Wednesday, February 27, 2008

They Have Their Reward

Recently I have stumbled across a message board for PBR fans on the Television Without Pity website, and now I check out it out every Monday morning. Many of those who comment seem to be pretty savvy about the sport, as well as rather more thoughtful than most bull riding fans whose comments I’ve read. A thread that has been ongoing for a few days now has been about Travis Briscoe’s irritating habit of saying, “Praise God!” every single time he’s interviewed.

Briscoe is by no means the only offender—after every ride, Mike Lee kneels and prays and then points skyward, and Wiley Peterson does the same. I hear Wiley was instrumental in starting up the
Cowboy Church services that take place on Sunday mornings during PBR events, and I read in Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, and Bull Riders that Adriano at one point was urging his fellow bull riders to work harder at bringing sinners to Jesus. I’m sure there are others I am neglecting to call out, but you get my drift.

I have been holding my tongue about this for a while now, because I was brought up in a right-wing, fundamentalist, evangelical, misogynistic Christian sect that taught women should raise the kids and clean the house and keep their lips buttoned, and the long process of liberating myself from that kind of claptrap has left me a trifle thin-skinned. Certainly there are those of my acquaintance, Barn Cat included, who counsel me to just keep my mouth shut. I also recognize that anybody who objects to public displays of piety runs the risk of being pillaged by the same loving Christian folks who are always so defensive about their right to be obnoxious and so determined that nobody else has the same right.

But frankly, I’ve had it. If I never see Mike Lee kneeling in the dirt with his head bowed again, I will count myself a fortunate woman.

As far as I can tell, there are only two possible explanations for why these boys think it’s not just okay, but incumbent upon them, to behave this way. The first is that they may think that because Jesus enjoined them to “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” they have a moral obligation to use their presence at PBR events as a platform for doing just that. This thinking is based on the notion that there is only one path to salvation, and that notion is responsible for the Crusades, the pograms, and the genocide, both literal and cultural, of the American Indian, just to list a few in a long litany of unspeakable atrocities. It’s no wonder many followers of Islam, Judaism, and aboriginal religious practices worldwide are highly suspicious of proselytizing Christians, to this day. In fact, it’s a wonder that when such folk knock on my door, as two sweetly made-up and overdressed Jehovah’s Witnesses did last Saturday morning, that I even manage to be polite when I tell them to get off my property.

The second explanation, which Barn Cat favors, is rather more cynical: They are just showing off. I’d prefer to think otherwise, but on the chance that he’s right, I refer you to Jesus himself in Matthew 6, the Sermon on the Mount. In deference to those of my Christian friends who believe the King James version of the Bible is the only acceptable text (“If it was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for me!”), I am quoting from that translation:

And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.

But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.

Mike, Wiley, and Travis: He’s talking to you.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Can you spell

conflict of interest? Is there any other possible description of Cord McCoy getting to ride a bull he bred, trained, and owns? What are the judges thinking?????

Friday, February 22, 2008

On Steroids

One of the few benefits of being trapped in a hotel for ten days while contractors try to mop up the damage after a water leak was that each morning we got a copy of the local newspaper delivered to our door, which we gratefully carried downstairs and read while we ate our hot breakfast. (A shout-out here for the Wingate in Bozeman, the best-appointed and operated moderately priced hotel I've ever stayed in. And the staff could not have been nicer, more helpful, or more sympathetic to our plight.)

Even though we are newshounds par excellence, we don't subscribe to our local paper because we were spoiled rotten by five years of getting the Washington Post tossed at the top of our driveway, every morning, like clockwork, in weather fair or foul. The Post is, to my mind, the best newspaper published in the U.S. (yes, better than The New York Times, which is just so tiresomely New York), and the price for a subscripiton is absolutely unbeatable--77 cents a WEEK! My one serious quarrel with the folks at the Post is that they don't sell subscriptions to people outside the D.C. metro area, so folks like us, way out in the hinterlands, are forced either to cough up too much dough for a local paper that can't begin to compete, or else must rely on the Post website to glean what we can. Since we are also junkies of political news, you can guess which option we have chosen, but under protest, believe me. I'd much rather have that big pile of newsprint greeting me every morning than the stripped-down version I'm having to content myself with.

Be that as it may, during our exile at the Wingate, the Bozeman Chronicle did pick up one really good piece from the Los Angeles Times, written by a journalist named Dee Dee Correll, whose work you can bet I am going to be following from here on out. It was titled, "Yo, Cowboy! Is that bull on steroids or something?" and it appeared in the Chronicle on January 27. I have since located the original article in the Times under the less amusing headline, "Steriod suspicions ride into the rodeo," so I suspect that our local headline writers were having some fun. It's nice to know they're not without a sense of humor down on College Avenue.

Anyway, I invite you to read the piece for yourself:

The bottom line is that while at least one stock contractor has admitted to giving his bulls steroids to make them more aggressive some years back, there's no evidence anyone is dosing his bulls now, and for a very good reason: Giving a bull steroids can very shortly render him sterile. No contractor with the sense God gave a goose is going to make that mistake.

So I for one am not in the least concerned that the bulls that buck in the PBR are shot full of steroids. And although to my knowledge the question hasn't come up yet, I also don't give a damn whether the cowboys are taking steroids, either.

As I write this, congressmen and sports pundits are wringing their hands over whether Roger Clemens did in fact dope himself, and there is much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth about the decline in fair play in American athletic competition. You can bet that when the Summer Olympics start up, we will hear more of the same. I could go on at length about why I think it's time to decriminalize the use of performance-enhancing drugs, but I could not say it any better than did Sally Jenkins, arguably one of the best sports commentators now working, in a column that ran in the Washington Post on October 10, 2007. It's titled "There's a legal remedy to the doping issue," and what she says, in a nutshell, is that steroids have approved medical uses, generally short-term prescription of short-acting versions, under medical supervision, for specific ailments. She contends that depriving athletes of access to those drugs can prolong recovery times and, yes, might even shorten their careers.

You can find Ms. Jenkins' column here: I recommend it to you highly.

So it's not going to worry me one bit if I learn that on the advice of his physician, a PBR cowboy took steriods at alleviate inflammation in a sore elbow or a ripped-up knee. I'm pretty sure that no serious rider thinks being muscle-bound or brain-damaged is going to help him stick to the back of a bull. Having just watched a season in which too many boys suffered concussions and came back to ride too soon, I think we can presume that Dr. Tandy Freeman, and the riders' own good sense, will prevail.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Our Apologies

It has been a long, hard six weeks at the Stockyard, and we are just now getting all the pieces picked up. The short version of this painful story is that while we were away at Christmas, there was a water leak in our house that caused massive damage. Fortunately our homeowners insurance covered us, but we hadn’t bargained on how difficult it would be to live in a construction site. This despite the fact that Barn Cat and I had each helped remodel a house before we got together, and since have remodeled two more, so we couldn’t complain that we didn’t know pretty much what to expect. Nevertheless, the strains have been significant. It’s been about all we could do to work for a living and manage the action on the home front, so even though we of course have not stopped watching the PBR, we haven’t had much energy to comment on it.

But we believe things will be back to near-normal around here shortly, so we will try to return to our jobs as self-appointed bad-ass commentators soon. We still have a long list of subjects we plan to tackle, and we have met some people whom we think will make good guest bloggers, so stay tuned. We will be back.