Friday, January 22, 2010

Our Woman in Sacramento

Dear Friends, please enjoy this exceptional report by the illustrious S. And take a gander at this exceptional photos! Sadly, thanks to the limitations of Blogger, I can't seem to get them exactly where I'd prefer they go. (It's also possible I'm just to lame to figure out how to do it.) I do plan to get a little post up myself later today, but in the meantime, feast at this glorious banquet, courtesy of our talented friend.

Our Woman in Sacramento
On Saturday, the trusty Prius and I incongruously glided into the parade of Ford F-150s entering the parking lot to the Arco Arena in Sacramento, California. Ah, Sacramento, the land of the Governator and apparently also the land of PBR controversy--but more on that later.

I'll start off by saying that I am really tired of Sacramento getting such lousy bull pens. 2008 and 2009 weren't great, and 2010 was certainly not an improvement; in fact, I think there may actually have been a decline. The event ran at least half an hour long due to all of the re-rides, some of them even in the final round. There were re-rides of the re-rides of the re-rides (and in Mike Lee's case, I think perhaps even more than that, and I felt like he filled an entire flight by himself; by the end, I was sharing his inclination to hit myself in the head). One bull, the aptly named Oscar the Grouch, refused to participate entirely and flailed around in the chute for awhile before lying down. Many did a lame hop and skip around the arena, or just bucked really poorly.

Sure, we got Troubadour and Necessary Evil, but would we have had them without the Mauney versus Lostroh match-up? I doubt it. Of course, sometimes bulls have a bad day. But this was a lot of bulls having a bad day on the same day. Maybe they don't like SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Water District, and I can't say I blame them as I don't like them, either). Come on, Hawaii, put out some more like Hawaiian Ivory and save us from the yearly Sacto doldrums.

There were a few exciting bull moments that I don't believe were televised, like one bull threatening to charge the audience multiple times, and another (Pick a Spot) taking offense to Flint's mockery from the shark cage and having a stare-down with him. Also, a few enjoyed the limelight and had to be roped and escorted out by Julio Moreno. It's unfortunate that there was not a lot of excitement produced by the actual bucking.

As far as the riders were concerned, I was disappointed that Guilherme Marchi was not having a great weekend, and although I am not the world's biggest Kody Lostroh fan, I did feel some pity for him when I saw his defeated body-language. I think the ride of the night for me would be Brian Canter on Pick a Spot; that little guy showed a lot of grit and determination to stick on a bull that was bucking his heart out. Dusty Ephrom's wreck was really frightening, and I'm amazed he came out of it with only what appeared to amount to a giant, nasty bruise on his neck. I enjoyed seeing Adriano Moraes filling in for Cody Lambert, and it seemed like the Brazilians were enjoying having him around, as well as having Paulo Crimber there, who I hope is thinking with his head and not just his heart about his possible return.

Some random amusing things: the opening flaming bull heads seem to have been retired, and have been replaced by a metallic-y PBR logo that bursts into flames and rises to reveal . . . Kody Lostroh! I thought it was kind of daft, but the PBR seems really excited about it, so look for it at a city near you. Also, Ariat had some sort of remote-controlled dirigible with a picture of a bull head on the front, which flew around the arena, dropping what I assume was coupons. I didn't get anywhere near one, so I don't know exactly what they were, although one would probably be safe in guessing it was some sort of discount for something related to Ariat.

Flint is still Flint. Does he do the "this is how much screen time I get in the coverage" skit at every event? (SQ says: Yes.) I did enjoy his Kid Rock impression, and his voice wasn't half bad as he sang his own PBR-styled lyrics to "All Summer Long." He also seemed very enamored of how "cute" the bull Snowball was, which, well, I kind of have to agree. Shorty's hair was alarming, but luckily was only in view for a short period of time. Shorty's hair didn't help him be the "Go To Guy" for the evening, and the bullfighter who replaced the injured Joe Baumgartner (Eric Layton) seemed mildly embarrassed to be singled out for the honor.

As far as the controversy, it's interesting to me that both of the "lightning-rod" moments I have witnessed live in Sacramento seemed to not be a big deal at the time. During the Kasey Hayes helmet fiasco, the in-arena announcer sort of laughed and said, "Yeah, that'll show him [the bull]!" and that was it. It wasn't until I got home and saw the telecast and Justin McBride's commentary that I had any idea this was going to turn into another round of extra-special venom on the comment section to the PBR website, and result in disciplinary action for Hayes. After further thought, I didn't disagree with the punishment, even if it did seem rather harsh. That's what making an example of someone is all about.

In this case, the people at the event, and I presume J.B. Mauney and Elliot Jacoby, didn't know the individual breakdown of the judges' scores, so it really didn't seem that dramatic. I certainly was more concerned with the way that Mauney was holding his hand, and the look on Jacoby's face, like a kid who was given a Christmas present and then had it snatched away as he was told it was actually for his brother. It was only when I got home and saw that Ty Murray definitely had something to say about the score that I realized we were in for more fun with vile bickering online and, somewhat surprisingly, disciplinary action for the judge, in what I would say is pretty clearly yet another situation of making an example of someone.

My feelings and thoughts on the matter have little bearing on anything, but coming from someone who was there, I would say: a) judge #1 had no way of knowing that J.B. Mauney would ride Troubadour when he scored Elliot Jacoby; b) the judge also couldn't know that if J.B. rode, his ride would get good scores from the other judges; and c) he would also have no idea what scores the other judges were giving Mauney when he was scoring Mauney's ride. Since the judge has not explained his scoring, we can only speculate as to whether he purposefully was under/over-scoring, had an unconscious bias for Mauney's style or against Jacoby's, saw something the rest of us are missing, or if there were other factors, but I truly don't believe that this was some sort of deliberate fix, in part because it would be a really clumsy and ineffective way to go about it.

In addition, it seems to me that cowboy commentators can get the fans riled up like no one else, and the PBR had to respond in the face of that, and they did respond. The situation ended up being awkward for Jacoby, Mauney and the judge (and probably the Rules and Regulations Committee as well), but it was dealt with and hopefully will discourage any repeat situations. I do wish the PBR would get the take-home message that the fans (or, at least the ones who are vocal online) aren't interested in having one rider being the focus, and if they backed down a little with their rivalries and favorites, there would probably be a whole lot fewer conspiracy theories and wild accusations.

In my unsolicited opinion, the PBR is making the transition from smallish niche sport to mediumish niche sport, and there are always going to be problems associated with this kind of move. It's nice to see that they do seem to have set up a process that can be called upon when things go haywire, and hopefully they can continue to re-define themselves and take corrective action when needed. Not everyone is going to be happy with it, and many will make noises about the good old days and these evil business people, but if the sport is going to grow, it is also going to change, and that isn't necessarily bad. On the other hand, a system like in other judged sports with six judges and the high and low scores being discarded would certainly help do away with any real or perceived impropriety in the future, and in a much more concrete way than slapping down one judge one time.

I do hope that Jacoby gets a win soon, that J.B. Mauney holds his head high and rides well, and that the fans can move on; I hold little hope that the commentators will hold their tongues and think before talking. Ride on, boys, ride on, and may the bull pens not suck from here on out.

In other news, Adriano Moraes (who was doing a signing with Wiley Peterson at the Ariat booth), upon seeing my newest drawing, said I could make a living at it. I nearly died. I would love to do that, by the way. So if anyone from the PBR is interested, please contact me. ;)


Anonymous said...

What a GREAT report! You hoped that the bull pens would improve, but it appears that this first night in Anehiehm, it didn't happen. All the top guys drew dud bulls except Valderion, Travis, and Brian. Ho-hum! Maybe Shannon will tell us something different. Lucky girl! She's there right now and it's all just about to begin!

Adriano is right! You are extremely talented and I hope when you're famous I can say, "I knew her when!"

I think you're right about the fans picking up on what the TV commentators say. Just b/c Ty or JW say something doesen't mean it's the absolute truth. Especially JW!

Anyway, thanks for the great post--almost feel like I was there!

Shawk said...

I was watching the live event feed thing on the PBR site and the number of re-rides was not encouraging. It's pretty uneven when some guys can get an 89 and others can't ever seem to get a bull that could ever get them near that.

And thanks! I was an art major but that never really translated into a career.

Glad you enjoyed the post. Looking forward to more reports from you all soon.

shannon said...

Good post as always, S. Thanks!

I agree with you about them having to change along the way and it does look like their moving up to the next tier with the new, fancier production. Now, I do think Flint is good at what he does, but I didn't miss his opening act. After seeing him as many times as I have, smaller doses are easier for me to take. Besides, I was getting tired of the dancing fool that he'd choose every night.

I'm not a Kody fan, either, but the look of defeat was sad--did you see it on the tv footage?

In regards to the judging controversy, I agree with your points, however, when it comes to the riding style, the new PBR Now program on Thursdays did something interesting while discussing the controversy. They showed them on a split screen, starting at the same exact time and JW told us to watch carefully--it was the same exact ride. And it was. Same basic body and arm movements, same mistake at the same time in the ride and a buck off that had Elliot falling just a fraction of a second behind JB. It was uncanny! Then JW said that while he doesn't think that there was any bias on Shearer's part, he does believe that action needed to be taken because he can't see how JB's rider score warranted a 4 point higher mark given how similar the rides were--something that a seasoned judge should have seen from the get-to.

Ok, I'm off to get ready for my third day. Yesterday was so long and we gabbed so much (and this day will be worse as there will be 4 of us and I'll be in "parent" mode) that I hope I remember enough for a proper post! You ladies set the bar high!

Shawk said...

I don't really mind Flint but I wish he'd find a few new things to do. After you see his run-through of gags four or five times, it's really enough. He still gets laughs, though, so I guess he doesn't see the need to change it up much.

I did see the coverage but prior to that I saw him hanging around the chutes, and he just looked really down. I actually have a few pictures (one of him sliding off the side of his bull and several of him around the chutes) but I didn't post them anywhere as he seemed so depressed.

I was interested to see that in the Anaheim coverage of Friday night, they also did a split-screen and discussed it, and it does seem pretty clear that was a bad call on the judge's part. However, I don't think it would have become such a huge issue if Ty Murray hadn't started in on it. That's not to say that it shouldn't be an issue, but I think scoring irregularity wasn't limited to this one time that Ty Murray pointed it out, and people are going haywire with conspiracy theories and letting their anger over other issues boil over into this one-- as if they had permission from Ty to let loose or something.

Have fun! Looking forward to your post.

Black Boots said...

I got a BIG laugh out of "the trusty Prius and I glided into the parade of Ford F-150s..." because my friend (the illustrious E) drives such a vehicle, and we have taken it to BFTS events. They do indeed glide!

Wonderful write-up, as always. And from what you've shared with us, I think Adriano is correct about your potential as an artist, too!

I'll withold comment on the judging, as it appears SQ (aka the high priestess of bullriding) has posted a blog on the subject, so I'll rant there.

And those pictures, milady? De-li-cious. More please!

Shawk said...

As someone sensitive to road and car noise, the Prius is heavenly. I do have a PBR sticker on it and once a guy in a Ford truck drove up next to me on the freeway and hollered something at me while giving me a thumbs up. Er, thanks? Bridging the cultural divide, I guess. ;)

And thanks! I am still sorting the photos but will try to get some more of the decent ones up. And I have made the potentially foolish decision to draw as many riders as I can before the 2010 finals, so there could be more drawings coming up as well.