Friday, March 22, 2013

Fresno, Part II

And now, the conclusion of S.'s adventures in Fresno, the lucky gal!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
I guess you can't pinch him

Because there’s really not much else we wanted to do in Clovis/Fresno, it was off to early entry to the Savemart. I guess because Bear Pascoe is a local success story and part of Team Weatherby, they opened the doors at 12:15 so people could meet him if they so desired. I honestly care very little about football, so instead we took the opportunity to enter a few contests and buy some raffle tickets from the Rider Relief Fund, which I always try to support.

Mike Lee hangs up
Upon entering the arena and the show starting up, we noticed that Flint had decided not to test destiny another day and had forgone the four-leaf clover shirt on St. Patrick’s Day. Instead, he had swapped out his customary red makeup for green, which even he said was sort of weird and creepy. The bullfighters also had green under their eyes, which mostly made them look like they had healing black eyes. 

Our seats were decent, so we had a good view of things such as Mike Lee helicoptering around in a bad hang-up, and Jory Markiss polling the crowd to see whether he should hit the challenge button (yes, he should, and yes he did, and yes he got the score, so we didn’t all have to chip in as Flint suggested). 

Jory Markiss gets
the crowd involved
Unfortunately, there were some drunken yahoos behind us. Since I had purchased fan club seats, I assume they were also part of the fan club, and that’s depressing. They were making all sorts of annoying comments, but when they got into the racism, they nearly got a lap full of Jamba Juice. Luckily I avoided wasting that five dollars as well as being ejected, as halfway through section two, I noticed a woman with a PBR lanyard coming towards us, and then she said, “Are you ready to go to your chute seats?”

Are we ready to go to our chute seats?! Are you kidding me? She didn’t need to ask twice—my friend had won chute seats from the RRF! We shot out of our seats and followed along, past security, where she explained to us what we could and couldn’t do (can wander anywhere up in the area as long as we don’t trip or bother anyone; can’t wander off without an employee, etc.). I only really absorbed about a third of what was said. 

View from the chutes:
Luke Snyder on Woody
We clambered up the incredibly steep metal stairs and suddenly we were walking behind J.W. Hart and Craig Hummer and their television feed. We were told that our seats were in the second row, but if there was a chance to move forward, they would let us know.  Bear Pascoe was watching the action, waiting to be interviewed for the broadcast, and then the woman was saying, “Have you met Bear?” What? And then my hand was being engulfed and crushed in the extremely firm handshake of a giant football player with piercing blue eyes, a Superbowl ring, and a cowboy hat.

Highway 12 gets ready to take on J.B. Mauney.
At this point, I was totally overwhelmed. In a good way, but still, out of all the people in the arena and all the people who entered the raffle, my friend’s one ticket had won and we were standing above the bucking chutes and talking to a 6’5” football player. Below us and to the side, we could see the crowded mass of cowboys behind the chutes, bulls in their chutes, the judges, the stock contractors, and the gatemen; right next to us were J.W. Hart and Craig Hummer talking into their headsets as they watched their screens, and behind us were the bull pens. Anytime there was downtime, I went back to watch the amazingly intricate procedure of shuttling the bulls from one pen to another, some bulls being able to be penned with a buddy and others pawing and snorting at their fellows in other pens. And there is so much noise and controlled chaos at the chutes, with cowboys calling for their friends to “pull,” judges yelling for guys to hurry up, bulls letting out exasperated bellows, and gates and pens clanking. Sometimes a cowboy would decide to bypass the crowd directly behind the chutes and would clank his way up and across right behind us.
HIGH Steaks and friends

Perhaps the most amazing thing was when they would crack the gate and a bull would power out of the chute—the whole floor would shake, there was bull snot and dirt and other things flying (at one point, I barely dodged a flying chunk of bull patty—more atmosphere than desired!), and just seeing how massive and muscular the bulls are as their hind hooves are kicking up toward you….I don’t even know how to describe it.  I know this is what David Neal is trying to bring to everyone, but having experienced this firsthand, PurePBR has nothing on it.
Controlled chaos at the chutes

I will also say that while I have huge issues with the PBR’s lack of transparency in judging, I have a much greater sympathy for the judges after having had this experience. (And this is not just because I ran into a judge in my hotel lobby and he seemed a decent sort.) On TV, the camera is just focusing on the ride at hand or nearly at hand, but standing above the action, you can see the whole crew surging back and forth from chute to chute, trying to keep things going. I don’t know if the replay judge is watching every ride on his screen or not, but the other judges have 8 seconds to register whether they think there is a problem, and formulate their scoring for bull, and possibly, rider. There’s already another guy queued up, so unless the judges see something, they are not going to hold up the show just to check things out. I think we television viewers forget, having access to each ride in slow motion shown repeatedly from multiple angles while it is beaten into us by the commentators if anything might have happened, that this is not what the judges are seeing and hearing.

Shorty is happy that Frank
is the Go To Guy
There was one incredibly insignificant downside to this amazing chute experience: I will say that I started to lose track of exactly what was going on, unless the cowboys had distinctive hats or helmets or the bulls had markings that were obvious. You can’t see the big screen without turning away from the chutes, and I sure wasn’t going to do that, or waste any moment of this experience looking at a day sheet. Once the bulls covered some ground and were out in the arena, it was a bit easier.

Joao Ricardo Vieira picks
Asteroid in the draft.
Next to us, there was a very nice lady who had let us slide up front, although she’d paid for the seat to celebrate her birthday. She was very vocal and very funny, giving us some insider information she’d picked up over time, and yelling out her encouragement to the cowboys and the bulls. It’s always a kick to meet interesting fans, that’s for sure.

I really didn’t want the event to end, but soon enough the guys were going up on the shark cage and choosing their bulls for the short go. Joao Ricardo Vieira had the most amazing smirk on his face when he chose Asteroid, and the crowd let out this amazing sound when he did.

Shorty was here
Unfortunately, we were right above Emilio Resende’s wreck on Detailer. The television crew tends to keep a respectful distance while sports medicine goes to work, and when sitting in the stands, you can’t really see what’s going on, thankfully.  However, we could see everything, and I honestly thought I was going to cry. From the way he hit the ground to the way his head rebounded when the bull’s hoof hit him to the way the first medic leaped out to stabilize his neck while the bull was still in the arena, it was incredibly scary. Not to mention when Shorty Gorham got tossed into the fence, although he bounced up as if nothing had happened. Guilherme Marchi looked so stricken, and that didn’t help at all. When Resende wobbled up to his knees and then, with support, staggered to his feet and Marchi gently put his hat back on, I couldn’t help but let out a whoop. (Even if I was thinking, please wear a helmet!)
Joao Ricardo Vieira puts his
bull rope on Asteroid

I went to the back to watch Asteroid being loaded up, and he seems like a stubborn little guy. He just didn’t want to put his rear leg in the loading chute no matter what, although finally he allowed that to happen. Vieira came over to tie his rope on, and then just spent some time standing by and communing with the bull. It was kind of an interesting scene, as the cowboy and the bull surveyed the competition.

You’ve all seen the results of the final round—the cowboys were blanked.  But let me tell you, there was a lot of yelling, some of it from me, when it looked like Vieira was going to make the whistle on Asteroid. I know it took Asteroid an atypical couple of jumps to get into his usual form, but that is one compact little bucking machine. Oftentimes the big guns don’t make it to NorCal events, so seeing him buck in person from the chutes was incredible, not to mention David’s Dream, Palm Springs, Jack Daniel’s After Party, Shepherd Hills Trapper…it was pretty close to a who’s who of bulls and I sure wasn’t complaining, even if I wish somebody had ridden. As much as I like Silvano Alves, it’s kind of anticlimactic when a guy wins without riding in the final round, let alone no one riding in the final round.
Silvano Alves gets ready on
Jack Daniel's After Party

Things were unfortunately coming to a close. We asked our friendly fan club person if it was okay if we talked to the commentators when they were done recording their wrap-up, and she said, “Of course!” So we listened while Hart, Hummer and Shorty Gorham recorded their part, and then Hart and Hummer did another bit (I assume for their weekend in review), and then I was talking to J.W. Hart and Craig Hummer. Unreal! I have to say that Craig Hummer seems like an incredibly nice guy, and he seemed excited to talk to us. J.W. Hart seems just like he does on TV, actually. They both were gracious and polite, and I enjoyed having the chance to meet them (even if I might have secretly hoped Ty Murray was a commentator instead).
Fresno's 2013 champ

The nice PBR lady asked us if we wanted to go down on the dirt, as others of the people in the chute seats already had, but since we had just done that the night before and had a four hour drive in St. Patrick’s Day traffic, we decided to bypass it. So she walked us down the steep stairs and past the bull pens to the elevators, thanked us for coming and hugged us. Really, thank you, RRF and PBR! I still kind of can’t believe any of that happened—I was hyped up for hours afterward and now I’m afraid I’m totally spoiled for live events. It was totally worth it, though!

Still can't believe this happened
So there it is, folks!  Sorry this is so long and possibly incoherent. I was entirely overwhelmed and amazed by the chute seat experience, and I devoutly hope each of you will be able to experience it (or, experience it again).


Anonymous said...

Thank you for a informative post. It sounds like it was a wonderful experience. Good blog!

Shawk said...

Thanks! I am still kind of in disbelief that it happened. Good thing I have a ton of pictures!

shannon said...

Sounds like my experience up on the chutes seats. You get so into the experience, that you don't care about much else besides soaking it all in. I'm so glad you got to experience it yourself and that you met my friend. She's a kick and so nice. Funny how two of us, plus a friend of Deezy's who won the shark cage seats, have won something really good this year.

Thanks for the write up. It was great, as always and it sounds like a time you'll never forget.

Shawk said...

It was so awesomely overwhelming. I wanted to see everything but of course there's no way to do it. At least since I've seen Flint's usual schtick about a zillion times, I could relax when he queued up and just check out what was going on in the bull pens or in the chutes. I can see why people spend so much money to sit up there!

That I met your friend also is so funny and random-- she's something else, in a good way.

Thanks! I'm glad we both got to experience it. Now I just need to win the boots. ;)

Anonymous said...

Just bought my tickets for Des Moines. Did not go the last two years. Conflict with grandkids birthdays.

shannon said...

Huh. Think I could've used the word "experience" one more time? That'll teach me to hit the publish button without rereading my entry first.

When I was in the chutes, I could barely hear Flint, so it didn't matter anyway.

Shawk said...

Well, it was an amazing experience, and hard to describe. ;)

I understand a lot better how sometimes the guys don't seem to know where they are in the event standings-- I had a hard time keeping track and I wasn't trying to help others get ready on their bulls or whatever.