Saturday, April 2, 2011

S. in Fresno

Our intrepid reporter S. has journeyed to the land of Fresno, and has brought back the following report and photos for our enjoyment!

I have to say, against all past experience with Fresno, outside of the Finals, Fresno has now become my favorite event to attend live. This year was even more interesting in the interpersonal arena, since the hotel we stayed last year and stuck with this year was suddenly the host hotel.

Unfortunately, this hotel seems to have a problem with getting rooms done on time and this has not changed in the intervening year. When I attempted to check in at 3:00, the lady at the desk said, "Well, check-in is at 3:00, so your room is not yet ready." What? Anyway, we ended up waiting quite some time, which would have been incredibly annoying, except: see the previous statement about this being the host hotel. So as we forlornly sat in the breakfast room, our luggage strewn about us, we were entertained by the comings and goings of various folks, including:
  • Brandon Bates, who has a snazzy hand-tooled belt with his name on it.
  • A limping J.B. Mauney, on a quest for a fork.
  • Shane Proctor in work-out gear.
  • Cody Nance, pre-neckerchief, with his apparent newbie under wing, Corey Bailey.
  • Shorty Gorham, who was very excited about some magazine.
  • Keith Ryan Cartwright, bustling to somewhere.
  • Ben Jones' dad.
  • Much of the Brazilian contingent, including Valdiron de Oliveira, Elton Cide, Paulo Lima and Silvano Alves.
After an hour of being amused in this manner, we could finally check in and then had a brief window of time to get ready before heading off to the SaveMart center in our scheduled hotel shuttle. Unfortunately, some shuttle-stealing cowboys thwarted us, leaping into the shuttle and zooming away as we stood in a cloud of exhaust and confusion. We were more amused than anything, since those guys have to be at the arena much more urgently than we do, plus we ended up meeting a neat older couple that we would run into again and again over the weekend -- I really enjoyed meeting them and they helped me gain some perspective after I narrowly avoided launching myself in incoherent rage at some fans expressing their, um, views on the Brazilians.

As we did not have tickets for the first night, we bought some cheap seats at the arena, which actually turned out to be pretty decent. As TeamPBR members, we were allowed into a mini meet and great, which featured Paulo Lima, Fabiano Vieira, Silvano Alves, Douglas Ferreira, Valdiron de Oliveira, Ben Jones and Chris Shivers. The newer Brazilian qualifiers really impressed me, as mingling with people you can't really communicate with has to be a bit daunting, but they were extremely pleasant and appreciative of the fans. Ferreira even did some joking around, and joking around has to be pretty hard when you don't have much of the language. My camera settings, pre-loaded for bull riding, were sadly not terribly cooperative with the opportunity.

As far as the introduction to the even itself, I was happy to see the return of the flaming bull heads. I had missed them. There seems to be an excess of pyro now, though, and the ridiculous voice-over lady and man and "Get Off on the Pain" are apparently inescapable. I also had to laugh at the "Warning! Warning!" with the red flashing lights that tells you to flee if you don't want to see the pyro, etc. Really? So cheesy.

We had Trace Adkins singing the anthem, which, well, this is the first time I have heard the anthem sung in the bass range. Trace Adkins also had a running gag of threatening to beat Flint up in the parking lot after the event-- no idea what that was about. Flint now does 1980s sing-alongs-- be warned. Things get awkward when the crowd doesn't know the lyrics to "Don't Stop Believin'," let me tell you.

I'm sure you've all seen the event so I won't go in too much detail on that, but in the immortal words of Charlie Sheen, the bulls were, "Duh -- winning!" In contrast to the usual state of affairs in the other NorCal event, Sacramento, the bull pen was really strong, and there were very few re-rides. The bulls were doing so well that for awhile that I thought there wouldn't be 10 rides to fill up the new short go, but we ended up with 11 qualifying scores.

Now, not to get too off topic here, and you all know that I love Valdiron de Oliveira, but this format is pretty much tailor-made for him and it makes things pretty lopsided. His riding percentage is insane, and if you give him a chance to have another bull run under him, more often than not, you are giving him another score. And in this case, he was the only one to score in the new short go, meaning he had a huge advantage over the rest of the field (which was fine with me and I'm sure with him), but it seems like this new short go is really changing the way the season will go. We shall see how it plays out, but I'm suspecting that short of injury, the way it is going to go is Valdiron winning handily, with Renato Nunes, Robson Palermo, Shane Proctor, Austin Meier and a few others doing their best to stay in it.

After the event, there was an on-the-dirt signing, which I found a bit weird. I enjoyed being on the arena floor, but sadly, not all fans have manners. The cowboys were trying to sign things for us and for people on the railing; it was kind of chaotic. My mission was to get Shane Proctor a copy of the drawing I had done, and to get him to sign one for me, and at least that was successful. And Renato, complete with a big grin, remembered me as the one who did the drawing for him, so there was also that. Doing the drawings is something I enjoy for the process itself, but getting nice feedback doesn't hurt, either.

Anyway, we exited into a cold downpour, which would come back to haunt us in the morning. We rose early in order to attend the bull housing tour, which I was incredibly excited about. Unfortunately, we got a call from the front desk saying that the event was canceled as the rain had made the grounds too sloppy. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement, although obviously I understand the liability and safety issues. I really hope that I can catch one of these in the future, because of all the things going on in Fresno, this was the one I was anticipating the most.

Having been denied the bulls, we headed down for breakfast, where, if you will excuse me, I will use a quote from the movie Spaceballs to illustrate a point: "So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph.... because good is dumb."* Let's just say that several of the Brazilian contingent were at a table, looking clean-shaven, neat and pressed, eating what appeared to be balanced breakfasts. They looked well-rested and were chatting cheerfully with fans. In the meantime, several cowboys from countries other than Brazil stumbled down, looking disheveled and rumpled, and started digging into biscuits and gravy while staring blearily around the room with jaundiced eyes. Now I'm not saying that it isn't fine for guys to come out to ride to make enough money to have a good time touring and partying with their buddies, but when they are going up against people who treat this as a serious profession, I really think that says most of what there is to say about the Brazilian dominance of the PBR. There may be a few non-Brazilians that are taking the same approach they are, and some with enough talent that they don't need that approach, but overall, I think the Brazilians have a plan and they are executing it with aplomb.

Tiring of cheese pizza, we took a break from the world of the PBR to get some sushi, and then it was back to the SaveMart. Team PBR, it turns out, had arranged something new and different for us. Besides another mini meet and greet, they had set aside a room where the BullStock Media folks, the saviors of many a time the Live Event Center has been down, had set up a photo studio of sorts. You could go in and get your photo taken with Chris Shivers, Cody Campbell and Aaron Roy, and then they would print it out for you with their super-duper printer, all in a matter of moments. Kind of nifty and definitely appreciated, even if it did end up looking kind of like a photo Christmas card, with less Christmas tree and more cowboys.

As to the event, to revisit a comment from Chris Shivers last season, is it time to breed a better cowboy? We were pretty scarce on rides, and outside of Renato's triumphant outing in the short go, there was nothing going on for the cowboys there. The bulls are getting better and better, and the cowboys are seeming outclassed. The odds are against the cowboys anyway, and now with these professional and organized breeding programs, the odds are not getting any better. For bull fans, that's fine, but it will be interesting to see how the fans of the cowboys react as there are fewer and fewer rides. Oh, and one thing to look out for when you are at a live event -- Shorty talking to himself. Obviously he's talking to the broadcast, but it's kind of funny to see him during a moment of down-time, waving his hands around and talking to the air. I like hearing from the guy, but I hope this double duty doesn't pull him too many ways.

Other things that might not have made the broadcast: Curveball exited the chute alone, leaving Paulo Lima clinging to the back of the chute. There was lots of yelling and gesturing, and it was determined that Paulo hadn't called for the gate. How does this happen? Between the malfunctioning timer and this kind of thing, it doesn't give one a lot of faith in the professionalism of the sport. Nor does the fact that the commentators can't figure out how to pronounce Silvano Alves' name. Of the range of names in the PBR, Silvano is really not one of the tougher ones, guys. Come on, now.

Although, one moment of judging did impress me. We were seated by the replay judge (not sure who it was, as I don't know many of the judges by sight), and Fabiano Vieira had hit the replay button on the time for his ride on Get Off. The in-arena announcers had said that it was declared a buckoff, but no one who spoke Portuguese apparently told Fabiano, because he was standing around in confusion for what seemed to be quite some time. The replay judge finally gestured to him to come over, showed him the replay on his screen, and showed him the timer along with the ride on the screen, all in a clear, calm and patient manner. I have to say that I was favorably struck by the way this was handled.

Another moment that impressed me was Robson Palermo taking the hat off of his head to lend it to Renato Nunes, whose hat was in the midst of being trampled by RMEF Gunpowder & Lead. There's something wonderful about the comradeship that all the riders have, but the Brazilians seem to have a special bond, and that was just a sweet little moment. I guess it helped, too, since Renato rocked it out for 92 points, and capped it off with some strange little victory breakdance. Valdiron didn't ride in the short go but finished off the evening with a win based on the strength of his earlier performance. That is, unless you are Erin Coscarelli, in which case, Renato won. Okay, Erin, one is 5'9" tall and 165 pounds, and is the current world number one. The other one is 5'7" and 135 pounds, and is the reigning world champion. They don't look remotely similar. How embarrassing. Back to you, Craig.

One random story for you: we caught the shuttle back to the hotel, and as we were heading off, the driver got a call to pick up some people across the street. As we pulled up in front of the place, the driver started heading around the back so as to not be in the middle of the road. As we started to round the corner, there was a blur of white cowboy hat in the logo-covered shuttle window and a loud, startling banging on the side of the van. My friend yelled out, "Cowboys, stop! Stop!" Our driver screeched to a halt and opened the door to reveal Cody Nance, Corey Bailey and a friend. Upon finding out that the driver really was going to stop for them, there was quite a lot of laughter as they realized that they didn't need to charge a moving vehicle. In the words of Cody Nance, "We made a memory!" We also had an interesting discussion about the insurance, or lack thereof, that the riders have, and discovered that Cody Nance is an old-fashioned gentleman who offers his hand to ladies getting out of shuttles. I would have expected nothing less of our favorite neckerchief-sporting cowboy, but it's good to know first-hand.

Anyway, a great two evenings of bull riding, rank bulls, nice fans, gritty cowboys and interesting interactions. Here's to hopefully doing it all again next year, however it is this year turns out!

*Disclaimer: take the Spaceballs quote as seriously as anyone should take any part of the movie Spaceballs. Which is to say, not at all.


Stockyard Queen said...

Great report, S. Thanks! Perhaps you would not mind 1) revealing how tall you are, and 2) whether Chris Shivers was wearing boots with high heels in the photo? Then maybe we can figure out how tall he *really* is!

Shawk said...


I am a whopping 5'1" and a bit, perhaps up to 5'3" in boots. I didn't note Chris Shivers' footwear, so I am guessing boots of not abnormal height. Draw from that what conclusions you will!

Shelia said...

Great reporting! Thanks, S...or is it Shawk or iscoffy? I'm confused as usual...

When we were in W-S, our cab pulled up and Guilherme, with one of the new, younger Brazilians, came rushing out and asked if they could share the cab. Of course I said, YES! and found myself rubbing knees with both my husband and Guilherme! Lucky for me, the younger Brazilian sat up front! I was so proud for not drooling! (Save that for Adriano!)
Also, in W-S, Cody Nance came out to a mini-pre event, Fan Club meet. I was so impressed with his spiffy suede jacket, neckerchief, and shinned boots that I wondered if he was going to ride or sit in the VIP section and watch! I've heard from others what impeccable manners he has.
It's also great to hear you speak so positively about the Brazilians. I am so saddened reading the PBR article comments. Seems if a positive statement is made for a Brazilian you are tagged un-American!
Bravo for you!
Shelia (AKA, FlashOBlue)

Shawk said...

Thanks! And LOL, I am all of those.

I couldn't figure out who the shuttle stealers were as they rushed past, except Sean Willingham, so... um, not exactly Guilherme Marchi. We did end up going down to the back/ramp area of the SaveMart at one point to drop off some guys that I think were stock contractors or something, since they knew a lot about Bushwacker's breeding, which was interesting.

I admire the Brazilians. They are working hard to make a good life for themselves and their families, and it makes me sad that people are so awful about them on the internet, and sometimes in person. The judging last weekend has me in a total rage.

Cody Nance seems like a really good guy. He has the talent-- I hope he can get some consistency going on this year.

KrisD said...

LOL! Loved your Brazilian schematic for Erin.
Knee-to-knee with Marchi! I'm sure I would've embarrassed myself. (Let me sit on your lap while someone takes a picture of me.)

Thanks for the inside scoop--and that great photo of the bull looking off into the sun. Majestic!

shannon said...

Great write up, S! Thanks! Sounds like it was a good time in spite of the room not being ready and the tour being canceled.

I've thought all along that the Brazilians were very serious about riding and taking it as a business. Some of the other riders could learn from them.

I love a guy with more than what I call "normal" manners. Cody Nance sounds like one of those guys.

Shawk said...

Thanks, I only wish the sound box or whatever that was hadn't been in the shot! SaveMart is really dark, so most of my photos were blurry or rather... atmospheric. Like undead Jesse Byrne and glowing Austin Meier.