Friday, July 15, 2011

If I Ran the PBR . . . .

Welcome, gentle readers, to the first in a series under the umbrella subject, “If I Ran the PBR.” I have invited several of my longtime contributors to write about this, and I expect we are going to get an earful about a very diverse group of topics.

In the past few days, as some of you no doubt already know, some very, very bad stuff has begun to emerge about practices in the PBR, but I am going to leave that alone for just a bit, till some of the smoke clears and we can get some hard facts about the situation. In the meantime, we will go on with our previously planned offerings, subject to change without notice and at my whim, naturally.

Since I am the Queen of this Stockyard, I cannot of course be outdone right out of the chute, so I staked my claim at the outset. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you my magnum opus (thus far): If I Ran the PBR, I Would Dump the Small-town Rodeo Crap.

I hasten to say that I don’t mean I would no longer have the Touring Pro Division swanning around to small venues, or that I would not be looking for new talent on the rodeo circuit (small town or otherwise). Not all of fans are fortunate enough to be able to get to a BFTS event, so Mohammad must go to the mountain.

What I mean specifically (and I can already hear the outraged cries of the less enlightened starting to roil the air) is that I would eliminate all the artifacts that the PBR imported, willy-nilly, into its events straight from rodeo held at the Podunk County Fair. Here’s why: The PBR will never be a world-class, international sport till it starts looking more like other international sports—that is to say, sports that recognize and embrace an international audience.

First up: I would do away with the public prayer before ALL PBR events, BFTS or Touring Pro or what have you. The world is not made up of Christians only, let alone of fundamentalist, right-wing, Southern Christians, and it’s way past time that the PBR accepted this. There is no public prayer before National Football League games, or National Basketball Association games, or National Hockey League games. The PBR would be wise to follow those examples. (There is, naturally, public prayer before NASCAR races, but NASCAR can by no stretch of the imagination be considered an “international” sport. There are NO sanctioned NASCAR events outside the boundaries of the United States and, indeed, none anywhere except in the South. Case closed.)

As a matter of fact, I would ban ALL religious observances at PBR events, including the Cowboy Church and Riding High Ministries. If you folks want to proselytize, you’re free to believe that’s your calling, but if I were in charge, you’d be doing it on your own time and not on the PBR’s dime.

And while I’m on the subject: The condition of my soul is none of your damned business. Nothing to see here, move on.

Next, I would deep-six the xenophobic declarations that “We live in the greatest country in the world” and the overt militarism. I am fine with playing and/or singing the national anthem before the event starts. Everybody does that, everywhere. Hell, at NHL games between U.S. and Canadian teams, BOTH national anthems are played. Maybe we should also be playing the Brazilian, Australian, Canadian, and Mexican national anthems, just to acknowledge the contributions of participants from places other than the United States.

But I would most definitely NOT have “The Star-Spangled Banner” serving as a backdrop for film of F-18s soaring over the mountaintops, nor would I march a bunch of new recruits in and have them take their oath in front of the crowd. That kind of mawkish jingoism creates a circus-like atmosphere that demeans the seriousness of the commitment those people are making. I would put a stop to it, yesterday.

No doubt about it—we do have the biggest, most expensive military in the world, bought and paid for with a budget that is ten times larger than that of the country in second place (which happens to be Great Britain). But if we are going to take the PBR international, we would do well, as our distinguished Commander in Chief said recently, to not spike the football.

Next, I would do away with the official second-class treatment of women. On my watch, there would be no leather-clad Jack Daniels girls or Copenhagen girls (and don’t even get me started on how out of line the PBR is in endorsing the use of tobacco in any form) and no Las Vegas showgirls, not even in Las Vegas. If I were in charge of small-town rodeo, women would be competing in rough-stock events and there would be NO demeaning, girly competitions like goat tying and barrel racing. It’s time for the PBR to move into the 21st century and act like it really cares that roughly half of its fans are female.

Next, I would ban all political speech, regardless of which side it endorses. That means Justin McKee would not be making jokes about Nancy Pelosi, or anybody else, for that matter. If you want to attract an international audience, you have to recognize that some of them aren’t Tea Baggers, and it will do you no good to stand on either side of the political fence.

Finally, I would ban ALL hateful public speech, and since I am a generous sort, my definition of “hateful” would be considerably broader than most people’s. The bottom line is that nobody formally affiliated with the PBR—not board members, employees, announcers, entertainers, bull riders, bull fighters, pick-up men, roadies, or grounds crew—would ever again say anything hateful or demeaning about any group. Never on my watch would any cowboy, World Champion or not, stand up on camera and say he was embarrassed to have ridden “like a girl,” nor would there be one mean word spoken about any ethnic group, women, or gays. Anybody who broke this rule would be reprimanded and fined—painfully—on first offense. If it happened again, he would be thrown out of the PBR for life.

And when all these changes are completed, and my utopian bull-riding kingdom has arisen anew from the ashes of its ancestry, only one form of violence will be tolerated — the violent interplay between rider and bull, under the bright lights, down on the dirt, where it belongs.


shannon said...

*small voice* My submission has to follow that? *gulp*

Wow! What great ideas! I can't really disagree with any of them, although I'm less bothered by Cowboy Church. Many riders are church goers and would have to miss many services if it weren't for their Sunday services. I think it's nice that they invite the fans. But, I would do away with the prayers before the event. I don't mind prayer, but I have always wondered about the non-Christians in the crowd and what their feelings were on the topic.

May I add two things that I would do? I would make sure every rider, unless they are needed to help with a bull in the chutes, would stand with their hat off and not talking during our National Anthem. Oddly enough, it's the American riders that do this more than the Brazilians. Also, I would make sure that the minute they stepped off the plane or drove up to the host hotel, they conducted themselves professionally as representatives of the PBR! I've heard stories that have made me cringe.

Anonymous said...

I am curious what you referring to in your opening statement. What has happened with the PBR? They now censor all of the comments so nothing but good is said. Please tell us what you know.

Stockyard Queen said...

I am going to defer to my colleague, Pearl de Vere, on the issue that appears to be raising its ugly head. I sincerely hope that it turns out to be nothing and that we will be able to pass it by without comment.

Stockyard Queen said...

Shannon, my problem with the Cowboy Church is that it's a PBR endorsement of one religion over another. Unless they are also going to Sabbath services for the Jewish cowboys, and a call to prayer for the Muslims, and a mass for the Catholics, and some fire worship for the Zoroasterianists, they should get out of the religion business altogether.

And with all due respect, I was raised in an ultra-conservative religious sect, and no matter where we were on Sunday, we were expected to find a local congregation to worship with--and we did. I can't say I agree with much of that particular crew's teachings, but I certainly did learn from them, and agree with them, that a person has to honor his/her commitments and make an effort to show up. The Sunday PBR event never starts till after 2 p.m. There's plenty of time for the boys to find a church within driving distance.

Pearl de Vere said...

I would say "Amen," but that would perhaps be inappropriate.

I have mixed feelings on Cowboy Church-- do they have some exclusive rights to worship at the PBR (I don't know how this works)? I also find it likely that fans show up to rub elbows with the cowboys rather than for religious reasons, but I guess that may be the point (in the hopes the gawkers will "see the light").

I wonder if the fighter jet video is an Air Force tie-in, or the PBR just thinks that fighter jets are awesome?

shannon said...

That's a good point, SQ. My father will many time look for churches in the vicinity of where he's visiting. I understand their need to pray for safety, but it can certainly be done in private.

Anonymous said...

Still curious about your statement. When will Pearl de Vere comment on the "dirty dealings of the PBR". Waiting anxiously for the update.

Stockyard Queen said...

Pearl is working on it, but I want to make it clear that if she can't track down some hard information, we will not be posting about it. We'll leave rumor and innuendo to Rupert Murdoch.

Catherine said...

I love this post and I agree with most of your items. I also agree with your decision to leave certain things left unsaid.

One of the problems with the PBR is that there's a divide between what they say they want - bigger audience, mainstream sport - and their desire to stick to how it's always been done(some of which is rooted in old rodeo), what they are used to and don't want to give up.

The first things I would change:

Don't hide your mistakes.

Don't hide your rules.

A mainstream sport doesn't do those things. I am completely confounded by the PBR's unwillingness to say what its rules are, and by their apparent desire to cover up problems. I really don't get this at all. Hiding your problems and issues doesn't stop people from knowing what they are, it just makes it seem like you are..well, hiding. My opinion is that the clearer, more open, and more directly communicative a company is, the more respect it gets even in the face of difficult issues.

The second thing I would change is the product placement and the constant verbal sponsorship push. It seems like everything in a PBR event is tied to a product. The x-product chute, the x-product rider of the week, the guys being handed the RockStar cans after their rides, the x-product everything.

I know that this may be financially necessary, but the incessant plugs for sponsor products is tedious after a while and starts to seem...icky.

Pretty soon they will pay to legally change Flint's name to Cooper Tires. They'll have decals plastered all over the bulls, and every other word will be the name of a product or corporation. Is there another way to handle this? Does it backfire? Personally, at this point, I will never even consider buying a Cooper tire!

That's my rant. Thanks for a great post.

Anonymous said...

im a bullrider im not in the pbr but i have rode minis at the built ford tuough events and i know that there are probably two or three guys that dont pray in the locker rooms before and after they ride. God is the most important part in my and most of their lives taking away prayer in the pbr is like making it illegal to wear helmets because some guy in the crowd is afraid of helmets one of the great parts of america is the freedom of religeon if you dont like it go somewhere else because just like football players need helmets cowboys need prayer so if you have such a big problem with it go watch something else.

Stockyard Queen said...

My dear Mr. Anonymous--I would not dream of suggesting that you are not free to pray in the locker room, on the street corner, or on the back of a bull. You can pray anywhere you like, as long and as loudly as you like--that's one of the rights guaranteed you under the U.S. Constitution.

What I object to is being COMPELLED to pray at PBR events. Freedom of religion means that I get to decide whether I want to pray or not--just as you do--and where I will do it.

And no, I am not abandoning the sport.

Jessie Knadler said...

Oh how i love your writing. I'm hooked on your blog and I don't even care about the PBR! Keep it up, Stockyard Queen!

Jessie Knadler said...

Oh how I do love your writing and arch observations, Stockyard Queen, and I don't even follow bull riding. Keep it up!