Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Bang and/or a Whimper

Another PBR season has come to a close, and boy, as you can probably imagine, do I have something to say about it.  But before we get into any banging or whimpering, let's start off with a hearty congratulations to J.B. Mauney, who staged what was, if not the most amazing comeback "in sports history" (seriously, Craig, histrionic much?), certainly an extremely impressive run.  He's a very talented rider and it all finally came together for him this year.  And also congratulations to Joao Ricardo Vieira for a stunning debut year that netted him the Rookie of the Year award, and of course to the very deserving Bushwacker for Bull of the Year and Jeff Robinson for Stock Contractor of the Year.

But-- and you knew there was going to be a but-- I have some real issues with the way the Finals played out and the aftermath.  While it couldn't have been clearer that the PBR would love J.B. Mauney winning this 20th anniversary year (or any year), the issues had little to do with him.  He was doing his job, which was riding bulls.  Whether you agree with the scoring at the event or not (and I'm not sure each of J.B. Mauney's rides was truly 88.75 or better), he doesn't control the scoring, and in the end, it probably didn't matter. (I will leave the analysis of Silvano Alves' turned down re-rides to someone better at math than I.)  Where the true problem comes in is the extremely ugly undertone to much of the commentary surrounding the Finals and many fan reactions, and it all makes me very uncomfortable.

It doesn't help that the PBR feels the need to put country flags next to the names in the rankings on the TV broadcast -- a sea of Brazilian flags with a lonely American flag here and there, a buoy of hope is what the commentators seem to imply.  But why? This isn't the Olympics; it's man versus bull, not country versus country.  But you wouldn't know it from some of the commentary, which went on about the possibility of draping the American flag over the winner and fed all sorts of 'us versus them' fantasies.  It also doesn't help that the commentators tend to say "the Brazilian" this and "the Brazilian that," as if that is the first name of all the Brazilians in the PBR.  And there was even a moment where they were saying something about how the crowd was on their feet, screaming for J.B. Mauney, but silent for Silvano Alves.  If that is indeed true, how tacky, but did it need to be said, and with such breathless wonder?

But most of all, what bothered me was the fan comments.  It's as if  all the machismo of the "American Cowboy Way," all the hopes and dreams of some commentators and many American fans, was placed upon J.B. Mauney, and his winning would validate all the repressed (well, and expressed) white male angst that a cautious guy from Brazil who plays the odds came up here and trounced the competition twice in a row.  Throughout the run up to the Finals and after the conclusion, Twitter, Facebook, and I'm sure elsewhere blew up with people going on and on about how J.B. is a "true cowboy" who takes on the best bulls, unlike that coward Silvano, and no Brazilians ever choose the tough bulls, and all that other crap we've heard before, but now with a note of hysteric triumph that their guy won, and won their way.  The right way.  The American way.

Let's ignore Valdiron  de Oliviera choosing Bushwacker in ABQ, and Joao Ricardo Vieira seeming pretty adamant he can ride anything, Guilherme Marchi's hot streak, and any other inconvenient facts here and and focus on the sentiment -- that even though the PBR has set up a game with a variety of ways to play it, and Silvano's way worked twice in a row and almost worked a third, the only legit way to win is apparently to win the way some American fans want you to win.  Not to mention, be an American.

I'm not even going to get into some of the blatantly racist things I have seen on the internet, because I don't see any value in giving those people any of my time.  But this creeping ugliness is really disturbing.  No one has to like Silvano Alves (although hopefully people can acknowledge that he was a class act about his loss).  No one has to like his strategy (and to be honest, I was baffled by it sometimes).  Everyone is free to prefer whatever riders they want.  I'd agree that if all of the PBR was full of riders with Silvano's strategy, it wouldn't be very exciting.  

But people shouldn't feel free to say that a two time world champion, who has ridden many a tough bull over his career and stayed on bulls in amazingly sticky ways, is a coward and/or not a true cowboy, merely because he plays the game his own way and is from another country.  That sickens me, especially when it's clear that for many, this is based in a really horrible place, and it further disgusts me that in an attempt to ramp up the excitement, the PBR has tacitly encouraged this kind of 'us versus them' mentality.

So here's hoping for a new season that is about the best cowboys versus the best bulls, no matter the country of origin of either, and for balanced commentary that doesn't fan any flames.


shannon said...

I agree with everything you said. In regards to the ugly comments, yeah, they put a real damper on an JBs win. I didn't respond to any of them, because why bother, really, but I wanted to. With all the nastiness I read, I'm grateful that, Silvano, our gracious 2nd place winner, and JB, a gracious winner (imo), seemed sincere in tipping their hats to each other. It shows what good sports they are and the uglier of the JB fans could learn a lesson from both of them.

Other than the comments, I thoroughly enjoyed this year's finals! When it comes down to the last bull or two, that's when I love it the most. (However, I did question some of the scoring myself, but, like you said, JB and Silvano can't control that.)

Anonymous said...

Yes indeed, Pearl; in the months since coming back from the break, the behavior of the PBR (let alone some of the fans!) has been appalling. It was a foregone conclusion that JB was going to win the Finals, by hook or by crook. Not his-- theirs.

Each announcer (mostly Craig Hummer) hammered on the nationality of the "other" riders, the judges inflated Mauney's scores, underscored Alves, DQd him for the same thing that earned Shane Proctor a 90, then people blamed Silvano's re-ride strategy for losing him a third title. The judges also stopped keeping an eye on Cody Nance's spurs, so he ended up in the top 5.

This year's Finals made it abundantly clear that a lot of Americans are bad sports and revoltingly racist. One jerk even posted that the judges were favoring the Brazilians!! I can't even count the number of "Why don't they go back to where they came from" and "They should learn to speak English; they're in America" comments I've seen. I just couldn't reply to them all. Sickening. These people have obviously forgotten--or never learned in the first place--why people come here from other countries. Their own ancestors, to start.

Bull riding is an individual sport-- isn't that what cowboys are supposed to be all about? Rugged individualism? It's not divided into teams. The only time there were PBR teams was when Americans as a team rode in Brazil against that team.

It's worth noting that the PRCA and CBR announcers treat all riders equally, as least as far as I see and hear. They don't constantly identify riders by their country of origin, and among the riders are African Americans and Latinos. Maybe grassroots bull riding is actually more of an international sport than the PBR events!

And as I said to one idiot who complained about all the foreigners coming here, If they deported all the baseball players back to Cuba and the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, the major leagues would be crippled.

Yes, JB's a great rider, and so is Silvano. He didn't "lose" the title by one re-ride. The campaign against him was successful. Now that I think about it, maybe he really DID win his third championship-- it's just that the judges manipulated the scoring so he didn't.

Anonymous said...

On another subject, have you seen what they (PBR) is raising the rates to watch via the LEC? From $29.99 to $99.99 or to get everything that we get now $149.99. We used to be able to watch the Live Event Center for free not soSports on this? The rich get richer and everyone else get screwed. I will not be watching via the LEC for next season1

Shawk said...

I was also really disheartened by the comments after J.B.'s win -- there's no need for any of that.

As far as paying $149.99 for what I currently am paying $29.99 for... good luck with that, PBR. I don't need the LEC that much, sorry. I'll just keep paying $29.99 to get access to the fan events. It will be interesting to see if the PBR sticks with this, because I don't think the economy has improved enough that most people are going to make that jump.

Pearl de Vere said...

I think most of the cowboys are insulated from the television commentary and the fan comments unless they go out of their way, which is probably a good thing. Unfortunately, I have seen some "ambassadors" of the PBR on social media saying things that I sure wouldn't (not just because I don't think those things but also because I would recognize that I am part of the public face of an organization and what I say reflects on the whole).

It does mystify me that many American "fans" seem to have forgotten that the Brazilian riders, as legal aliens, many of whom own property in the US and send their kids to US schools, are paying taxes and appear to be extremely grateful for the opportunities in the US. They are the very epitome of the bootstrap story, some coming from abject poverty. Why wouldn't you applaud that?

I have often wondered if having a national champion, as apparently every nation participating in the PBR does except the US, would help or hurt? I suppose we never had a national champion because when the PBR started up, it was assumed that the default was that a US rider would generally be the best in the world, and other nations needed the chance to win something. While I am not that concerned about placating blatant racists, an American National Champ might be a good move.

Anonymous said...

I actually thought on the broadcasts there was less ‘us vs. them’ regarding the Brazilians and Americans than last year. There wasn’t any mention of Brazilian PhD’s, Americans’ lack of try, no showing of Brazilians gathered together in a barn. While resting a twisted ankle this weekend I re-watched the last day of the finals and only heard the word Brazilian three times and never in front of someone’s name.

I’m not on Twitter and I don’t read all the comments on Facebook, but I did go back and take a closer look at some of the Facebook comments. Most seemed positive and the few negative ones were admonished by others. However, like I said, I don’t read them on a regular basis. I do know vitriol is rampant on the internet, on all topics.

As for fans wanting an American to win, I think it has a lot to do with human nature. When is American interest in tennis, soccer, figure skating, cycling etc. at its highest? When there is an American star. You want your kid to win even if the other kid is better; you want your team to win even though you know the other team is better. It only turns ugly when you are against someone, rather than for someone.

This brings me to something that slightly irritates me. For the past four years I have gone to the same event and sat in the same section. There are the same Brazilian fans in that section also and they never cheer for anyone but the Brazilians. Shouldn’t appreciating a rider and a ride, regardless of country, work both ways? Admittedly, this is one event, one section, one group of Brazilian fans; hopefully it isn’t typical of all Brazilian fans.

Four final thoughts. One, regarding Silvano’s strategy, if an American used that same strategy he would probably be criticized just as much. Two, I think it is sad that some people think an American rider can’t win without help from the judges. Three, I also have thought that rightfully there should be an American National Championship, probably won’t happen though. Four, I hope they tone down the ‘in arena’ background noise next year. I hate having to work to hear the broadcast and even then missing some of it, especially Shorty.

Pearl de Vere said...

I watched negative comments disappear on Facebook, so I think there's a clear reason why you didn't see some of the worst there. The PBR can't control what people say on Twitter, so that was a minefield, unfortunately.

People can be fans of anyone for any reason they like. I personally have favorites based on criteria that do not consider country of origin, but clearly other people do consider that. The problem comes in when it turns into, "An American won the RIGHT WAY and ALL Brazilians" do whatever (draft "easy" bulls, soak bulls, whatever), which it unfortunately seems to do for a number of vocal fans.

I seem to recall Kody Lostroh pretty much using Silvano's strategy (not as much regarding rerides but as far as choosing "easy" bulls that fit his style in the draft) to win and I didn't hear much blowback then. But I'm still seeing people whining that Guilherme Marchi would never have won the title without the draft, and so we should get rid of the draft... and the comments during Silvano's two championships were worse. I think the underlying reason for that is fairly easy to deduce.

With CBS apparently playing a bigger role, I guess there is hope the production values will improve. Maybe. It's ridiculously loud to physically be in the arena so I don't know how much they can filter out for the broadcast.

Stockyard Queen said...

And just to add my two cents: First off, I cheer for bulls far more often than I cheer for riders, and there are some riders I will never cheer for, no matter how well they do.

Second, anybody who thinks Guilherme Marchi should not have won the championship in 2008 needs his/her head examined. The man rode 74.75 percent of the time--this year, Alves rode 54.95% and Mauney rode 52.22%. In fact, comparing those last two percentages should tell you that something was amiss, just as something was amiss the year that Mauney rode all eight of his bulls at the finals and still lost the title to Lostroh.

Marchi is the most consistent rider in PBR history--the truly amazing thing about him is that he hasn't won the title more than once.

Anonymous said...

I should have clarified that I only meant Silvano’s reride strategy. I do believe he is a truly talented rider who deserved the two titles he has. I hope they keep the draft in a limited way, not so riders can pick a bull that fits their style, but so they can pick a bull they want to try and ride and get high scores. With draw only there is the possibility that JB would never have drawn Bushwacker and then we would have missed some exciting rides. According to the PBR website Marci’s riding percent for 2013 was 46.43%, but maybe I’m looking in the wrong place. Regardless, he is a great rider. I watched Monday Night Football and a NBA basketball game, both of which had event background noise, and the broadcasters could still be heard clearly. I think it may have something to do with where the broadcasters are located.

Pearl de Vere said...

I believe SQ was referring to Marchi's riding percentage the year he won the world title. Even though he had an insanely high ride percentage, there are still people convinced that he's not a "real" champ because he "can't" ride bulls that go the other way and he somehow only won because of the draft.

Silvano won Oakland by riding all his bulls, even with one low score that he didn't take a reride to try to improve -- sometimes this works out, and sometimes it doesn't. His strategy obviously can work, but only if his riding percentage remains significantly better than others and he does get enough scores high enough to net bonus points. I think he has to watch out for not just J.B. Mauney but also Joao Ricardo Vieira and other riders who ride well and score well.

Regardless, I don't think the PBR will get rid of the draft, anyway, since so few riders make the whistle in the championship round even when they do get to pick their own bulls.

I don't really go to other live sporting events, but the PBR tends to park the commentators up on the chutes, which is reasonably far from the in-arena announcers. However, the sound is usually jacked up uncomfortably high and the commentators aren't exactly in a sound-proof box; they're just standing up there with a black curtain behind them.

Anonymous said...

It only seems to have gotten worse this year.