Monday, June 30, 2008

Whacked with the Ugly Stick

Since we have plenty of time ahead of us to indulge our more obscure interests, and since when the PBR finally starts up again we will be in a dead run for the finals in Las Vegas and probably won't have two seconds to ourselves for the duration, I wanted to take up a matter that has long puzzled me, to wit: Why are the trophies handed out at the highest levels of professional sports so damned ugly?

For starters, the National Hockey League has the Stanley Cup:

You can tell that the photographer tried his best to light the trophy nicely, what with the heavenly light in the upper left hand corner and all, but tell me truthfully—don’t you think it looks like an upside (albeit silver-plated) travel cup, the kind that collapses back on itself? Why did anybody think that was a good idea?

Then we have the Vince Lombardi Trophy, courtesy of the National Football League, and named for he who famously said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing,” though there is some dispute about who first coined that phrase. Check it out:

It looks like some kind of doodle the CEO did on a napkin and nobody had the guts to tell him it sucked. I think they should give that to the LOSERS of the Superbowl and give the winners gift certificates to Lone Star Steakhouse. They’d be better off, believe me.

Then we come to the trophy handed out to the winners of the National Basketball Association season:

I really cannot figure out what in hell is going on here. Is that supposed to be a basketball about to fall through the basket? Why is the ball so damned big? What angle would you have to see the action from for it to look like that? Toss it in a wastebasket, I say.

I am not a NASCAR fan for a whole bunch of reasons, and this trophy, awarded to the winner of the Dayton 500, only enforces my attitude:

That is truly lame—it looks like it was designed by a bunch of rednecks who’d been drinking beer at the shooting range all afternoon. Is it supposed evoke one of those turntables car dealers used to have in their showrooms, where a car would revolve endless while admiring would-be buyers looked on? And what’s with those tacky little name plates? At least they ENGRAVE the winning team’s name on the Stanley Cup.

Aside from the ones that I just can’t make any sense out of, my main objection to all these monstrosities is that the proportions are all screwed up. The best of the bunch is probably the America’s Cup, which harkens back to the classic days of trophy design, though even it is too tall for its own good:

It may look like a syrup pitcher (with a great big reservoir below it), but at least it’s not totally top heavy or just indecipherable. In other words, you can tell it’s a trophy, not something somebody found in a junk yard, polished up with an SOS pad, and dragged down to the arena at the last minute.

Compared to these, the PBR’s trophy doesn’t look completely horrible, but it’s still no orchid. Here it is in the company of the current title holder, your very own Justin McBride, Miss Shannon. If you can’t bear to look at his face, just cover it up with your hand:

My main objections to this thing are that it looks like a soup pot, and those bulls on the handles are beyond ridiculous. At least, with the pseudo-belt buckle on the front, they’ve got that Western silversmith thing going on, because if it didn’t have that, it would look like a big punch bowl for serving the ginger ale and sherbet (“sherbert,” where I come from) drink they always served at weddings when I was a kid, because of course we were all too pure to drink champagne, or maybe for holding your mamma’s fruit salad that she makes every Thanksgiving under the delusion that people like it, when in fact they won’t touch it with a barge pole. If she's anything like my mamma, she makes enough to feed Coxey's army and you'll be bumping into it in the refrigerator for weeks, until somebody finally surreptitiously throws it out.

Or maybe it looks like (truth be told) a chamber pot, which is ironic in the extreme considering that the dude who wins walks away with $1 million. At that moment, he couldn’t be accused of not having a pot to, er, you know, in, or a window to throw it out of, though I’m not at all convinced that these guys are particularly prudent with their winnings and he could be broke before he turns his back on Vegas. (Ruby would phrase it, “didn’t have a pot nor a window,” so as to get the meaning across without sullying her reputation for clean speech.)

Of course, the biggest problem we’ve got with all these butt-ugly objects is, we’re stuck with them. It’s like nobody can admit the original design was a mistake. No, it's worse than that, it’s like nobody even TALKS about it. Can it be possible that they have no idea? I'd prefer to think that, but in my heart, I just can't believe it.

So please, folks, reconsider. Even big billion-dollar corporations retool their images once in a while. Given the relative ugliness of these trophies, I am the first to admit that there are a bunch of professional sports organizations that should do that before the PBR does, but it wouldn’t hurt the bull riders to be ahead of the curve for once.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Recapping the Dickies American Worker of the Year Invitational presented by Pike Electric in Dallas

Since sometimes I have to go trailing off to other parts of the state on behalf of my clients, I was in Billings all day yesterday, which naturally delayed the posting of our recap of the Dickies American Worker of the Year Invitational presented by Pike Electric in Dallas. And thanks to popular demand (I think five people actually requested it!), Montana Barn Cat and I had decided to do another pseudo-live blog, which in this case took the form of our taking copious notes about the event and all the snide comments we managed to fire off in the course of it. Let's face it, sometimes trying to do this on a laptop just complicates things unnecessarily. This sort of post takes a little longer to wrangle, but we consider it our contribution to the war effort. No doubt it’s way funnier to us than you’ll find it, but them’s the breaks.

We were also motivated by the fact that it will be FOUR FULL WEEKS before the next event, in Tulsa, and then Shannon, the keeper of the flame and all true information, pointed out late last night that the Tulsa event won’t be televised till August 2. Do you get that, folks? It will be SIX FULL WEEKS before we see any new PBR action on the tube. That might be the most depressing thing I’ve heard all year, which is saying something.

So in the event that your spirits are flagging a bit, we offer up this long-ass treatise. Two disclaimers: For the most part, these are the Stockyard Queen’s observations—if that’s not so, I’ve noted it. Which brings me to the last cautionary note, for my lovely mother-in-law, who sometimes drops by here: You may need to cover your eyes when you read some of Barn Cat’s contributions. I swear, I have not made a word of this up. I can only keep in mind what you told me—when you were growing up in Wyoming, you heard it all, though of course you weren’t allowed to say it, because you’re a girl. Well, the Barn Cat has spoken and some of it ain’t purty.

You have all been warned. Here goes.

Saturday, June 21
We see a panorama of Dallas, but fortunately are spared hearing the theme song from the nighttime soap opera of the same name. Down in the arena, the boys in the booth are talking about the return of the Messiah, oh, excuse me, Justin McBride, and Justin McKee remarks in passing that the folks at PBR headquarters were worried that without a “superstar” (my remark, not his), fan interest might fall off. But guess what! It’s greater than ever!

Nevertheless, this comment explains a lot: 1) the continuous and ultimately annoying worshipping at the altar of Justin McBride, this season, which has included reminding us every five minutes that he wasn’t there, what had happened to him, when he would be back, and how much all our lives would improve when that blessed event occurred (honestly, I’m surprised they didn’t set up a shrine to him on top of the cage in the middle of the arena, complete with a big picture and some candles, just in case we’d somehow managed to miss hearing about him); 2) the multiple, ridiculous, fractured-logic observations that Marchi (and all the other boys, of course) was riding great BECAUSE Justin wasn’t there; and 3) the blatant and ongoing search to find a new American “superstar,” like Travis Briscoe and then Sean Willingham, which, as Ruby would say, “hasn’t worked out too good.” Travis pretty much tanked early on and, though Sean presently is riding well, he’s not in Guilherme Marchi’s league, never has been. Marchi has hit a rough patch lately, but he’s still way ahead in the overall standings and I’m betting he’ll back up to snuff shortly.

And to think that people had the nerve to complain when Tim Russert’s death was in the news for a week! How long have we been putting up with this Justin McBride mantra? AN ENTIRE SEASON, that’s how long. The only miracle out of all this is that I don’t faint, or spit, or at least hyperventilate at the sound of his name, and I am still interested in watching him ride instead of pelting him with wadded-up beer cans. To hear these guys tell it, though, I might as well turn off the tube and take up croquet or tatting now, because Justin’s got the title in the bag already.

And here comes our first rider: my good buddy Reese Cates, who is in the race for Rookie of the Year. He goes off Crazy Train in 2.5 seconds.

MBC: “I guess he did too much drivin’ and sleepin’.”

Bryan Richardson gets thrown off Hustler. Justin McKee says that’s a Playboy son out of a Bodacious daughter. “He’s a ringer for his grandpa.”

Living Large is throwing some snot, and also throwing Tyler Pankewitz.

Avalanche is back! Pistol Robertson is off!

Austin Meier gets thrown.

Aaron Roy rides Ham Bone, who looks like he’s been drugged. Does not look like the same bull that J.W. said looked like “the real deal” in San Antonio.

Clayton Foltyn can’t stick to Rewind, a “bucking son of a gun,” though he comes close. J.W. wonders whether he got that far on effort or if it was a hang up. Well, somebody else won the world championship hanging off the side of a bull, so there’s no reason not to stick any way you can. You’ll still get a score.

The bull named Mr. Zantrex has been dyed blue. SQ: “Ladies, don’t date him.” [Late note to Miss Jean: No, I do not believe his, er, apparatus was also dyed blue. I'd like to have seen the son of a bitch who would have been brave enough to try that. I'd give him the bull riding title without his ever climbing on a one of them.]

Zack Brown and Say When. MBC: “That bull looks like a Dutch Lop.” Zack goes off, bull scores 44.

Cord rides Clown Attack—a bore. It’s Cord’s 4th straight ride.

Harve Stewart off Rush—he gets off holding his groin. Maybe they have some Zantrex-3 Insta-Shot in the back for him, to ease the pain.

Brian Canter on Too Sharp, a rematch. Too Sharp is a muley. Kurt Hummer: “Brian is wearing his hair a little longer.” J.W. says Canter “ain’t shaved in four months and you can barely tell it. He’s got a bet going with somebody.” Brian rides for 84.50. J.W. says that bull has a common day.

Rocky Boots Trivia—what is Mike White’s favorite movie? KH: “I hope it’s not Lonesome Dove.” J.W.: “Lonesome Dove is the greatest movie of all time.” SQ: “But it doesn’t have a soundtrack by Toby Keith, J.W.!”

Kolt Donaldson is pitched off Snap Shot, who can jump. That was fun.

Dustin Hall is off Full Throttle and immediately starts praying. Justin McKee: “He’s a Playboy looking dude, ain’t he?” Looks like there are a couple of Playboy’s sons in this round. Assuming McKee was talking about the bull, of course.

Wiley Peterson rides for 87.5. Shorty doesn’t call it for once.

Jared Farley off Cadillac Man. Bull was awesome! Bull score: 44.5

Colby Yates rides Can Rock for 89 and is now in the lead.

The Gerber Man ad still sucks.

Here comes a bull named Jack Daniels. That reminds me of a Beverly Hillbillies episode where Jethro steals Granny’s “medicine” to fuel his moon-shot, because he wants to get up there to party with the Moon Girls. He blasts off just as Granny is sampling her latest batch, and the concussion about shakes the house to pieces. Granny says, “Eat your heart out, Jack Daniels!”

Nick Landreneau makes it to 7:20 on Sharp Dressed Kid.

Sinovaldo Correia rides Red Man, a BIG bull, for 88.25.

Brendon Clark is off Lucky Strike.

Ryan Dirteater? Are you serious? Surely he made that name up.

Ad for Fight Night. I thought we were watching that already.


He’s on Fish Creek Bandit. J.W.: “When they announce his name, everybody stands up.” SQ: Yeah, they all just realized they need to go to the john and get another beer. Maybe several. He rides but it’s a pussy bull. He looks thinner, his haircut looks better (basically he’s shaved his head). I’m still not a fan.

Kurt Hummer: "The bulls are all picked randomly." SQ: "Why are you telling us that now?"

Justin McBride says it was a perfect bull to come back on. “I’m still a little rusty but it felt good.”

Helton Barbosa off Handsome Jack. Bull score is 43.5.

Ednei is wearing a helmet, which causes considerable consternation in the booth. Rides Monkey Shine for 85.25. A good ride.

Ned Cross is hyperventilating on Monkey Business. It doesn’t help, he gets thrown. Bull score is 44.

Renato Nunes is on Hellfire, a bull J.W. isn’t too high on. He rides, gets five. Frank Newsome takes a hit.

Commercial for Ford F Series, which “has stood by the American worker for 60 years.” Vehicles don’t stand by people, people stand by people. And what about the fact that Ford has delayed the rollout of the new F-150, due to its financial woes? What kind of “standing by” is that?

Doorbell rings in a commercial and MacKenzie starts barking. He runs over Tiny and Belle on his way out the door to protect us all from the evil hatchet murderers on the loose in our fair city of a Saturday evening.

Gilbert Carrillo owns (at least a piece) of Fish Creek Bandit. Re: McBride riding him: “You can’t throw him off of nothing.” J.W. says it was a practice bull for McBride. Who, BTW, didn’t ride any practice bulls while he was out.

Mr. Zantrex appears again. MBC: “Maybe they should just paint a va-jay-jay on the rider’s vest.” [Later: I've thought about that comment for about three days now and I still can't imagine what that picture would look like.]

Mike White’s favorite movie is Talladega Nights. Montana Barn Cat: “Kurt Hummer’s favorite movie is The Birdcage.”

Ford Tough Stuff Moment is Renato Nunes.


Mike White rides Dirty Secret, who was bad. Reride option.

Dustin Elliott on Stiffer. He rides.

MBC takes over for a bit: Adriano vs. Sand Boy. Good ride! With family in the stands! 85.75.

Chris Shivers vs. What I Say. Looked good for a couple of jumps but throwed off. Bull score 45.25.

Sean Willingham vs. Slow Ride. He’s five-for-five of the riders here. Won Orlando. Snot slingin’ in the chute. 87.75. He’s six-for-six now.

Ross Coleman vs. Wild Nights. (SQ: Which he should know a lot about.) Bucked off—bull had good timing—scampy!

Mike Lee vs. Hill Street. Rides for 85.5.

Mike White vs. Wild Life for reride. 90.75. SQ: Where’s the points fairy?

SQ is back.

Travis Briscoe rides Rock Star. He’s still not on a streak.

MBC: Mauny bucked off Fraggle Rock.

Valdiron vs. Roll the Dice. Good first hop, then spins. Possible re-ride. Bull fell down in the back.

Cody Lohstroh vs. Billionaire. Bucked off. Bull scores 46.

Marchi vs. Total Darkness. Nice nose view of the bull, who “loves his job.” Did the bull stumble? Three straight buck-offs! SQ: Guess those superpowers kicked in before McBride even got back in the arena.

Round is over. In the booth: “That would mean the night is over but for the Zantrex-3 Insta-shot Grudge Match.” Bet a lot of guys are saying the same thing when the night should be over. Willingham and Jenkins both end up in the dust, so the Grudge Match comes to naught. Guess that extra energy Zantrex gives them isn’t helping.

Sunday, June 22

We are admiring the Dallas skyline. I haven’t been in Dallas in 20 years, but the skyline was way overrated even then. The only thing it had going for it was that unlike most of Texas, something was sticking up more than 15 feet above the horizon. Would love to try out Guilherme’s steak house, though.

Now we are admiring some bulls. Jacob’s Pet is unridden in four outs. Fish Creek Bandit appears.

J.W.: “Hustler is extremely rank on a right-hand delivery, like they have him tonight.”

Travis bounces off Rewind.

Last night there were 19 rides out of 47, if I have the number of rerides right. That’s roughly 40 percent.

Brendon Clark on Rush—Clark rides but the bull practically stopped. Clark scores 88.25. What the hell?

Mauney on BMF—that was a good ride, but he only gets 86.5. The judges are already hard at work here, throwing darts at the board to pick the scores.

Brian Herman almost gets stepped on when Rowdy You Hou unloads him.

Renato rides Little Bo, a BIG bull, for 88.6. He gets kicked in the back as he gets off but that’s a good score. He’s ridden two.

SQ: “Oh, no, it’s the dancing pharmaceutical reps! They never stop.”

MBC: “He sells birth control pills, she sells Viagra.”

SQ: “Is that why he keeps grabbing his crotch?”

Pistol Robinson has grand plans to ride Total Darkness, who has different plans. And who manages to carry them out. Off he goes.

Nick Landreneau is bucked off King Solomon. A close call—his hat is wrecked.

Valdiron goes up against Young Gun, which name is sort of ironic, and prevails. 80.5. He should have gotten a reride. Sez J.W.: “The judges are dumb tonight because that’s a 14 point bull if I ever seen one.”

Robson Palermo and Lucky Strike combine for the worst wreck of the night. Yikes! He landed right on his head, just like Paulo and Ross Coleman did. I thought for sure he’d have a compression fracture of the spine.

Clayton Williams loses his rope and Red Man tosses him off. Sez J.W.: “I’d throw that rope in the garbage and get a new one.”

Here, once again, comes the Ford F-150 Series, the truck that has stood behind the ’Merican Worker for 60 years, and now you can get it for employee pricing! Sez MBC: “All the employees are laid off, so the price IS exactly the same for you.”

Feature on whether helmets should be mandatory. Cody Lambert opines that the reason they’re not required is there is no PBR safety standard for the manufacturers to meet. And whose fault is that? If the PBR established a standard this week, there would be helmets manufactured to meet it in another three weeks. You can take that to the bank. J.W. says he doesn’t agree with making helmets mandatory and he doesn’t agree with the seat belt law either. He won’t wear a helmet because “I’m a cowboy and I like the way a cowboy hat looks.” I hope he likes the way his face looks after he goes through a windshield. Reasoning like that, and role models behaving like that, could get a lot of people hurt and even killed. It’s a good thing J.W. isn’t riding this season—maybe riders will pay less attention to what he says. Really! That’s just irresponsible. If you want to endanger your own life, that’s your prerogative, but at least have the sense to keep your damned mouth shut about why you’re being so aggressively stupid. I’ll bet J.W. rides his ATV without a helmet, too, because it “infringes on his rights” to feel the wind in his hair. Of course the community has no right to an opinion on the subject, even though the county paramedics may end up having to scrape him up off the highway so he can take up space in the hospital on life support, probably on the county dime, till somebody who loves him has to make an awful decision. Thanks, J.W.! We love it when you defend your rights. As Mario Cuomo said of New Hampshire, the only state that does not have a seat belt law, “Their motto is ‘Live Free or Die’ and they have chosen to die.”

Wiley Peterson rides Papa Smurf. Behind the chutes, he holds up his helmet and says, “Don’t leave home without it.”

Sean Willingham vs. the unridden Slade, who remains unridden.

Marchi climbs aboard Derringer and gets the job done. He scores 89.0, which puts him in fifth place. The last time he bucked off four times straight was in September of ’07. Wasn’t Travis Briscoe 0 for 11 at one point this season? Travis, the next Great White Hope?

Austin Meier is bucked off Flat Creek. Austin isn’t looking too good these days.

Mike Lee goes two for two on Handsome Jack.

Leah reports that Robson has a concussion and has re-injured his shoulder. He is questionable for Tulsa. What about Paulo? What about Ross Coleman? Who decides whose injuries get reported on?

Colby Yates can’t stick to Monkey Business. I’m liking that bull a lot.

MBC: “Justin McBride looks a little like Tom Cruise to me.”

Stockyard Queen: “Maybe like Tom Cruise would look if he had his cheekbones liposuctioned.”

L.J. Jenkins just plain falls off Lucky Strike, and manages to spit almost as soon as he hits the ground. SQ: “He’s too busy concentrating on his snoose to ride bulls.”

Adriano Moraes has Player—he rides him, but just barely. Oh, no, he slapped the bull! The crowd is booing. I agree. “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes you slap the bull,” sez MBC.

Sinovald Correia gets bucked off Black Ghost. An excellent bull.

Justin McBride draws his second pussy bull of the event, Jefe, and rides him. Even J.W. says this is a “practice bull” for Justin, who of course hasn’t ridden any practice bulls before coming back. Justin is probably telling the truth about that, since it’s such a point of pride with him that he doesn’t need to practice or work out or (most likely) even go to physical therapy, but I suspect that when some of these boys say they aren’t getting on practice bulls, it’s like some writers saying they never revise their stuff. Jack Kerouac always insisted he never revised anything—turns out, he was lying. Make of that analogy what you will.

J.W. says Justin McBride will pick the rankest bull in the bull draft.

Chris Shivers rides Cadillac Man for 90! I have to admit, that was a good ride. He made a great correction when the bull changed directions. His 73rd 90 point ride! But—can you spell “score inflation”? That explains all the 90 point rides this season, as far as I’m concerned. Overall, I’d bet we’re still not seeing the cowboys ride 50 percent of the time. The judges have one hell of a lot to answer for.

Kurt Hummer: “Justin McBride is back!” Stockyard Queen: “Who? Oh, was he gone?”

Luke Snyder gets bucked off Hustler. As you’d expect. I think that’s the rankest bull bucking right now.

Cody Atwood and Holy Smoke part company, and the end is ugly. Almost a major disaster! Cody got off easy that time.

Brian Canter tries to ride Avalanche. Shorty Gorham predicts he will be bucked off at 2.5 seconds. He is EXACTLY right. They should put him in the judging booth and pitch at least one of those (conveniently anonymous) dudes down into the arena. Let’s see how he’d do fighting bulls instead of hiding behind his clipboard.

Kolt Donaldson is bested by Bigger Man, who poses very nicely before leaving the arena. That bull looks great!

Enterprise Ride with the Best—Mike White vs. Scary Deal. He rides for 88.25 points! He goes first in the bull draft.

The picks are 1) Mike White and Camo; 2) Renato Nunes and Grey Dog; 3) Wiley Peterson and Cat Man Do; 4) Justin McBride and Billionaire; 5) Mike Lee and Mr. Zantrex; 6) Aaron Roy and Hot Stuff; 7) Valdiron and Full Throttle; 8) Chris Shivers and Zorro; 9) Travis Brisco and Jacob’s Pet; 10) Colby Yates and Ricky Bobby; 11) Dustin Elliot and Nasty Mike; 12) Guilherme Marchi and Spitfire; 13) Jared Farley and Showtime; 14) Reese Cates and Party Time; and 15) Brendon Clark and Gnash.

Clark has been thrown off Gnash twice before but this time he manages to hang on for 92 points. Justin McKee: “Talk about going from the outhouse to the penthouse.” Up the back stairs, I presume.

Reese Cates and Jared Farley are bucked off. Marchi gets thrown and gets whacked in the face with a horn for good measure. Ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch! Dustin Elliot loses his bull rope and that’s that. J.W.: “That’s a bad day at the office right there.”

Travis Briscoe gets thrown off Jacob’s Pet, as we all knew he would. Why didn’t Justin McBride pick that bull, arguably the rankest in the pen this out?

Chris Shivers rides Zorro, who J.W. describes as “hard as a brick.” He scores 89.5, which makes no sense to me, compared to Clark’s score.

Valdiron and Aaron Roy both get bucked off. Then Mike Lee gets a reride on Mr. Zantrex, which is not something I want to think about much longer.

Billionaire throws Justin McBride—the bull clearly didn’t get the memo about how Justin was going to ride anything offered him. Bull scores 46.

Wiley and Renato are both bucked off. Mike White gets a reride on What I Say and still gets bucked off at 7.3. Mike Lee wins the event, being the only rider to cover three bulls. You can’t argue with consistency, as we have observed all season about a different rider.

All this forces me to conclude that despite Ty Murray’s high hopes, the bull draft hasn’t made it more likely the riders will still be aboard when the buzzer sounds. Not once this season has the rider who picked first won the event. Not one time! Either the riders don’t pay any attention to what the bulls do (hence the need for Cody Lambert’s blatant coaching as they choose their bulls), or knowing what the bulls are doing doesn’t make any difference to how well their ride. The latter would suit me just fine. That’s just the way I am.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hang On! Help is on Its Way!

Good morning, folks. Even though there is nothing I'd rather do than blog about bull riding all day long, I'm sorry to state that I have to work for a living and I'm going to be really pressed today. And Montana Barn Cat is in an even sorrier state, since he has to actually leave the house and GO to the office to bring home the bacon. But I want to assure you that we will be posting our report on the Dallas event by midday tomorrow at the latest.

In view of the fact that it will be FOUR FULL WEEKS before the Tulsa event, we pulled out all the stops and did our patented not-ready-for-primetime-pseudo-live blog. We hope you will find it entertaining enough to make up, at least a little, for the long dry spell we are all facing. Thanks to the magic of the internet, we will be facing it together.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Coming Around Again

Okay, boys, bring it on! DING DING DING DING DING Here comes The Stockyard Queen’s Hoof in Mouth Award, being presented for the third time in just over a month! This time, the lucky winner is 19-year-old Reese Cates, for his stellar blog post on the PBR website. It started out innocently enough when Cates remarked that “Personally speaking, I think getting in the truck and driving from one event to another is what riding bulls is all about. . . . Flying from one place to the next and staying in one city all weekend is not rodeoing. It’s definitely easy that way—maybe more convenient—but, to me, that’s not what makes you a bull rider.”

So far, so good, though I thought what made you a bull rider was getting on bulls, not driving and sleeping for 24 hours straight. But then he had to go and say this: “And there was something that I was thinking about this weekend and it’s going to make a lot of people unhappy, but I will go out on a limb and say: Guilherme and Valdiron are great bull riders—two of the best ever—but I don’t think those Brazilians could handle being gone like that—the mentality it takes. I don’t think they could take it. It would start to bother them about being away from home. It would bother them about not being able to work out everyday. I don’t know if those guys could handle getting on that many bulls. I’ve never seen them at very many Challenger events so I don’t know if they could take it or not. You could take the top Brazilians in the world and match them up against the top Americans and let them haul all summer long and I just think the Americans would win. It’s the cowboy mentality and that’s what it takes to do it.”

Of course, my first inclination was to jump on the comments board and rip poor Reese’s head clear off, but fortunately I managed to restrain myself, and other people with better impulse control and greater reserves of kindness did point out to him two of the errors of his ways. First off, the Brazilians are already away from home, every damned day they are in this country, in a place where their native tongue isn’t spoken and the customs are totally different. Second, every one of those guys had to pay his dues to get to the Built Ford Tough Series, just like Reese is paying his, right now. Nobody pointed out something equally obvious, which is that Brazil and a stack of other Central and South American countries have cowboy traditions that go back as far or further than does ours. I’d be willing to bet good money that some of those Argentine gauchos could outride, rope, throw, and brand your average Texas cowpoke.

But I actually am willing to cut Reese a little slack because he is young. Very young. I don’t think I was that young when I was 10, to be frank. He and I also have something else in common, which I won’t elaborate on here, that makes me want to give him the benefit of the doubt. It remains to be seen whether I have to shove him out of the “young” category and over into the “young and incurably stupid” pile, and only time will tell that.

But his ignorant remarks led me to think about something my first boss said that probably helped me be a better employee than anything anyone has ever pointed out to me. She remarked that we all want to believe that our strong suit is the most important contributing factor to getting the job done successfully, and generally, it’s not. For instance—if I happen to be a morning person and I get in to work an hour early every day, then of course I think everybody ought to believe getting in early is really valuable. Which it might be sometimes, but mostly, it’s not. And by the same token, I’d want everybody to think the fact that I was so tired by the end of the day I couldn’t see straight was okay, when of course, it isn’t.

I surmise from his remarks that young Reese Cates thinks that since he’s so good at drivin’ and sleepin’, those abilities are most important to being a bull rider. Here’s a reality check: Drivin’ and sleepin’ don’t make you a cowboy or a bull rider. Being willing to drive and sleep from one event to the next doesn’t make you a damned thing, except almost certainly worn out, which I doubt will help your game much when you finally climb out of the extended cab and onto the back of a bull. And for sure you’re going to have to win a pile of money to not be broke, what with $5 gasoline on the horizon. I’m pretty damned sure those boys aren’t driving Priuses, assuming they are willing to drive something not made in ’Merica, or even Ford Escape Hybrids, for that matter.

One final observation: It might interest you, Mr. Cates, to know that when you were about seven, I went to work for a real cowboy, one who was making cowboy movies before my parents were born. I suppose some folks would argue that because he didn't cowboy much before he came to Hollywood, he wasn't a real cowboy, but nobody would dare to state he didn't become a fine horseman before he hung up his spurs. And the man had a closet full of cowboy clothes to die for. I'm talking a real clothes horse, right down to the custom, handmade Lucchese boots.

I never got to spend much time with him, though I’d see him around the place once in a while and speak to him, casually, the way you might speak to the CEO of your company if you were the low man on the security force, say. Way back in the day, he made a movie, Rancho Grande, with a little gal named Mary Lee, in which they sang a duet, “Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande.” As it happens, he wasn’t the first to sing that song in a movie—that distinction belongs to Bing Crosby, who crooned it in Rhythm on the Range. The lyrics were written by the immortal Johnny Mercer, and the second verse goes like this:

I’m an old cowhand from the Rio Grande,
And I learned to ride ’fore I learned to stand.
I’m a ridin’ fool who is up-to-date
I know ev’ry trail in the
Lone Star State
Cause I ride the range in a Ford V-Eight.

Now, when that song was written in 1936, every real cowboy would have laughed his ass off at the suggestion that you could drive a Ford rather than ride a horse, and still claim to be a cowboy. So much for the drivin’ and sleepin’ theory of cowboyhood.

In the meantime, guys, would you just think about what you’re saying for maybe five seconds before you go shooting your mouths off, please? You’re wearing the finish off this damned trophy! At this rate, I’ll have to put these boys on the payroll to keep dragging it around for me, unless I can make the points fairy an offer he can’t refuse.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

To All Lurkers

I would like to take a moment to formally welcome all of you who have been checking out this blog recently. Through the magic of Google Analytics, I know when you've been here and I also know where you're calling in from. I invite you all to step out of the shadows and let the rest of us know you're here. You are welcome to comment on any post in the comments field, or you can just say hello on the zonkboard. I'm sure you have many interesting observations that the rest of us will find quite enlightening. Just be polite, please.

I'd also like to remind you all that my guest blog submission, "So Much In Common," is posted today on John Hewitt's blog about freelance writing. Check it out:

Let's see if we can send the man some traffic he might not otherwise get!

Monday, June 16, 2008

On Risk

This morning, I received a note from my virtual friend Shannon, who is rapidly becoming an advance set of eyes and ears of this blog because she reads everything she can find on the subject of the PBR and very kindly keeps me clued into what is going on. Shannon reports that someone in the administration of the PBR posted a note on a bull riding board about Paulo, indicating that the surgery went well and he is, in Adriano Moraes’ words, “Good to go.” That is a huge relief to me, and I thank Shannon for spreading the word so quickly.

Naturally, all this has made me think quite a bit about the fundamental dangers of bull riding, and the men who gladly take that danger on.
Paulo’s potentially career-ending injury, plus the fact that Ross Coleman fell on his head in Orlando too and won’t compete in Dallas this weekend, have brought home to me yet again that these guys are playing with fire every time they climb into the chute.

Yet I do not believe that risk-taking is necessarily always foolhardy. I don't agree that mountain climbers who get stuck on a mountain in a blizzard should also get stuck with the bill for getting them down off the mountain, assuming they do make it down. I'm not about to go out and climb a frozen waterfall next weekend, or snowboard down a hill I can only reach by being dropped out of a helicopter, or swim five miles in the ocean or even run a marathon, but I do see the need sometimes to quit sitting in front of my computer trying to fix other people's broken prose and go outside to do something different.

A couple of weeks ago, I read a book review in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle of Forget Me Not: A Memoir by Jennifer Lowe-Anker, which has a foreword by Jon Krakauer. Some of you likely will recognize Krakauer’s name—he has written such seminal books as Into Thin Air, about the disastrous 1996 climbing season on Mount Everest, Into the Wild, on Christopher Johnson McCandless’ ill-starred attempt to live off the land in Alaska in 1992, and Under the Banner of Heaven, an examination of present-day polygamy in Mormon communities that seems especially apropos given the goings-on in Texas of late. Jennifer Lowe-Anker is the widow of mountaineer Alex Lowe, almost universally considered one of the greatest practitioners of his craft of his generation, who died in an avalanche on Shishapangma in the Himalayas in 1999. Jennifer Lowe was left a young widow with three boys to raise on her own.

I full intend to read this book, not the least because the reviewer remarked extensively about how Alex Lowe’s obsession with climbing mountains affected his wife and family. Although Jennifer Lowe missed him desperately, and sometimes resented his protracted absences, she ultimately realized that he simply could not have done any differently. Apparently there are individuals who thrive on thrills and adrenaline, and without those stimulants, they are prone to depression and more obvious and available self-destructive behaviors. Those of us who can’t make any sense out of their need to scale an ice wall or cross a lava field might do well to hold our tongues and thank our lucky stars that we are not similarly burdened. Just because we don’t want to do it ourselves does not automatically mean that nothing good can come of it. At least if these folks are up on mountains, or on the backs of bulls or saddle broncs, they aren’t shutting down the local bars and driving home drunk in the middle of the night, through the streets of our cozy little towns and big cities. Whether they learn anything of value from their exploits is ultimately up to them—as it is to all of us, in all our experiences.

At some point, Alex Lowe taped to the wall of his office a quotation from Helen Keller’s book The Open Door that spoke to him: “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” In the end, life is risk—nobody gets out alive, and hunkering down in our little hidey-holes won’t change that. And we need to accept as well the fact that sometimes no amount of preparation is going to change the outcome. Blizzards blow in unexpectedly, bull ropes break. Better, I think, to take it as it comes, to be disappointed, but not discouraged, when things don’t work out the way we’d planned.

Better by a long shot to take the view of a local resident whose obituary I read in the paper last Friday morning. I’m sorry I never got to meet him because he sounds like he was a lot of fun. According to his friends, he died fully subscribing to the theory that “Life’s journey is not to arrive at the grave safely in a well-preserved body, but rather to slide in sideways, totally worn out, shouting, ‘Holy shit, what a ride!’”

My friend Jay, whom I think I have succeeded in addicting to the PBR without his even having seen a televised event yet, was corresponding with me over the weekend of the Orlando event about Paulo’s wreck, thoughtfully kept on continuous loop for us on the PBR website. “Bull riders, and especially professional bull riders, are obviously, and perhaps certifiably, insane,” he remarked. “For some reason, I’m suddenly reminded of Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker. And the carnage at Normandy, during WWII. Ancient Greek and Roman myths also come to mind, wherein the good guy fights the bad guy . . . or the gods themselves, all on his own. It’s truly an amazing, fantastic, dangerous, fascinating spectacle.” Indeed, there is something primal, archetypal, about the sight of a cowboy trying to stay on the back of an animal that will do anything to get him off, and then may stomp the liver and lights out of him, as Barn Cat says, “Just for fun.” It’s why we keep coming back for more, because we hope, weirdly and impossibly, every time, that we’ll see them fail, and that we’ll see them succeed. If they fail, then they’re no better at it than we would be, right? If they succeed, we can tip our hats in sincere admiration.

“I’m yearning for a properly prepared souffle au fromage, accompanied by a glass of truly fine champagne, this morning,” Jay continued, “but I’ll accept bacon and eggs, with a glass of milk, thankfully. (Which is my way of saying, ‘If you’re ALIVE, bull riders and other cowboys, you’re ahead of the game.’) Or, I’m reminded of the old pilot’s saying, ‘Any landing you can walk away from is a GOOD landing.’” Certainly any time a bull rider can get up and stagger to the fence, it’s been a good landing. Regardless of whether he rode that time, he’s lived to ride another day. There’s always the next go-round.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Paulo Crimber

The latest report on Paulo Crimber’s injury has knocked my plans for blogging into a cocked hat. I had intended yesterday to post an entry based on several e-mail exchanges I’ve had over the past week with a friend of mine in California, but considering the gravity of Paulo’s condition, I don’t really think that’s appropriate.

Of course, I’ve been reading anything I could find about Paulo and I know he’s having surgery on his neck today. I am not going to criticize anything that anyone has said about this tragedy, even though it seems to me that several comments have been less than helpful, because I know that at times like these, people feel the need to say something and sometimes what they say doesn’t really reflect their feelings. We all are wishing Paulo a safe and speedy recovery, and we each are offering him up whatever help falls within our purview and convictions to give.

But I do think it would be a good idea, for a little while at least, to recognize that Paulo and his family have good cause to grieve what he has lost. It’s too soon, in my opinion, to be making suggestions about why this might have happened or what might be in store for him later on. It might always be too soon for that. For right now, I am just terribly sad about this accident, and I can only hope that by recognizing Paulo’s loss to whatever modest extent I am capable, I can honor those attributes that have never been in question--his contributions to the sport of professional bull riding, and his courage.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Terrible News

Courtesy of my new virtual friend Shannon, who directed me to a PBR press release, I learned late yesterday afternoon that Paulo Crimber’s wreck aboard Roughneck Friday night was even more serious than was initially thought. Besides breaking his right collarbone and some ribs on the same side, Paulo refractured his C1 vertebra when he fell and then the bull fell on top of him. Dr. Tandy Freeman describes this as a “career-threatening injury.” Here is the link to the press release:

Even if he decides he wants to try to make a comeback, Crimber will be out for a good long time while he heals up. Montana Barn Cat and I join with all the other PBR fans in wishing him good luck, and godspeed. We hope to see you back with us, friend.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Random Notes on the Git-R-Done Invitational

1) I don’t quite get what Larry the Cable Guy’s relationship was to this event. Did he co-sponsor it? Just lend his name? Tater said he called Larry because he “needed some money,” so I suppose cash must have changed hands, but I’m hazy on who paid whom, and for what. And I'm pretty damned sure I'll never find out.
2) I have been watching the PBR a long time, and I have seen a lot of injuries, but I have never seen one that affected me as much as Paulo Crimber’s in the first round. I could have cried for him.
3) Perhaps it was because of events in the political arena last week (I won’t say another word), but I found the boys in the booth even more tiresome this week than I have in weeks past. Several things they were laughing about struck me as adolescent at best and sexist and offensive at worst. For instance:
a) Larry’s comment about Sarah Jessica Parker starting to look like Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider (
I am giving you guys fair warning—just get up off Ms. Parker. Not one of you are exactly Miss
America material yourselves. The day any of you looks as good as she does, I’ll be happy to listen to you. Until then, like Nicole Baker in The Executioner’s Song, I don’t want to hear a goddamned word you have to say on the subject, or for that matter, on the subject of any woman’s looks.
Of course, it was pretty revealing that J.W. had absolutely no idea who Dee Snider is, but since he probably hasn’t listened to anything but Toby Keith since 1993, I guess we can cut him some slack.
b) All of the boys sniggering suggestively about Kasey Hayes’ girlfriend. Would you want somebody to talk about your sister like that? Just cut it out.
c) J.W.’s remarking that one of the riders drawing a bull owned by his girlfriend’s dad was the contractor getting revenge. That’s beyond tacky.
4) In a related matter that I can’t blame on the commentators (I don’t think), the
Zantrex-3 Insta-Shot Grudge Match sounded like a good idea—till I figured out what Zantrex-3 is. I cannot believe that the PBR has stooped to taking on a sponsor that sells this kind of crap, but clearly that’s what’s happened. Did they cut a deal for free samples for the cowboys, maybe? The commercial for it, with the gal in her red negligee trying to wake her snoring lover up, led me to advise her to smack him with the champagne bottle, which led Montana Barn Cat to bark, he laughed so loud. If I were in her marabou-trimmed boudoir slippers, I’d have beaten him just about senseless.
Really, it makes me long to have Bob back, Bob who was “doing well, very well,” and proved it by carting around a wheelbarrow with a log and two boulders in it. Awful as Bob was, his commercials at least showed an occasional flash of wit. Of course, I can’t remember the name of the product he was peddling to save my life, but of course I can’t forget what it was for. All this leads me to speculate about whether a bunch of male PBR fans are suffering from this malady. As much as I am tempted to comment on that prospect, I think I will hold my tongue, just this once.
5) I also could have cried for Cord McCoy, who looked uncharacteristically solemn while he was waiting for Sean Willingham to ride, and then waiting longer while Sean challenged the judging. It would have been great to see Cord win an event.
6) And while we’re on the subject of crying, I was about in tears when Guilherme bucked off for the second time. He looked really, really tense all weekend. All in all, it was a weepy few hours around the Stockyard.
7) I am willing to concede that perhaps Sean Willingham did have a qualified ride to end the short-go, but would it be too much to ask the judges to show us what led them to reverse themselves? From the angle I (and all the rest of us) had, it looked like Sean just about slapped El Gato into next week. Maybe if the judges weren’t so damned secretive about the process, and were willing to show us whatever video they are reviewing instead of just the damned stopwatch, some of us might be a little less critical when it looks like somebody is getting shafted.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

I Am Mortified

Bodacious was NOT a muley! He had short little horns! I do apologize, folks, I can't believe I made such a stupid mistake. It just goes to show you, you can't trust your visual memory when it comes to bulls and riders. I'll do better next time, I promise.

Monday, June 2, 2008


My dear readers, yesterday the scales fell from my eyes and for the first time in my life, I can truly see! How could I have been so stupid up until now? Since you are all astute and curious folk looking for enlightenment, I’m sure you are dying for me to share the source of my new-found knowledge with you, and how can I refuse you, who have done so much to encourage and support me?

So here goes: A loyal reader pointed out to me a comment that Tater Porter made in “8 seconds (or questions) with Tater Porter” on the PBR website: “Guilherme is having an exceptional season and one main reason is because Justin is out of the way. And, as you can tell, Justin is one of my best friends. Justin is out of the way so Guilherme’s doors are wide open.”

Truly, friends, when I read that, everything became clear to me. JUSTIN MCBRIDE HAS SUPERPOWERS! Why didn’t I figure this out before now? It’s obvious, when you think about it. After all, we all know that all Justin McBride has to do is show up to compete AND EVERYBODY ELSE STARTS FALLING OFF THEIR BULLS! Even guys who are riding 80-plus percent of the time will instantly START FALLING OFF THEIR BULLS! Just because Justin is in the house!

How does he do it? Is it enough that he casts his steely eyes upon them, or is it some sort of thought control? Does he telekinetically mess with their bull ropes or tangle the fringe on their chaps in their spurs? Does he have to slip into a phone booth to do his magic? Or is it more like what happens when I propose something to Montana Barn cat that he thinks is ridiculous, and he says to me, “Why don’t you just jump on your ROCKET CAR and get right on it?”

My life is complete now, and obviously I owe Tater a great debt. Now I can give up watching the PBR altogether, and certainly I won’t have to waste another second marking time during the THREE AND FOUR FULL WEEK stretches between events that hover like a juggernaut on the horizon. Folks, I’m proud to testify that I have been cured of my addiction, saved from my lunacy, I have seen the light, and I will never again make the mistake of thinking that any other cowboy on the planet has the slightest chance of beating Justin McBride this season.

But wait! What’s that I hear? DING DING DING Oh my, they’re wheeling in The Stockyard Queen’s Hoof in Mouth Award and presenting it to Tater Porter! And I thought he was telling me the God’s honest truth! Can it be that everybody doesn’t let their “friendship” with Justin pull his cape completely over their eyes?