accurately, at least 8:45 to sign the liability release in case someone fell down the stairs or something), it was time for the behind-thescenes tour for fan club members. From some chatter I overheard outside the Thomas and Mack, it sounded like the PBR crew was a bit surprised and overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up for the production tour and the stock contractor tour the day before (and apparently there were some people who were not respectful of the stock contractors’ requests regarding their bulls, which is obnoxious, dangerous and, on a more personal level, really irritates me because it would suck if they stopped doing the stock contractor tours in the future because of one or two people).

After the check-in process, the “handlers” trickled us into the T&M, down to the lower section nearest the production area. Unlike the nosebleed section, these seats are padded and have cup-holders, and since the lower seats are almost always reserved for packages and promotions, that may be the only time I ever sit there. There we were greeted by Clayton Cullen, the production lead who comes from a rock tour background, and his production assistant, Jim. Along with tidbits such as where the replay judge sits, where the sound mixer sits, where the announcers sit, and the many, many sound and video feeds that Cullen has at his disposal, we also were treated to the view of the backstage team trying to velcro a bunch of kabuki screens without getting them in the dirt. (How many men does it take to velcro a sheet? At least 10!).

We also learned that the COO loves pyrotechnics and so was shown the buttons to press to unleash them, and earlier in the week in his excitement he accidentally hit one button over and nearly melted one of the screens. Oooops! We also learned that one of the feeds that Cullen has is to Dr. Tandy Freeman’s mic, but it is never piped live in the arena because sometimes things come out of befuddled cowboys that shouldn’t go live, whereas the TV crew can edit such things before they air. Of course, the potential problems with this “the TV crew will catch it” method were displayed when for some reason they decided it would be awesome to go direct to an infuriated Ben Jones, who was at the time banging his helmeted head repeatedly on the chute. Gosh, I wonder what he’s saying? Probably something wholesome and kind.

The floor was opened up for questions, and I was disappointed to see that some people took this as a forum to vent their displeasure about the sound being too loud, or too soft, or the lighting being too little or too much, or whatever their complaint might have been. I felt it was inconsiderate to take up the time of this very busy man who had volunteered to give us all a glimpse at the man behind the curtain with complaints of this kind, not to mention taking up the time of all the other fans on the tour. But, we did get some interesting information about Cody Lambert “yelling” at them to just jump the Ford truck off the center stand when he thought it was taking too long to get it out of there, and some insight into the number of people it takes and the general panic and triumph of running a show of this magnitude.

Following this, we were shepherded around the arena to the one staircase that goes from the upper arena to the dirt, and were able to pass right by the surprisingly small and narrow chutes, the infamous red replay button, and back down the hallway of champions (as seen on TV, amusingly traveling through time from the incredibly youthful Adriano through the less youthful Adriano to the older Adriano), through the back chute area, and back to where the satellite and TV trailers live. Along the way we found Super Duty, who was there by himself for some reason. I understand that he isn’t the most friendly of bulls, but he seemed to handle the flood of humanity fairly well. I was excited to see a bull up close, since the stock contractor tour had popped up on the schedule two hours before my plane was to land on Thursday.

After learning a bit about the editing trailers and the satellite uplink, one woman in my group unfortunately seized the opportunity to ask for a locker room cam, but thankfully other people kicked in with ideas that were more tasteful, so we finished on a better note. Well, better until we got outside again and realized it was pouring rain. Although I appreciate Ford as a sponsor, I will say that a Ford F-150 is not a terribly effective umbrella, as we learned as we huddled under the truck that was above the red carpet entrance as we waited in the miserable line of people wanting cabs.

Friday: Gilley’s Again, This Time with Cowboys

Upon returning to Treasure Island, we headed back into the depths of Gilley’s, as Jack Daniel’s cowboys Aaron Roy and Rocky McDonald were making an appearance. “There are cowboys here, they are very cute,” said one of the JD girls. I had no idea. The real shocker of the afternoon was that the Jack Daniels girls would seem tastefully dressed after the Gilley’s girls experience. It was also heartening to see Rocky McDonald offer one of them half of his plate of friend chicken, which she dug right into. Rocky McDonald is very approachable and very funny—at one point, I said that I would love to do a drawing of him, but I’d never been able to find any good reference photos, to which he replied, “You’d have to be quick, because I’m usually under the bull in two seconds!” Aaron Roy seems very . . . Canadian. Very quiet, very polite. There was some delay in setting up the table with balloons and JD’s promotional materials, so we actually ended up chatting with the guys before that happened, and it was pleasant to be in a more informal setting without strange balloons and JD girls and their creepy male hangers-on hovering around.

Saturday: Meet-and-Greet

Saturday morning was, of course, the meet-and-greet, which unfortunately had been relocated from the slightly inconvenient parking lot of Mandalay Bay to the near-impossible to find and totally inconvenient parking lot of the out-of-the-way Hard Rock. The issue was compounded by the fact that the event started at 8 am, but at 8 am, there were no signs anywhere indicating where one should go. Thankfully, the bright yellow shirt and box of Starbucks belonging to a nice lady from the Stanley booth were able to help us, because walking all the way through the hotel and going up an escalator, out a door and through the pool area wasn’t exactly intuitive. As we made our way through the maze, more and more confused people joined us in following the lady in the yellow shirt; she was the pied piper of the PBR meet-and-greet.

Upon getting in line, we were confronted with video cameras borne by people with crazy hair, and realized when the people in front of us were asked to sign a release indicating that they were from MTV’s Real World. I didn’t even realize that was still on the air. Anyway, they are apparently doing some sort of episode centered on the PBR. I can’t wait to see how classy that production will no doubt be.

Some of the cowboys were running late (and I’m pretty sure a few of them never showed up; some, like Austin Meier and J.B. Mauney, doctored out, I believe, but who knows about the others), but eventually the hordes were let in. We of course had Renato and Valdiron as priorities so that I could give them their drawings. Guessing correctly that Renato’s line would quickly get out of control, we made a dash for him first. And I have to say, as much as I enjoy indulging myself by spending time drawing (and as a human being, I definitely don’t mind compliments on my work), the giant, delighted grin that broke out on Renato’s face was about the hugest reward I could ever ask for, as an artist and just as a person who admires his grit and talent and wanted to give a little back. He picked the drawing up, asked, “You did this?” and yelled in Portuguese to Robson Palermo, who was at the other end of the table, to look at it.

After getting a picture (where we were both grinning like fools), I told Renato he did the right thing by pressing the button. He mumbled, “I don’t know,” but gave a thumbs-up. I was about to step aside so as to not monopolize him when the Cooper Tires photographer asked if I would like a photo. When I said I already had one, Renato got a big smile on his face and said, “Yes, another hug!” So now I have two dorky pictures with Renato, he has one drawing, and I have a great memory. As an aside, his adorable daughter was “helping” by signing a stack of papers for him.

We moved on to Robson, who was quite curious about the drawing. I told him I’d try to get to him soon, which, well, I’m trying to get to everyone, but we’ll see how that goes. (By the time I get good reference photos of everyone and crank through the drawings, some of these guys are bound to have retired!) I am not going to go through each interaction as that would take forever, but I did want to mention Robson because while I know and have always known that this is a dangerous sport, it really drives it home when someone you were talking with in the morning is violently thrown on his head and taken out of the arena on a backboard in the evening. I am so happy and amazed that he came back the next day with a huge ride, and I only wish he would wear a helmet.

After Renato and Robson, we were on a mission to find Valdiron. We discovered him in the far, far corner of the lot. They had placed Valdiron, Robson Aragao, and Wesley Lourenco off the parking pavement and in a mud pit, which I found quite bizarre. It didn’t much bother me or them, as we were all in cowboy boots, but for those in slighter footwear ,it was a problem. Wesley Lourenco, by the way, reminds me of a baby Valdiron—very cute young guy with braces and a lot of talent. Robson Aragao, we discovered, actually signs things as “Spiderman.” I wish his English was better (or that I knew any Portuguese) because I really want to know what the Spiderman thing is all about. He is also taller than I thought, which is funny because most of the cowboys startle me by being shorter than I thought. Anyway, I gave Valdiron the drawing and was rewarded by one of his thousand-watt smiles, and even got a little joking in, as he said, “It looks like me!” and I replied, “A little bit!” He seemed quite tickled and I didn’t have the heart to ask him at that moment why he no longer wears the helmet. I really wish he would go back to it, though.

I did find it very odd this year the way they grouped people. Obviously some were by sponsor, but they had the two Australians together sort of floating in the middle of nowhere, and not very many people seemed to be talking to them, and then the four Brazilians were in the mud. I felt that last year they distributed it a bit more evenly, so that no one ended up sitting around and twiddling his thumbs. It was sort of awkward this year.

A few colorful scenes for you: I had the pleasure of watching Cody Nance set a gaggle of tweens completely aflutter just by existing. I also was quite pleased to see and chat with Chad Berger in his bright pink shirt, complemented by a bright pink autographed guitar he was going to auction for the Rider Relief Fund and Breast Cancer Awareness. I really respect Chad for going out there and taking a stand on an issue that isn’t a natural cowboy tie-in, and seemingly not caring if anybody thinks it isn’t manly.

After running around to various tables, we decided to go for broke and get in the Stanley line. Unfortunately, we were four people away from Guilherme and Silvano when they got called away, but we did get to see them huddled together under a quilt, for all the world like little cold-nosed puppies under a blanket. Too cute. We also had the dubious pleasure of seeing the guys make all sorts of ridiculous gun poses with Stanley power drills for some promotional shots. I also have to add that Stanley was responsible for one of the tackiest new giveaways at the event, but more on that later.

I did have many lovely fan encounters as well throughout the morning, somehow kept getting corralled by PBR camera people wanting happy crowd shots, and finished off the meet-and-greet portion of the afternoon by happening to be by the bucking bull machine when little Renata got on in her pink zebra cowboy boots. She’s pretty darn good—watch out in a few years, boys. Overall, I’m almost always impressed by the graciousness of the cowboys when confronted with the teeming masses, and while I’m sure some of them dread the finals meet-and-greet, most of them have the grace not to show it. A nice experience again this year.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Lamentations

Friends and neighbors, while we are awaiting the Divine S’s immortal report about her on-the-ground experiences at the PBR World Finals, and preparatory to what will doubtless be a deluge of philosophical ponderings about the sport during the break, I want to say a few words about the way it played out in the living room of our lovely home during the broadcasts.

First up, I should tell you that Montana Barn Cat and I had fully intended to go to Vegas for the finals this year—until I learned that the only seats available were up in the nosebleed sections. I even went so far as to CALL THE BOX OFFICE, which is, as you most certainly know, unheard of in these days of online shopping. The very kind gentleman I spoke with me assured me that I could get floor seats IF I bought them for ALL FIVE DAYS. One of the reasons we had never gone to the finals before was that we hated the idea of being stuck in Vegas for 10 days, and the prospect of dialing that back to five was not quite enticing enough to lure us out there.

Nevertheless, since she had been to the finals before, I consulted with S, who told me that the PBR mostly gives tickets for the floor seats to sponsors, many of whom don’t even show up. That was when we decided that for once, we really COULD see it better on TV than in person.

Second, we were not disappointed—this was by far the most exciting finals either of us has witnessed. It had everything—a close race for the title, great rides, terrible wrecks, bulls that bucked like their lives depended on it, newcomers who wickedly threw spanners into the works, and old hands who enjoyed a brief revival of their glory days. We were absolutely limp by the time Silvano Alves and McKennon Wimberly hoisted Renato onto their shoulders and carried him, wrapped in the Brazilian flag, around the arena.

But as we all know to our sorrow, into every life some rain must fall, so I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that we experienced some lows as well as highs. And being the cranky miscreants that we are, of course those lows were greeted with shouts of dismay and horror. Because we would not want anybody to think that every day with the PBR is all unicorns and rainbows, we are reporting here a few of the observations made in our living room over that long stretch.

In an effort to not completely turn you all away from us forever, we must issue some disclaimers: First, some of this stuff is just pretty damned crude, so be forewarned. Do not read this if you are easily upset by the profane and the vulgar. Second, we cannot entirely conceal the identities of those that some of these remarks were aimed at, but we freely acknowledge that no doubt some of them are completely wrong and possibly unfair. Third, because we so love and respect one another (and because we need to cover one another's butts), we are adopting the method of Pierre and Marie Curie, who, when they were forced in their lab reports to distinguish between themselves, wrote, “One of us.” Here goes.

On seeing the leather-clad babes come in to give Michael Gaffney a congratulatory kiss for his predictions: “Their names are Cash and Tiffany? They should be ‘Cash’ or ‘Credit Card.’”

When one of us wondered what the winner of the fantasy contest was praying about after the truck started, the other replied: “Thank you, Lord, for helping me win this truck. Now I can haul my meth to town.”

On watching Justin McBride, backed by a fiddler, a bass guitarist, a steel guitarist, a drummer, and TWO other guitarists, mangle a Chris Le Doux song beyond all recognition: “Chris LeDoux must be about to rise from the dead and hogtie that boy.” Addendum: I presume one of those was the lead guitarist and the second was playing rhythm guitar, which just shows how really awfully McBride must play if he can’t even do a decent job on rhythm guitar. Trained monkeys can do it competently.

On hearing a commentator wax eloquent about the skills of a, er, washed-up rider who should have retired years ago: “The longer they’ve been on the tour, the harder the PBR types will _____ their _____.”

On watching yet another infantile display by a rider who had just been bucked off: One of us: "I am going to drive to wherever he lives, slap him senseless, slap his entire family senseless, slap his dog senseless, bulldoze his house, set fire to the rubble, and sow the soil with salt."

On watching the Rockstar girl strut around the arena in her leather outfit, waving her 90-point ride placard: “If you score 95, does she take her top off?”

That’s it for now. See you back here soon for S’s reports.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reindeer Games

Come in, friends, and take a seat—I need to speak seriously with you for a moment. For several days, I have been pondering a conversation that took place on the Zonkboard last week. Several of you were chatting about the Final Five event in Times Square next weekend. Shelia, who feels that this event may prevent the riders from getting rested up for the finals, remarked, “If anyone should appear in NYC to promote the World Finals, it should be the reigning champion, who has been absent unless he's riding! Kody, like Brian Canter and Kasey Hayes, should have shown up at events while recuperating. If the PBR didn't promote the 09 champ, it was because he wasn't available!”

Now, this is interesting on several fronts, the first and most obvious being that Shelia is absolutely right. Where the hell has Lostroh been, anyway? The official explanation from the PBR for his absence is that he’s been recovering from surgery. That might wash among those who are inclined to swallow any explanation whole, but I am not buying it, and here’s why: Several times during the six months that Justin McBride was out of competition because of a shoulder injury, he was still on hand as a commentator. And of course many other injured riders quite routinely show up at events and even come out to meet the fans on occasion.

Has ANYBODY seen Kody at ANY EVENT this season?

Oh, sure, we’ve all seen him now—he’s back on the tour. But why, exactly, has he not been out promoting the sport while his elbow healed up?

Where have you been, Kody?

I have to admit that I was thunderstruck by Shelia’s observation, and I feel considerable embarrassment about that for several reasons. First, I never even noticed that Lostroh wasn’t around—AT ALL—all season long. Second, I haven’t missed him ONE BIT. Third, when he did return to riding a few weeks ago, I realized yet again that I really do not like anything about him—not his put-me-to-sleep riding style, not the way he plays it safe when he picks bulls in the draft, not his beady-eyed stare when he’s looking into the camera.

But the fact remains that Kody Lostroh is the reigning World Champion of the Professional Bull Riders. He won $1,628,442.80 in competition last year, $1 million of that at the finals when he clinched the championship. But I guess the fact that he owes the sport a great deal didn’t stack up against the attractions of whatever he’s been doing instead of representing the sport to the fans and the larger world.

Yo, Kody—where have you been? My guess would be out shooting the **** out of something harmless, but I would really like to hear it from you.

When Justin McBride retired suddenly just before the finals two years ago, I was genuinely surprised to learn that one reason he was quitting was that he was tired of dealing with what he called “the media.” I suspect that might have at least partly been code for “the fans” as well, but McBride certainly affirmed that he was tired of being in the spotlight. Here’s the amazing thing about that—I had no idea he felt that way.

Over the years, I have found a lot to object to about McBride’s demeanour and his sometimes astonishing ignorance of what I consider to be common knowledge (and the way he conducts himself on “PBR Now” is frequently just embarrassingly adolescent, to say nothing of the irritating way he continually slaps the desk), but I really never imagined for a minute that he found the whole experience of being the world champ wearing. I truly believed that he ate it up with a spoon.

The title of this post, by the way, came from a comment that the divine S made when she and I were exchanging emails last week. “Lostroh seems really....not interested in being the media darling,” she remarked. “And people are surprised that the PBR has seized upon J.B. Mauney, who is not Brazilian and can play their reindeer games with some grace.”

Shelia seconded that opinion, but she also offered up an observation that, again, I found very revealing. She is, as you probably know, a member of Mauney’s Minions, a group of J.B.’s supporters. “But one thing we realized after meeting J.B. several times is he really doesn't have much to say to the fans,” she said. “He wasn't blessed with the ‘gift of gab’ like Adriano, Sean, J.W., Jody, or Beau—all of whom I have had lengthy discussions with. But J.B. is out there, smiling, shaking hands, saying, ‘Thank you very much,’ ‘Yes, Ma'am,’ ‘Yes, Sir,’ ‘Alright.’ It might be just as difficult for J.B. to deal with fans and media as it is for Kody, but J.B. does it!”

Maybe the simplest answer really is the explanation—maybe Lostroh is just so painfully uncomfortable dealing with the media that he could not force himself to step up and do the right thing.

Maybe the answer is a little more sinister, or at least cynical—maybe Lostroh views his obligations to represent professional bull riding as nothing more than reindeer games, a ridiculous sideshow that he’d just as soon skip.

But frankly, I don’t care what his reasons are. I say that Lostroh has fallen down on the job. If you are willing to hang out with the boys and cash the checks, then you are obligated to deal with the aspects of the sport that you don’t like that much—ESPECIALLY when you’re the reigning World Champion.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Discovering Leah

Gentle and devoted readers,

Last weekend, Montana Barn Cat and I ran away from home to Billings, where we ate and drank everything that couldn't run fast enough to escape from us at Bistro Enzo and then conked out at the Wingate. We weren't quite tired enough, though, to crash without watching at least a few minutes of television, through which adventure we had the good luck (or misfortune) to stumble upon our very own Leah Garcia working her day job.

This is but a taste of the actual infomercial, which went on and on and on . . . I kid you not, I could not believe how long the damned thing was. But here's the really great part: Throughout the first part of the program, the divine Leah was wearing a white summer suit with the coat open and a green sports bra. I vote she shows up at the next BFTS event in that rig--then we'll see just how gentlemanly (or not) those boys really are. I'd make a sizable bet, right now, that Leah's abs are better than those of any rider currently on tour. Any of you boys men enough to take me up on that?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

On Professionalism

It’s been nearly two weeks since that infamous night in Greenville when Renato Nunes had finally gotten his fill of inept judging and hit the challenge button, calling for a review of Ryan McConnel’s ride. Since then, I’ve watched with increasing amazement the gyrations that have gone on at PBR headquarters. On review, the judges confirmed what every single person who saw the ride already knew—McConnel slapped that bull nearly into next week.

A few days later, out came a terse press release announcing that the PBR was suspending all four judges who had worked the Greenville event. There followed a period of intense debate on the PBR comment boards about what had happened and how it all went down, about whether some of the judges had been fired outright, about who can suspend the judges, and on and on. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the PBR comments board, though, it’s that the remarks you see there strongly resemble free advice—it’s worth what you’re paying for it.

Incredibly, the judging this past weekend in Springfield was worse than it was in Greenville. Several of my readers have theorized that the new judges must have had the jitters. When the smoke cleared after that event, yet another judge was suspended.

I want to make it clear, straight up, that I have no inside information about what is happening at PBR headquarters. The PBR is a closed (I’d almost say airtight) system, as anybody who has ever tried to storm the gates or even get a straight answer knows. I know one person who has been trying to talk to someone in Pueblo about her concerns for months, and has yet to even get a phone call or an email acknowledging that they’ve received her messages.

But I am arrogant enough to believe that what I lack in information I make up in insight. So here goes: I believe we are watching an organization suffering through the growing pains associated with professionalization.

The PBR started out very small, targeted a specific niche audience, and has grown astronomically in a short period of time. In the beginning, it was run by a bunch of cowboys and, I daresay, their friends and relatives, and on their watch, it began to grow. But there comes a time in the life of any grassroots organization, be it a business or a church or a county museum, when it’s time to call in the professionals and send the good ol’ boys home.

The need for professionalizing the PBR has been masked by the organization’s success since its upstart beginnings, and, yes, by the hiring of Randy Bernard. Members of the board were always quick to point out that Bernard was not a “cowboy” and they were damned proud of the fact that they had had the courage to hire him anyway. Everyone who has ever stopped by here knows that I am Randy Bernard’s biggest fan. Without Bernard, the PBR would not be where it is today, but you have to wonder if it would not have made more progress if more genuine professionals had been brought in sooner to deal with other matters. The fact is that a whole lot of stuff besides marketing has long needed professional attention and hasn’t gotten it.

By all appearances, the PBR is an organization that, as one of my readers once observed, values loyalty above expertise. This is evident in the fact that the website is a mess, damned near as difficult to navigate as a labyrinth; that despite all the hollering about how great the writing is in the magazine and on the website, it is usually marginal if not outright bad, and the reporting, by any reasonable journalistic standard, is worse; that the opening ceremonies have not changed appreciably in at least five years, except to get louder and more pyrotechnic; that interactions between fans and the membership office are not always cordial; and that though fans and riders have been complaining for years about how bad the judging is, nothing was done until Nunes pushed the button and the shit hit the fan.

What is truly interesting about all this is that we are now running through one set of judges after another. Has there never been any training program developed for these folks? Or were they, as I strongly suspect, just guys who wandered over from the PRCA and took a seat behind the bucking chutes? That said, what the PBR board should be taking away from this experience is this: When people complain and see no action taken, they end up taking matters into their own hands. I applaud Renato for doing so within the system. I want him to shake off the guilt he evidently feels for having done the right thing and get back to riding like the future world champion he is.

Furthermore, all this shucking and jiving over judging makes me wonder what else has been falling by the wayside, and what it will take to fix it. Clearly, the PBR board believed early on that good marketing would be the answer to their prayers, and they did have the sense to recognize that none of them were marketing geniuses. So they hired Randy Bernard, and he took the marketing end of the business and ran with it. It’s obvious, though, that some critical infrastructure has long been neglected and is now suffering from dry rot.

Right now, today, the PBR is at a critical point. No matter how much Justin McKee insisted that JHQ Arena in Springfield was “packed” last Friday night, all you have to do is look around at a BFTS event to realize that ticket sales are down. Ticket prices are too high for a family to take in an event without giving the matter a lot of thought, and who can blame them if they opt for something less expensive, like a ballgame or the county fair? The board members have to face the fact that they have pretty much reached everybody who is likely to be a “core” fan, and to keep the sport growing, they need to widen their fan base. To do that, the PBR is going to have to look less like a small-town rodeo and more like an international sport. That means biting the bullet and coughing up the bucks to bring in people who know what they’re doing, and it means putting up with the shrieks of those who feel that any change is automatically a change for the worse.

The good news is that true professionals know they are going to take some waves over the bow when they take over the helm. They know it goes with the territory, and they have the experience and the judgment to see past the immediate turbulence.

The bad news is, the PBR board members may still not realize that they need help. The worst news would be that they recognize the need, but even for the ultimate good of the sport, they don’t have the fortitude to put up for a while with some rough water.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Black Boots Goes to Greenville

Folks, a lot has been going on with the PBR in the past week, as you all know, but I have been holding off commenting for the moment because the divine Black Boots made the trip to Greenville and offered to send me her observations on the experience. I think you are going to find this very enlightening. Thanks, Black Boots, for showing us what it was like on the ground.

The good, the bad, the bad, and the good of Greenville

First, a confession: I stole the title of my review straight from the adorable lips of Kiefer Sutherland in the movie Cowboy Up. In it, he plays Hank Braxton, a struggling stock contractor for the newly birthed PBR. Late in the film, he has a conversation with another character (played by Molly Ringwald in a less perky phase) who asks how he’s been doing since his no-count brother, a bull rider, ran off with Hank’s unrequited love, the barrel-racing hussy Celia Jones (played by fish-girl Darryl Hannah).

“Well,” Hank sighs. “Good. And bad. And bad. And good.”

That’s how I feel about Greenville.

Let me set the scene. I’ve never traveled to an event before. Since Greenville is only an hour and change away, the intrepid E and I decided to go, and we brought two brand-new PBR fans with us who were all up for a weekend away from our darling husbands. And Greenville is gorgeous. It’s got the most fabulously planned and resurrected historic district I’ve ever seen (and which was attached to the PBR’s hotel) and spectacular public green spaces. It is a center for arts and culture in that corner of the Carolinas. In other words, Greenville is an urbane town, as urbane as it’ll get this close to Bob Jones University. This will become more significant later.

The good

We couldn’t attend both nights, so we went on Saturday night because of the bulls. One of the arena announcers said, “They call this the BEAST Coast” and they weren’t kidding. Thanks to our proximity to Teague, Robinson, Waggoner, and other contractors’ HQs, we had Bones, Uncle Buck, Major Payne, the front-running Voodoo Child, and that sweet, magnificent baby Chicken on a Chain for the short go, and bulls like Skyhawk Cut-a-Rug, MacNett’s Pinball Wizard, and Super Hou in the second round. We are spoiled rotten for bulls, and they did not disappoint. You all know JB’s ride on Voodoo was spectacular (especially when Voodoo launched him in the dismount like a slingshot), but to be in the audience? Bedlam. It still gives me chills. By the way, he made the 8 seconds, case closed. It was a magnificent ride and well deserved the score. Chicken caught more air than I’d ever seen him catch, but Paulo Lima matched him jump for jump. Two most excellent athletes!

Bulls to watch? Keep an eye on that dadgum Fire Ant. On Saturday, he bucked like a maniac that couldn’t get enough (ask Travis Briscoe.) I was also impressed with the punch-and-go of Monty the Bull with JB, Pinball Wizard with Brendon Clark, and Hot Tamale with Travis Sellers. And Moebandy.com had his best out ever (which didn’t end well for Guilherme, dammit.) Were there riders I hadn’t noticed before last Saturday? Hmm, maybe Travis Sellers. He has excellent balance. And it was great to be in the arena when Paulo Lima caught fire. That out with Chicken is going to boost his confidence. Watch for him to stay on more tough bulls.

and bad. And bad . . .

After listening to the Friday Night Fracas on the event center, E and I knew there might be some tense faces in the hotel Saturday afternoon. In fact, the faces weren’t tense. There was a noticeable absence of faces. Except for Guilherme and a cluster of the younger Brazilians, no one was eating lunch or signing autographs. What was present—at least to me—was a sense of important things being discussed behind closed doors. (Note: JB did do a signing at his t-shirt concession—I got one for my daughter—and was mannerly as always.) We availed ourselves of the aforementioned historic district and then got all flossed up for the event.

The arena was only two city blocks from the hotel, so we walked. We had to wait outside for our other friends, so we squatted on some steps and watched the crowd go in. I observed that the arena staff was waving electronic scanner wands over almost everyone in line, and then the staffer at the end of the line called out, “If you have guns or knives, please do not bring them into the arena. Please take them back to your vehicle.” He repeated this phrase over and over again. At first it was funny, and then I thought, oh, god. Is this because of Renato’s callout?

Now you might say, “BB, it’s the South. Isn’t that part of the uniform?” To which I’d have to say, “For Greenville? No way.” It’s a PBR event with lots of kids and families in attendance. It’s not the kind of place the most, um, armed folks would carry their hardware. So why were they wanding everyone (including me?) Why even make that announcement repeatedly if it’s a family event? My deduction (and you’re welcome to agree or disagree) was that there was some concern there would be retaliation against Renato’s callout on McConnell’s slap. You see, I’d had time to read the sickening comments on the PBR’s thread. I knew what kind of craziness was transpiring, and it made me good and mad. And wary.

Because of my new wariness, I jumped like a scalded cat every time fireworks went off in the intro. Renato’s big climactic introduction was not met with boos, but much less applause than the world’s number one bull rider should receive. Afterward, there was so much smoke and fog in the arena that I felt like we were on Alcatraz on a winter morning. It was a jumpy event—not that our friends noticed it, they were entranced with everything—but it felt more jarring and uncertain, even, than events I’ve been to in the past. Not only that, I think we got out of there in record time. Why the bum’s rush?

There was a lot of buzz about Friday night’s drama in the stands. I’d say it was 50/50 as to whether or not Renato should have pushed the button. My opinion? The judging has been erratic and downright racist ever since I’ve watched the PBR. I’ve railed privately in my living room about the men who can’t let go of their personal prejudices or preferences and couldn’t believe that NO ONE in the PBR PTB ever stood up and called out that big pink elephant in the arena. Renato is the only person who has had the guts to point out that elephant. I am in awe of his actions; I also believe that Ryan’s initial reaction was an adrenaline-fueled outburst, and I’m happy with the way he’s calmed down and handled the situation. There was nothing overtly tense behind the chutes on Saturday, so I’m sure the riders felt like it had been resolved. It broke my heart in Leah’s interview with Renato on Sunday’s telecast when he said, “Maybe I just go back to Brazil.” I know his head was nowhere near where it needed to be to ride his bull that night, and we had to see him go down. I don’t know how long it’ll be before he’s turning backflips again; I fervently hope that he can find a way to put this behind him and go back to setting his jaw for a world championship. As always, YMMV. Note: We never saw him at the hotel.

. . . and good.

When we were leaving the arena, the folks who were handing out samples of BBQ sauce foisted an entire case of sample packets on me. My husband is a champeen smoker/griller type, so I knew he’d be happy with me. I tried to give a lot of it away, but took home a big enough supply that my dear hub was indeed tickled.

We did meet a few riders Saturday night after the event at the hotel. I came away with a good impression of Brendon Clark—very yakkity, friendly, and curious. I rode the elevator with Ross Coleman (he assured me that the sauce was good, heh), but he looked utterly exhausted. I remembered that he’d probably flown across the country to get to Greenville, and with jet lag gotten on bulls less than 48 hours after arrival, and then would get back on a 5+ hour flight. No wonder. Adriano blew past us a couple of times at the hotel—E did get a hug from him while I was out doing something else—but he was deep in conversation every time I saw him, I imagine about everything that was going on. JB and Austin have their jaws set and their game faces on, even though they’re cordial. They mean “bidness.” It’s going to be an interesting battle to Vegas.

And in my *squee* fangirl moment of the weekend, I would like to submit that Guilherme’s eyes are the color of dark cinnamon. He’s also every bit as nice as I imagined him to be. *Squee!* Okay, got that out of my system.

And one rider completely irked me. No dude, I was not trying to take a picture of your feeble chin spinach; in fact, if you hadn’t been so busy acting like a “D” list bit player, I might have told you that I applaud your decision to wear a helmet. Instead? Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out of the Top 40.

The very best thing about the weekend? The elevators. They smelled like eau de bull. How I love those four-legged athletes!

And now I’m going to watch Cowboy Up (minus the ending I hate) for about the eleventy millionth time.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Our Intrepid Reporter in Ontario

Gentle Readers, the Divine Shannon has yet again rescued the Stockyard Queen from the Slough of Despond, sending me this entertaining report of her adventures in Ontario last weekend. Pull up a chair and enjoy! Thanks, Shannon!--The Stockyard Queen

Musings from Ontario

First, thank God the heat lifted for this weekend. The previous weekend and the entire week up until Thursday, the temperatures were 100+, and on Friday, it was still 91. The high on Saturday was 75 and about the same for Sunday. This was a good thing because under normal circumstances, I’m a miserable witch in the heat, but when you like to dress the part like I do, in jeans and cowboy boots, I’ve have pitied my poor husband (who went with me on Saturday) and friend (who went with me on Sunday) for having to put up with me. Fortunately, it was quite comfortable.

Speaking of dressing the part: Is it just me or is it a Southern California thing that only a handful of us dress in our best jeans and boots while others come in the usual, local, seasonal get-ups? Here that was crop pants, sandals, or something comparable. I’m aware that not everyone has cowboy boots, but crop pants? Huh? It was rather baffling to me because, I couldn’t imagine going to a bull ride dressed like that anymore than I’d go to a rock concert in my Sunday best (and I mean no offense to anyone who dresses that way—it’s just that for me, looking the part is part of the whole experience). [SQ: It’s not just you. In Tulsa, the folks who came to the events looked like they had just stopped by on their way to K-Mart. I’m talking flip-flops. Flip-flops! I’ve seen more appropriately dressed folks at tractor pulls.]

In fact, bull riding going over so well in southern CA baffles me in general more than any other place on tour except maybe NYC. It surprises me that here, just 45 miles from Hollywood, where dressage is infinitely more popular than western riding, where PETA reigns supreme, the PBR has managed to have an Anaheim stop every year so far, and, for the last two, there were two events per season. Not only that, I’ve never seen or heard of one picket sign protesting the event.
But, I digress. I entered the event looking forward to seeing it live yet again, but at the same time hoping I’d see something exciting because the California events, to me, have always been a little dull. The really rank bulls are rare here and there are many bulls that people aren’t too familiar with and always a lot of rides.

The opening video

While watching the opening video of the wrecks, I thought about you here on the blog not liking the fact that it was all wrecks all the time. While I agree that they need to mix it up with some great rides, I thought of something my brother, a bull riding and NASCAR fan, said to me when he last attended an event with me. At one point, shaking his head and rolling his eyes, he was prompted to say “It’s just like NASCAR—everyone is waiting to see a wreck.” Morbid curiosity. Sadly human and, as Flint pointed out later in the program, “That’s what sells tickets.” [SQ: As one fan famously said, “We don’t want to see anybody get killed. We just want to see somebody ALMOST get killed.”]

Thankfully, there were only a few scary moments with riders getting thrown around, or limping out, with Ryan McConnel’s slam to the ground being the one true “someone was looking out for him” moment. Someone was looking out for the bull, too. It was still fresh in my mind, as well as many others, I’m sure, that it was just last week that Code Blue’s feet failed him as well. This bull, however, seemed to recover very well, as did Ryan.

Flint moments

After so many events, Flint has stopped really amusing me because it’s usually the same thing over and over again. In fact, a couple of times during the Sunday event, while my friend (a first time PBR attendee—she had a great time) was absorbed in watching one of his usual routines, I was texting a friend of mine updates because she wasn’t where she could watch a show online. I’m surprised he didn’t call me out—we were that close in what were supposed to be the best seats in the section, but I highly disagree to the point that the next time I go, I know exactly what row I’m going to request! Anyway, he did have some new stuff that made me chuckle: Running down Travis Sellers after his buck off, calling “What happened?! What happened?” to which Travis responded “The bull was better than me!” After we were sure that both Ryan McConnel and his bull were okay, Flint put himself into the mind of the bull and told us what he was thinking: “You think you can figure me out? Stay on this!” after which he crashed himself into the ground. After the Enterprise contest, in which Flint asks a fan what Brian Canter prefers—chicken or fish (really? Didn’t these people see the last event where that was aired on tv?), he wondered out loud if he liked boneless chicken and then went into a rather funny imitation of a boneless chicken. Finally, there was a cute moment when Flint and Brandon were having a contest to see who had the most famous person’s phone number in their cell phone. Brandon won with the number of a famous country singer whose name escapes me right now (sorry). [SQ: How famous could he have been if he’s hanging out with Brandon?]

Famous people and those who associate with them

On Saturday, the big talk was about “NCIS” and how Flint wasn’t invited. In fact, a large part of the crew was there in one of the back rows of the section next to us. Then on Sunday, I hear, from behind me: “Omg…that’s Tom Cruise.” Now, I’d heard from the sound man, whose booth we were sitting behind, that Tom was supposed to be there that weekend researching a new movie. Well, he was never announced, but people spotted him and yes, he was definitely in research mode. He was stuck like glue to someone in a cowboy hat, staring over the chutes, watching intently, asking questions and listening carefully to the answers. When he came down to right behind the chutes, he spent a moment or two with Guilherme, talking and laughing. Then, when it came to the rope pulling, the camera got him and that’s when most people got it—Tom was there! Loud cheers came from the crowd. I’m not crazy about his behavior and attitude these days, but it was kind of cool to see someone that popular at the event. I’ll be interested if anything comes of this movie.

On the dirt

Going on the dirt is an interesting experience because you learn a bit more about the riders and their attitudes. Ryan was in good form. Jordan Hupp is wonderfully polite and talkative young man. Renato and McKennon were mobbed, with each handling it differently. Both were accommodating and all smiles, but Renato had more of a vibe that said “I love my fans,” whereas McKennon had more of a vibe that said “I love being loved.” It was very subtle and it wasn’t enough for me to be turned off—like I said, he was very accommodating and friendly—but there was something. Perhaps the fact that he wouldn’t go farther than one or two steps across the barrier into the fan zone area and we had to go to him added to that. (After having seen his interview and rider profile the next morning, I really hope that someone he looks up to pulls him aside and tells him to dial it back a little.). Robson was the best encounter of the night. He spoke about his injury and then, when we told him about meeting his wife and little girl in Anaheim, he grinned and told us with great pride and animation about how she’s just started walking. Then about how she loves to go to the window to look out at the cows and announce, loudly, when they would approach the yard. He was glowing.

Something exciting!

In the end, it turned out to be a great event. McKennon was determined to hold onto that #10 spot. Shane made a great effort to knock him out of 10th. JB hung onto third. A short-go (sadly, w/o a Brazilian rider—how often does that happen?) with only one ride and, while I like other riders better, I have no issues with Austin Meier and respect the determination he has this season Therefore, I congratulate him on his win.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Dear Mr. Wagoner and Mr. Walton:

Please retire Code Blue today. Do it for his own good, for the good of his unborn progeny, and for the good of the sport.

Do it because the last thing any of us wants to witness is you putting him down in the middle of the arena after he hurts himself so badly that nothing can be done for him.

Do it because it's the right thing to do.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

J.B. Mauney


Hard on the heels of our Tulsa adventure, we trundled over to Livingston for the Touring Pro event on July 28. Concisely called “Murdoch's Presents The Northwest Dickies PBR Touring Pro Division,” the event took place at the Livingston fairgrounds, which is a far cry indeed from the BOK Center. But after all the noise and fanfare of the BFTS, a Touring Pro event outdoors, with the most spectacular view of Paradise Valley you could ask for, was a real treat, particularly considering that in Tulsa, we barely dared stick our heads outside at midday for fear of suffering heat stroke. We dragged some friends along with us, and we all had a good time.

I will spare you the details of the cowboys and the bulls and the rides and the wrecks, which at the time seemed less than awesome and by now is old news. What I want to talk about happened during the opening ceremonies, when a helicopter landed in the middle of the arena (just barely, I might add, clearing the power lines to the south), and out popped a handful of the top riders.

And suddenly, there he was, not 15 feet from where I was sitting—J.B. Mauney in the flesh! You might think that this picture is blurry because my hands were shaking, and I would not deny that.

I have never gone out of my way to meet the riders at the events because, after all, I’m there to see the bulls, not the boys, and it seems hypocritical of me to shake their hands and chat them up, knowing full well that I really want to see every last one of them hit the dirt—safely, of course. But I’m telling you truly, this kid has a lean and hungry look to him that does not bode well for his competition.

Mauney has been riding hot and cold for most of the season. Given the intense scrutiny he’s under, and the blatantly hostile treatment he’s gotten and continues to get from a lot of fans, it’s no wonder to me he is by his own admission “fighting my head.” It would be miracle if he weren't.

I don’t know whether Mauney will be able to salvage this season and win the world championship—there’s too much season left and too many balls in the air to predict who will take home the buckle this year. But if he is fortunate enough to avoid serious injury, he will one day be the PBR’s World Champion. You didn’t hear it here first, but you’re hearing it here now.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Now, About Those Bulls . . .

I kept hearing two themes at the PBR event in Tulsa. One went like this: “The return of . . .”—just go ahead and fill in the blank to your own satisfaction. On Saturday night, I was treated to the return of J. B. Mauney, Brian Canter, Zack Brown, and Brendon Clark. On Sunday afternoon, I was told about the return of each of those young men yet again—you get the idea. I got heartily sick of the sound of it, especially since none of those boys except Zack rode worth a damn.

The other theme was how great the bulls were. Don’t get me wrong—you all know that the bulls are the reason I love this sport so much. But although the bulls most certainly got the job done, what with only 29 qualified rides for the entire event, I was exceptionally impressed with only a handful of them.

One thing I really love about the events when the new young bulls show up is their enthusiasm. Certainly you’ll see a few who are freaked out by the bright lights and the noise, but then there are others who really bring it, who come flying out of the chute like nobody told them they were supposed to play nicely with the cowboys. Maybe the veterans like Bushwhacker, Major Payne, and Hank were giving the rookies some advice behind the chutes, because some of those adorable babies, particularly Holy Roller and King Lopez, wasted no time doing their job when the gate opened.

Still, my distinct overall impression was that the cowboys were not at their best at either event. I don’t mean to suggest they weren’t doing anything they could think of to stay aboard—I saw contortions the like of which I don’t often see—but many of the boys just seemed a little off their game. I don’t know if it was the oppressive heat they’d been wading through anytime they dared to stick their heads outside the hotel, or, as Ty Murray famously said, “Too much clubbing,” or (most likely, I think) the fact that almost all of them were all banged up to one extent or another.

In his Webcast Friday night, Dr. Freeman pointed out that the much-talked about break was, in fact, a break in “name only,” because many of the guys keep riding on the Touring Pro circuit while the BFTS is shut down. Consequently, by the time we showed up on Saturday night, Briscoe, Cross, and McConnel were all out of action with comparatively new injuries. Marchi, who had surgery on his hand a few weeks before, came to the event intending to ride and then decided against it when it became clear he wasn’t 100%.

And on Saturday night, the crowd seemed sluggish as well. About halfway through the event, Montana Barn Cat said to me, “This bunch makes the Billings event look like the Superbowl.” It was better on Sunday, when the true die-hard fans always turn out in force, but on Saturday night, I swear it seemed you could have heard a pin drop a lot of the time.

I go to the PBR to see the bulls lay waste to the cowboys, and certainly I saw plenty of that in Tulsa. I sincerely hope that what I sensed from the boys was just anomaly. There’s a lot of season left before Vegas.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Escaping the Bunny Hutch, or the After-Party That Wasn’t

Leaving the Crowne Plaza for the PBR event on Saturday night, we got off in the second-floor lobby. (By the way, the Crowne in Tulsa isn’t half as nice as the one in Billings. Just sayin’.) Lots of people, mostly young women, were congregating in a seating area off to our left. “What’s that?” I asked Montana Barn Cat. He cast an appraising eye at the masses and stated unequivocally, “That’s the Buckle Bunny Hutch.”

After the event ended, we trudged back through the still-soupy atmosphere to the hotel. We had been debating all day whether to go over to Cain’s Ballroom for the official after-party, but doing that would have obliged us to retrieve the car from valet parking at the exact moment that millions of other folks were trying to do the same. So we postponed that decision and headed to the bar for a drink.

We were among the first to get in there, but it became clear very quickly that we were never going to get served. We heard the bartender, with whom we’d had a very pleasant chat about Tiger Woods the day before, tell one of the customers that he didn’t have a cocktail server on duty that night, so if you wanted a drink, you had to go to the bar to get it, and people were already standing three deep there.

(At one point in our conversation, the bartender asked us if we worked for the PBR. “Why did he think that?” I later inquired of the Barn Cat. “Because we aren’t dressed like slobs and I was wearing a cowboy hat,” he sagely replied.)

Faced with these dire prospects, we hightailed it out of there and went in search of food and drink elsewhere. We passed Adriano Moraes, who was going up the escalator as we were going down, which suggested that maybe a lot of PBR folks and riders might be coming to the Crowne instead of going over to Cain’s. Eventually, we ended up at a very nice sushi bar just a few blocks away. You might not think you can get good sushi in Tulsa. You’d be wrong about that.

When we got back to the hotel again, we spotted Ryan McConnel and three other riders leaning up against the railing at the far end of the lobby seating area, all of them looking like they’d rather have been anywhere but there. The buckle bunnies were out in force to our right, rummaging through the little buffet and roiling around among the rest of the fans. (By now I’m sure you can all recognize the buckle-bunny costume: a little stretchy top with or without spaghetti straps and/or spangles, either a micro-miniskirt (usually denim) or ripped-up cutoffs that just barely keep the essentials covered, and cowboy boots. In most cases, I’d bet the whole outfit doesn’t cost $25. Oh, except for the overpriced cell phone that they all seem to be packing, of course.)

On the other side of the escalators, we saw three dejected buckle bunnies sadly peering over the railing, I presume in hopes of spotting an unclaimed cowboy. Since these poor girls were decidedly less svelte than the rest of the occupants of the hutch, I didn’t think their chances were very good.

We ducked back into the bar and realized that regardless of what was going on at Cain’s, or out in the lobby, THAT was where the real PBR After Party was. Riders and fans were cheek-by-jowl in there, and you couldn’t have gotten a drink if your life depended on it.

We never got over to Cain’s, which is sad because it’s been a hotspot on the Tulsa music scene since the ’20s, and Montana Barn Cat was dying to look it over. But we did have a great time at the After Party That Wasn’t.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Open Letter to Kris diLorenzo

Dear Kris:

I thought about you a lot while we were in Tulsa. Having slogged about six blocks through the soupy atmosphere from the hotel to the BOK Center on Saturday night, we snagged a beer and stumbled to our seats. A quick look around confirmed what had been apparent in the lobby: The place was at most three-quarters full.

While I was enduring the praying and the recruits taking the Air Force oath and the paratroopers repelling down from the ceiling and the welcome back for some veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, I kept remembering the question a colleague of mine had asked us both at lunch the day before: Why do nice people like you follow bull riding?

Anybody who has spent five minutes here knows the answer to that question—I’m in it for the bulls. But it occurred to me that in terms of its core audience, the PBR has probably hit the wall, and in fact may have begun to lose some ground. There’s not a whole lot more rednecks out there waiting to be rounded up and herded into the fold, and some rednecks may even be abandoning ship.

Let’s face it—if you’ve seen one pre-event show, you’ve seen them all. It would not surprise me one bit if someone managed to confirm that the prayer so piously offered at the beginning of the event is repeated word-for-word at every single venue. Since his heart attack, Flint has changed some things up, but not so much that you have to pay strict attention or you’ll miss something awesome. If anything, there is more blatant pandering to the sponsors than ever, right down to the silly little girls in their skimpy outfits tripping merrily through the dirt five times a night to throw tee-shirts and stress balls into the crowd. And another thing—every one of them runs (and throws) like a girl.

Unless you studiously devote yourself to following the cowboys and/or the bulls each season, it’s a safe bet that you’ll be bored about the third time you go to a BFTS event. I’ve been going to live events for five years now, and I can truthfully say that almost nothing has changed—it’s just more of the same, piled higher and deeper.

All this makes me wonder if Randy Bernard didn’t recognize that to take the PBR to the next level, he would have to do battle with a lot of good ol’ boys who are deeply invested in the way things are, up to and including the right-wing family values crap that’s handed out like chewing gum at the beginning of every event. Maybe he thought he couldn’t effect meaningful change anymore—maybe he didn’t have the stomach for the battle. Fifteen years in the same job can take the edge off anyone, and it’s clear that just adding more events and going to bigger towns isn’t going to attract a larger audience on a permanent basis. Curiosity seekers, sure. Hard-core fans—not so much.

I plan to be there till they put the last bull on the trailer and turn out the lights, but I can’t help but wonder if there aren’t a lot of nice people like me, and nice people who totally disagree with me on just about everything, who are starting to wonder whether it’s worth $75 a seat to hear the same sermon yet again.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Calgary or Bust!

Dear friends: I am embarrassed to reveal to you our deep, dark secret: We are impulsive. On several occasions, we have taken off on a Saturday afternoon to go grocery shopping and ended up driving for hours along the banks of the Madison River, picking out the perfect spot for our next trout fishing adventure. Since we’ve lived here in God’s country for more than five years and have, each summer, bought fishing licenses without ever wetting a hook, I guess you could also say we are eternal optimists. There’s always NEXT summer, right? There’s plenty of fish in them thar rivers.

The point of this is that back in June, after I returned from spending 10 days on the road, six of them with my family, we hatched the idea of trundling up to Calgary to take in the Stampede. This was mostly inspired by Montana Barn Cat’s ceaseless moaning about how he was just going to DIE if he didn’t get to see some bulls buck soon, but I’d be lying if I denied that we were also somewhat persuaded by the memory of Reese Cates’ immortal description of his adventures in Canada two years ago. Anyway, we thought we’d just mosey up there, spend a couple days at the Stampede and see some draft horses, miniature donkeys, and bucking bulls, spend a couple of nights at the Fairmont in Banff, and then head on home. Since we planned to drive, we didn’t see any need to get our panties in a bunch about reservations and such till about three weeks before we planned to depart.

First speed bump: Montana Barn Cat realized he HAD to attend a Big Deal at the museum where he works. I totally concurred with this, so we pushed our departure date back to accommodate that.

Second speed bump: The Fairmont had been offering a stay-two-nights-get-the-third-night-free deal, which abruptly disappeared off the Website just as we were getting ready to book the room. I’m all for shamelessly indulging the Cat and myself, but that was just a little too rich for my blood. So we decided to cut back to one night in Banff and a slightly more leisurely trip home.

Third speed bump: Just as I was about to get online to make all the reservations and buy the Stampede tickets, Montana Barn Cat realized that—wait for it—his passport had expired. There was no way he could get it renewed in time.

Busted! Or, three strikes and you’re out.

So we gave all that detailed, complicated, in-depth planning the deep-six and flew to Tulsa.

Yes, Tulsa.

We flew down there and attended the Saturday night and Sunday afternoon PBR events at the BOK Center.

I plan to post at some length about the experience, being as careful as I can to avoid revealing much about the results, since I know that some of you plan to watch the coverage on Versus.

But I will leave you hanging with this last tidbit: The second night we were in town, we came back from slogging around through the 100 degree murk that settles over Tulsa like the Black Plague at this time of year, and went straight to the hotel bar for something cool. There we met up with an Australian gentleman who had just flown in from attending the Stampede. He informed us that the rodeo events in Calgary were a total bust, because apparently it poured rain the entire time he was there.

I guess sometimes it’s wisest to pay attention to the straws in the wind.

Friday, July 2, 2010

At Long Last, Worcester!





Friends, I am proud to be able to post Kris DiLorenzo’s report on the 2010 Worcester Invitational, which she attended back in early May. I also invite you to check out the blog for her new company, Bull Riding Marketing, at http://bullridingmarketing.wordpress.com. You can also follow her on twitter at MarketBullRidin. Here she is!

The 2010 Worcester Invitational

The bulls won. I’ve never seen anything like it. Six riders made 8 seconds on Saturday night, but nobody made 8 seconds on Sunday afternoon, though Connecticut cowboy Dan Welsh got close. One commentator joked that they’d have to give the money to the bulls. Velcro was mentioned. There shouldn’t have been a Championship Round, but the powers that be decided that whoever had lasted close to 8 seconds would be in it. Then, a handful of guys stuck.

I drove three hours and braved a scattering of animal cruelty protestors outside the DCU Center in Worcester, Mass. to see the second of four PBR events in the Northeast. (I never tire of bragging that I saw JB hang onto Code Blue in Madison Square Garden in January.) There’s one aspect of bull riding the PBR should address: the public perception that bulls are tortured or hurt. I called out my car window to someone with a picket sign, “They don’t hurt the bulls, believe me! That’s expensive breeding stock!” -- not exactly a concerted PR effort.

I was horrified at the attendance—the lack thereof. On the second day, the arena was only half full; maybe less. Now that’s a marketing challenge I could sink my teeth into…and don’t think I won’t pester the PBR about it. Meanwhile, the Frontier Rodeo Website proclaims that they “delivered another sold-out event.” Seeing double? What’n hell were they drankin’??

The event had all the BFTS trappings—big screen, dramatically silhouetted entrance march, T-shirt shooters, joking commentators, and Rockin’ Robbie--the Touring Pro version of Flint. But the opening mix of flag-waving, Bible-thumping, politics (our veterans were in Iraq for peace; didja know that’s what all the firepower was about?), and declaring the U.S. “the greatest country in the world” was one distasteful spectacle. Excuse me, but how about not insulting the Brazilian riders? How about respect for non-Christians? How about this is a bull riding event, not a revival meeting? You wanna broaden bull riding’s appeal? Rein in the schlockmeisters.

Might as well turn out one more gripe. I wish they’d used the big screen to show rides, not wrecks! Most people don’t watch bull riding to see cowboys get maimed—they come to see them ride bulls. There’s plenty of footage of good rides—show it!

There were just two names on the day’s program you’d recognize: Cody Nance and Blueberry Wine’s son, Fine Wine. Kasey Hayes won Saturday night, but Sunday afternoon, the thrill was gone. Not for the bulls, though—they were hamming it up. After he dumped Ueberson Duarte, Tear Jerker didn’t want to scram; he charged the wrangler’s horse—first time I’ve seen that. Black Walnut so seriously balked at exiting that after roping him, the wrangler had to charge ahead of him to pull him into the chute after him. Broken Promises refused to leave center stage until a bullfighter ran into the chute, presenting him with a target he couldn’t resist chasing. Blue Collar flipped a bullfighter sky-high up over his back end (the bull’s back end, that is).

Cowboys got air-mailed every which way, and a lot of them didn’t get out of the way fast enough after they came down. On Blue Collar, local Jean Da Silva hung up by his foot, traveling upside down. After two buck-offs, Cody Nance came back for his re-ride ready for business: chapless, jeans tucked into his boots. Not the best look, but in the so-called Championship Round, he rode Motel Melvin for 87.5. Corey Atwell, Matt Werries, Tom Winikus, and Lance Roberts scored 90, 87.5, 91.6, and 86.5, respectively. Wallace de Oliveira, 10th in Nampa, didn’t stay aboard Barnstormer, but rode Vindictive in the Championship Round for 87.5.

Bulls were provided by Teague Bucking Bulls, Mark Reed, Frontier Rodeo Company, and Frontier Rodeo Company & Ray. Some to watch: Wee Willy will give a rider a good workout. Night Hawk has some good fakes. Loco is intense—not easy to ride. Alex is a big guy. And Austin Nights was giving it his all in the chute.

The fact that I took notes about the entertainment and announcing shows how dismal the first four rounds were. Announcer’s best lines: “Brazilian cowboy Darth Vader is gonna get the re-ride!” and “The bull riding fell apart like a cheap tuxedo” (McKee must be throwing his voice).

Rockin’ Robbie’s patter was sometimes a cut above the usual cheesy stuff. Trying to rev up the audience generation by generation, Robbie hollered at the under-20s, “Pull your pants up!!” He also informed us, “I’m 6′2″ on e-Harmony!” (Buyer beware.) Trying to be optimistic after the 40th buck-off, he proclaimed, “Somebody’s gonna ride somethin’ now—I know I’m right—I got ESPN!” Being told he had WBRDS (White Boy Rhythm Deficiency Syndrome), he danced wildly out of control, spun into the well of a cartwheel, and hit the dirt, at which point the announcer yelled, “Robbie! No more Red Bull, okay!?”

What surprised me was how many Northeastern riders were in the event: 18 from Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Five riders were from the South, four from the Midwest, and 10 from Brazil. But it didn’t matter; it was the bulls’ day. A fake Championship Round is just depressing. Why the guys couldn’t do the 8 seconds in the other four rounds is beyond me. Maybe they just needed more of an audience.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Our Woman in Billings: The Ambiance

Late as it is, I’m going to try to get up a few more quick posts about our trip to the Nile, and then I swear I’ll leave you all alone about it. I have to congratulate myself, though, because on this, our fourth trip to the event, we have FINALLY figured out where to sit. This is no small accomplishment, because even though the folks who sell you tickets at the box office are the nicest people on the planet, their little seating chart looks like a first project for an 8th grade drafting class. It’s just about impossible to tell how well you’ll be able to see by looking at the chart, so at some point you just have to toss up the bucks and take your chances.

Indeed, if we had gotten the seats we had last year on our second trip, we might have never again sprung for the “expensive seats,” since even though we were in the front row of the section, we were so far from the action we might as well have been out in the parking lot with the jackasses who were soliciting signatures for a petition to outlaw abortion in Montana.

This time, I bought the tickets so late that I’d resigned myself to yet again having awful seats, but the lady at the box office really came through for us. We found ourselves in the middle of a row in the second tier, about four rows back, to the left of the bucking chutes, and ideally situated to see just about everything.

Aside from the skanks immediately behind us on the right (and down in the front row of the section, and two rows behind her, and behind us on the left), the folks we sat with were very congenial. One fine old gentleman right behind me obviously fell in love with me instantly—he kept patting me on the shoulder and asking me what the rider’s score had been. He might not have known the score, but his wife clearly did, and after about the third time, she shut him down and he kept his hands to himself (at least as far as I was concerned) for the rest of the evening.

The Rimrock Auto Arena at Metra Park is a tiny little stadium—it’s billed as seating 10,000, but I’m damned if I can see how that many people could shoehorn their way into it. The place was packed to the rafters, too. For this particular event, a dude with a crossbow fired a flaming arrow across the arena and lit the PBR lettering in the dirt—much more impressive than those guys sneaking around the arena in the dark to do the deed.

Then the roman candles started exploding, and the music hit about 100 decibels, and the confetti started to fall, and I felt like I was in a big snow globe being shaken by the Jolly Green Giant. Ordinarily I hate that stuff, but this time, I was ready for it in spades. How could I not be? Montana Barn Cat and I had a lot to celebrate. What better place to do it than the PBR on a Saturday night?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Our Woman in Billings: The Bulls

I trust, Dear Readers, that you will forgive me for vanishing so suddenly last week, in mid-report, as it were. Between MONTANA BARN CAT PASSING HIS WRITTEN COMPREHENSIVE EXAMINATIONS FOR HIS PH.D., finishing up a huge book project, and catching a rotten head cold, I have been busier than a one-armed paper hanger in a windstorm, when I wasn’t in bed sniffling and sneezing. Never fear—I am back, and determined, late as it is, to honor my obligations and finish up what I started.

Now, where was I? Oh, yes! I wanted to write a few lines about the best bulls we saw in Billings at the Nile. To begin with, I was not that impressed with the bull pen on Saturday night, since out of 46 attempts, 22 riders managed to stay aboard. I was not happy about that. I am there to see the bulls, I’ve never made a secret of that, and anytime more than a third of the boys stick to their bulls, I am disappointed. I do have more favorites among the riders this season than since I started following the sport, but I still love the bulls best.

That said, here is a short list of the bulls who bucked like they meant it on that long-ago Saturday night:

Little Mr. T, who put Paulo Ferreira on the ground;

Bells and Whistles, who made short work of Stormy Wing;

Chococondra, who didn’t like Chris Shivers one bit;

Lacey Balls, whom I like more every time I see him;

Bootlegger, who unloaded Brendon Clark pronto;

Drill Baby Drill, whom I love even while despising the source of his name;

Cool Cat, who bucked Dusty Ephrom off; and

Class 6 Kat, who pitched Mike Lee off in an unceremonious heap.

But by far the best bull in the pen that night was Charlie Bullware, who apparently didn’t get the memo stating that Austin Meier was the new Great White Hope and should henceforth be let off easy. Since Charlie has his own Facebook page, I’m pretty sure he can read, so maybe he just begged to differ on that point. Mr. Meier did not have a good weekend in Billings, and I’m sure Charlie was pleased that he contributed so gallantly to that situation.