Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Our Woman in Winston-Salem

My dear friends, I am proud and grateful to present Shelia's report of her weekend at the PBR event in Winston-Salem. I have to warn you--this is a bittersweet report and it's possible that the Stockyard Queen herself shed a tear or two when she read it. And the pictures are amazing! I truly appreciate Shelia taking the time to write this up, and I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did.

The PBR in Winston-Salem

The anticipation of the Winston-Salem event began to wane in the negative weeks that preceded it. The judging scandal left most PBR fans with the assumption that the accused judge had cheated on behalf of J.B. or J.B.’s family, Guilherme and Renato were out with a mangled wrists, Brian Canter had suffered a third concussion in less than eight days, and J.B. had gone 0 for 3 in Anaheim while his fiercest rival, at least in my opinion, had gone 4 for 4. J.B. resurrected his violent/immature behavior which was played and replayed ad nauseam into the Tampa event. Then, Kasey, Brendon, and Cord got the hatchet.

Luckily, the event in Tampa brought rays of hope: Jody Newberry was back, Wiley won an event, and J.B. did a decent job with a ninth place finish. Oh, and Kody failed to make eight seconds on both of his bulls, but I feel bad about that if it’s his injured elbow trying to deter him rather than Guilherme or J.B.

Then came the weather forecast: SNOW. NO. For those who’ve never spent a winter in NC, I have to tell you that EVERYTHING shuts down! We don’t have proper snow removal and we generally have more ice than snow, which means roads become a combination of ice skating rinks and bumper cars. There was no way we were going to drive the 85 miles to Winston-Salem on ice. So, we packed the car and took off a day early.

The first PBR “celebrity” we ran into was Flint. We were at the bar on Thursday night drinking Irish Coffee to warm us up when who should walk in and sit two stools down—The famous Flint Rasmussen in a PBR jacket and a Carolina Blue baseball cap. We talked about the weather (Frank was stuck in Atlanta), the vastly uninformed and inconsiderate folks who post on PBR articles—it seems that some of those posts become the topics of discussion and provide great moments of hilarity to the staff), Randy’s departure, Kody’s elbow (Flint didn’t know about the latest fracture or the Velcro idea—which led to a shaking of his head and a swig of beer, and finally a totally blank expression when I mentioned both Guilherme and J.B. Flint’s obviously not a fan of either….

It snowed all night and the streets turned to just a little bit of slush in the morning as the snow turned into freezing rain. The town was virtually empty!

At breakfast on Friday, we sat in a booth that backed into one occupied by, yes, Flint. He wasn’t alone. Shorty was with him. Flint informed us that Frank had rented a car in Atlanta and was on his way. After breakfast, I took my seat in the lobby to wait. Mike Lee sauntered in and headed for the restaurant. I smiled at Bud. I was waiting for some other bodies! Heehee!

The mini-parade began: Tandy, L.J., Skeeter, Caleb Sanderson, Rocky McDonald—I reminded him that he’d won here before (!), and a volunteer for Resistol who talked our ears off for over an hour, but then didn’t remember us later at the Resistol booth in the arena. Mike Lee appeared again, this time in gray gym shorts, tee shirt, and socks. I asked where his shoes were and he said, “I just brought boots,” and Shannon’s vision of cowboys on treadmills in shorts and cowboy hats came to mind.

Our friend, Carolyn, arrived in time for dinner at the hotel. There was a serious lack of characters around us. Crazy-girl wasn’t even there—she’s a fan who believes she’s Adriano’s love child. We’d met her at the first NC event and every one since. She even showed up in Vegas in 2008. She liked to hang with us, probably because we were Adriano fans, too, or more likely that we tolerated her and didn’t call her “stupid.” We headed to the arena early to attend the PBR pre-event get-together, but never found it, so did the regular stuff like sign up to win Ariat Boots, a Jeffery Scott buckle, an autographed cowboy hat, and get a Lowe’s discount card.

I’ve probably said this before, but I’ll say it again: the PBR opening video is absolutely horrid! I remember most of those wrecks and the suffering of the riders involved. I really don’t like sensationalizing the agony of the sport. The music part and the rides are great. There’s just too much negativity—sixteen horrible wrecks. Yes, I counted them. This set the tone of the weekend. Bud and I got into this sport when it was a bunch of struggling cowboys and bull riders and watched it peak and succeed and become all it is today. The heart is difficult to find amidst this thrill-seeking advertisement.

First rider out was Mike Lee on White Trash. Both looked fantastic, but the judges must have blinked too many times. The average score on that bull is 86-87 and an 81.5 seemed an insult to both rider and bull! Maybe we just thought it was better than it was since we hadn’t seen a live bull ride in over a year. The best of Flight 1 was one of my favorites and gets my vote for the most delicious cowboy ever—Billy Robinson! Gorgeous man. Beautiful ride. Poetry in motion. Ahhhhhhhh….

The highlights of Flight 2: Jody Newberry, Renato and his back-flip, and Pistol Robinson! Better luck in round 2 Jody and Pistol—I really, really want to see more of you! Flight 3: ho-hum. Ben Jones didn’t get to dance, but WWA-122 with Reese Cates on his back actually pranced in time with the music. Awesome! In Flight 4, Ryan McConnell looked way better in person! I got a few great pictures of him. His mannerisms both behind the shoots and after his rides are all gentlemanly greatness and humility. I hadn’t seen that on TV. Dustin Elliot’s wreck was scary. From my angle, it looked as if his head had broken off his body and rolled under his chest. Sports Medicine was at his side immediately and Flint looked scared and speechless. Then, Dustin looked up, smiled, and walked away. Halfway back to the gate he pulled on the back of his pants like he was trying to remove his underwear from between his, ah, er, crack. I think it was a set up. On the break between flight 3 and 4 Flint had done a monologue of his daughter’s gymnastics performances and how perfect they are until they’re off the stage and “adjust” their leotards to cover their “cheeks.” It was funny and GREAT to hear some new material. Well, while Dustin was still on the ground, one of the questions Tandy asked him was, “Do you remember that Flint said he would pay you $20 to pull at the back of your pants on your way out of the arena?” That brought a laugh, but when Dustin actually did it, it brought the house down!

The rest of flight 4 and all of flight 5 was good, but nothing to comment on. Then came Flight 6—what? Shane, Valdiron, and Travis bucked off? The highlight of the whole evening was my little hometown boy, J.B. I must have taken 100 pictures of him, 99% blurry. He got the bull RODE and I waved my “J.B.!” red and black sign. All of a sudden I was back. The PBR was wonderful and Carolyn, Bud, and I were walking on air!

The feeling didn’t last long. The next morning on our way to breakfast, the elevator doors opened to another empty chamber. NEVER have I been to a host hotel that I wasn’t surprised almost every single time an elevator door opened and revealed a cowboy. This was our third day and the only PBR person we’d seen in an elevator was the arrogant Dr. Freeman. I won’t even get into that.

When Bud and I slid into the booth, I couldn’t control my emotions. I missed Adriano. Adriano had brought me here and lit up the PBR like no other—and he wasn’t here. Neither was Guilherme. The PBR had changed and I was starting to believe that I had, too, and maybe the glory of it all was about to end. It was a sad meal.

My day brightened as the snow flurries gave way to sunshine and Bud and I headed to the Meet & Greet. We’ve all been to these events and I doubt that this one was different from any you’ve attended. The one exception was that a professional photographer at the far end busy photographing the riders one-by-one and sometimes two-by-two. J.B. and Brian showed up in identical navy blue and white striped shirts, which seemed funny until I saw that they were being photographed together. I felt a bit sad for Shane, who sat at a table by himself without much attention from the fans—but then he’s not really a NC cowboy. I did speak to him early on, but in hindsigh,t I wish I’d gone back to tell him that I was sitting in the same row as Jessi and surrounded by the Mauney clan, but at the time I just felt bad for him. The only no-show was Ross. Later when the riders began to wander about I asked Wiley if he’d write Ross’ name on one of the untouched pictures stacked next to Ross’ name card. He picked one up and scribbled on it the way you’d expect Wiley to do.

I didn’t blubber once and carried on actual conversations of several sentences with about ten of the riders, including Stormy Wing—a sweet young thing with rosy cheeks who looked too young to be riding in the PBR. The BEST conversations were with J.B., Jody, and Sean.

It wasn’t difficult to notice two teenage girls getting homemade tees autographed and having their pictures taken with all the riders. They were cute and giggly and I said something to them about how much fun they seemed to be having. They showed me their shirts and giggled. One of them said, “This is my sixteenth birthday celebration,” then rolled her eyes and looked at the riders. “But, I told them I was eighteen!” Uh oh, Buckle Bunny in the making!

After the M&G, we ran into a couple we’d met in Vegas and again at Jerome Davis Ranch. Sweet, gentle people, the kind I wished lived next door.

Carolyn met us for dinner at the hotel again and we headed to the arena determined to find the PBR Fan Club arena event. Honestly, we went where our Vegas friends told us to go and were sent on a scavenger hunt again! But, we finally found it and I got to show off my bucking Santa to a bunch of kids, but couldn’t find any real PBR PEOPLE. I think this item would be great if, instead of Santa, a cowboy was on the bulls back.

We stood around for 30 minutes until finally five riders came out—Beau, Aaron, Cody Nance (who wore a fabulous leather jacket), and two others whom I have no idea who they were!

Round two was just like on TV. Flint was back to his old material. Leah didn’t make it so Bud couldn’t give her the painting he’d done for her, which was kind of anti-climatic for him. The one highlight was the debut of Brian Canter’s little bull, Superfreak. I saw that bull at Jerome Davis’ and was greatly impressed both times.

I was so PROUD of J.B. for drafting (or is it drawing?) Code Blue. I don’t think he picked him to win the event—there were other bulls he could have scored 90+ on. I think he wanted another go at him. J.B. almost has the bull figured out, but as history is written an eight second ride wasn’t to be. Mark my words, J.B. will ride Code Blue for eight seconds next time around and he won’t hang off one side!

And then, my worst fear realized: The lovely Stormy Wing was on the ground. You could hear a pin drop in the arena and they worked on him for what seemed an eternity. The bull fighters, Flint, and so many others stood with hats over their hearts. The whole stadium was in a shocked silence and I was in tears.

From that moment on it, really didn’t matter who won or lost. Stormy’s life hung in limbo and I remembered what Michelle Kwan said to her crying fans when she didn’t win the Olympic Gold medal for the second time, “This is about skating—it’s not about life and death.” I learned a lesson today. The PBR is a sport. J.B. didn’t win tonight like I’d hoped, but he’s alive. And I hope Stormy is, too.


Shawk said...

Thank heavens Stormy Wing seems to be all right. I was sure we'd seen paralysis if not worse, and watching the other cowboys pray with fear in their eyes that it could easily have been them...

Anyway beautiful post and lovely pictures! Interesting insights on the people you talked with, as well. Thanks so much for sharing!

shannon said...

I was sure they were going to say that Stormy had broken his neck. That was awful. I don't think I drew a breath until he started moving around.

You actually got a conversation out of Flint? I'm impressed. In regards to him and his feelings for Guilherme, though, he's mentioned online more than once that he really likes him, so maybe it was JB?

Thanks for the post, Shelia! The pictures are great. I'm glad you decided to share it with us.

Joan Simpson said...

Shelia, I sure wish I had gotten to see you in Winston. I looked for your sign but never saw it. I was on the front row next to te chutes. I kept waving over to your side.
Your pictures are great. I got some pictures of a lot of bull riders. We seem to like the same ones.
I have a funny story about how Brian got superfreak. I will email it someday.

This site is really good.

Black Boots said...

Wonderful write-up, Shelia. So true about all the emotions you run through at a PBR event. The joy to fear and back to joy roller coaster--longer than an eight-second ride, for sure!

And what a cute couple y'all make!

Anonymous said...

Billy Robinson is my favorite rider and I'm happy to find someone else who thinks he's the most gorgeous cowboy ever! Glad you had a great time! I hope to attend the Kansas City and Des Moines events.