Friday, August 22, 2008

Viva Chihuahua!

Late as it is, I want to comment on the World Cup, held last weekend in Chihuahua, Mexico, the second time the PBR has gone down there.

1) On the first night, I got a kick out of the Canadians running away with it while the
U.S. team languished in the middle of the pack.

2) I also was very, very gratified by how well Adriano rode—I believe that’s the first time I’ve seen him ride all of his bulls in quite a while. He’s clearly an emotional rider—he has to get fired up to really get focused. And focused he was—you couldn’t have blown him off those bulls with a rocket-propelled grenade. Well done, Adriano!

3) I was somewhat saddened that Guilherme didn’t ride well at all, but since the event didn’t affect the BFTS standings, I really couldn’t get all that worked up about it.

4) I’m sure this will get me in trouble, but I just can’t understand what the big deal is about the Australians. I only saw Troy Dunn during the last couple years of his career, so I probably didn’t see him at his best, but the rest of these guys just aren’t showing me anything. Brenden Clark? Jared Farley? You boys need to bring it, or go home.

5) Although the U.S. team did step it up to win the event, the plain fact of the matter is the Canadians choked on the second night. It was theirs to lose, and lose they did.

6) Rocky McDonald is one of my favorite riders, and it was a pleasure watching him ride well for the Mexican team. It’s a shame his success didn’t help the team much, but I loved hearing the audience cheer for one of their own.

Watching it reminded me of José Pedraza Zúñiga, who won the silver medal in the 20K race walk at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. Most people remember those Olympics because Tommie Smith and John Carlos made the Black Power salute on the medal podium (and got banned from the Olympics for life for it), and Dick Fosbury changed the high jump forever by going over the bar backward, but I can never forget that moment when Zúñiga entered the stadium and the crowd realized a Mexican was in contention for a medal.

I’m not sure that he knew when he crossed the finish line that he’d taken the silver, but the audience certainly knew it, and they screamed and cheered as he stumbled around on the track, clutching his head in disbelief. When finally it sank in on him what he’d accomplished, he made a perfect matador bow, stiff from the waist, his head nearly touching his thighs, his heels tightly pressed together. I was about 13 and mystified by all the excitement, till my dad explained, “They are his people.”

Just thinking about it makes me tear up. Of course, I tear up watching M*A*S*H reruns, so you can take all that with a grain of salt.

7) At the risk of beating a dead horse, I had to laugh when I read Sean Willingham’s complaint that since everybody spoke Spanish in Mexico, he really couldn’t tell what’s going on. (I guess I should be thankful he didn't say they spoke "Mexican.") Glad to see you might just be another average ’Merikin redneck, Sean, and thanks for representing us so well on the world stage. I’m sure it’s a huge surprise to you that not everybody else on the planet is interested in accommodating your ignorance. I hope to hell you at least had the grace to learn how to say “hello” and “thank you” in the language of the land before you went down there.

8) It appeared to me that the Mexican people totally offered the PBR their legendary hospitality, which makes me want to get down there pretty much immediately.

9) Next year, the World Cup is going to Brazil! How cool is that?

10) Mostly, though, I wondered while I was watching whether these guys worry in the slightest about getting hurt in these non-BFTS events. I’m probably just hung over because Brian Canter got so badly hurt during the Paso Robles Shoot-out, but I still think the issue deserves some thought.

Riders routinely strut around saying stuff like, “I ain’t afraid of no bull,” and “If you’re afraid to die, don’t ride bulls for a living,” but it seems to me that anyone with any sense would at least have to consider that riding in such events might not be worth the risk.

Of course, then we have the other extreme, demonstrated this very week, when guys like Travis Briscoe decide to ride in amateur rodeos and end up with broken bones and an extended absence from the Built Ford Tough Series. It’s time for some of these guys to recognize that bull riding is their livelihood—if you don’t ride, you don’t get paid, and if you can ride at the highest level, and get paid accordingly, why in the world would you jeopardize that? Are you really that hard up? Tell me, Travis—was it worth it?

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Bull Diaries

The Stockyard Queen is proud to present Mr. SoCal Jay's rendition of the Paso Robles Shoout-out, for your edification. A few editorial notes:

1) Bulls that have no horns are called "muleys," and any bull can be hornless regardless of breed.
2) The rider who got hurt is Brian Canter. At first blush, it looked like a very bad injury, but it turns out he only has a broken jaw, a serious gash to the back of his head, and facial injuries. In other words, he can walk and won't have any lingering brain damage, which makes it a tolerable accident in bull riding terms.

Without further ado, I give you

Episode 3: Deliverance

Hallahooya, ye brethren! I have observed my very first PBR event—at least on the telly, anyway—and it’s almost as good as my first kiss, lo those many years ago. Like that kiss, the one-hour telecast of the “Paso Robles Shootout” was all too brief. But it was a KISS, if you get my drift . . . .

A brief report:

- The very first bull we saw on the telecast started slamming his horns and head into the gate as the cowpoke got on top of him. Pam said, “Geez!” I said something like, “Doesn’t look too friendly in there, eh?”

- About three or four rides later, during a slow-mo replay of the ride, I noticed about a gallon or so of bull snot and/or slobber flying in all directions. Utterly delighted, I said, “Whoa! Did you see all that stuff FLYING, Baby?” She replied, “Yeah. Ewww. That’s NASTY.” (And as I recall, one of the bulls was named “Snot Slinger,” or something like that. Beautiful!)

- One bull didn’t have horns. Pam said, “Hey! He doesn’t have horns! Are you sure that’s just not a mean-ass cow? I love it!” I replied, “I’d like to think so, ’cause that would be a beautiful thing, in many appropriate ways. But, no, the Stockyard Queen tells me that there is a breed that don’t got no horns. He’s probably one of them. Sorry.”

- A rider, bucked off, took a damn hard hoof to his head/face. Just laid there motionless in the dirt, afterward. They took him to the hospital on a stretcher. Wish I’d thought to write down his name. Hope he’s OK. Hope he’s OK. Hope he’s OK.

- At one point, the announcer said something like, “Well, that bull ain’t helping him at all.” Pam asked, “What does that mean?” I guessed, not really knowing but having a hunch, “Means the bull isn’t being Bad enough, I think. Phoning it in. If you’re a bull rider looking for points, Bad is Good. It’s a Zen thing, cowboy style.”

After all was said and done, I wanted way, way more. (The “Molalla Shootout” is on ESPN2—a channel I get—this Saturday at high noon!) But ya know what? Sometimes a simple, initial kiss is a damn fine introduction. Yip.

Busted, Disgusted, and (We) Can’t be Trusted

We have a confession to make, and it’s about as embarrassing as anything we’ve divulged to our loyal readers. So here goes: We totally missed the Shoot-out in Paso Robles this weekend. When I tell you why, you may decide you want nothing further to do with our lame asses. All I can do is hang my head in shame and beg for forgiveness.

It all started, as have some of our least auspicious adventures, when Montana Barn Cat loaded up Xena with a bunch of dried-up paint cans and a dead tree and headed to the dump. Now, for about the first year we lived here, we could take our detritus to a landfill in town, which weirdly overlooks a subdivision full of houses with million-plus-dollar price tags, but I guess the folks who live out there got tired of having dirty stinky dump trucks rumble past and of fighting off the approximately one bazillion seagulls who lived up there, snacking on trash, and they decided to throw their weight around.

The upshot is that the city closed that landfill and directed us to take whatever we couldn’t foist off on the garbage men to a dump way west of here. Fortunately, it is located right on the interstate, so even though it’s roughly 20 miles away, you only need about 15 minutes at the state-mandated speed limit of 75 miles per hour and one left turn to rid yourself of all the crap that’s been crowding the car out of the garage for the past year. Xena in particular was pleased to participate in this exploit, since it means she now has a roof over her head. Considering that three weeks ago we had a record-breaking thunderstorm pass through, with winds topping 60 miles per hour and golf-sized hail, that’s an outcome worthy of applause.

So Barn Cat headed out and I settled down to watch Unbreakable, a very underappreciated flick, on the tube. Finally it occurred to me that it was taking him unusually long to get back, even if he’d had to carry those thousand paint cans out of the truck one at a time. Then he suddenly stumbled in, ranting and raving, and that’s when the trouble started.

Seems he’d found an old house that he thought would be perfect for us to buy and rehabilitate. Some of you may not know that we are addicted to rehabbing old houses—between us, we’ve worked on about five, including a joint effort on a 1904 Craftsman in the Garvanza district of Los Angeles that very nearly did us in. It’s been more than 10 years and I still can’t look a putty knife in the face. The only good news was that the paint in that house wasn’t lead-based, since I spent the better part of three years scraping it off the woodwork. It’s fortunate that whoever decided to “colonialize” that house is dead, because I’d still like to slap him/her into next week.

But though we curbed our lust for broken-down old houses that take every dime and spare minute we’ve got when we moved to Bozeman, we aren’t cured, not by a long shot. I can’t even claim that Barn Cat was entirely at fault, because what happened the second he roared in here telling me all about his find? Did I maturely counsel him to sit down and breathe deeply? Did I point out to him all the potential pitfalls to his proposal? Did I just keep my mouth shut and take a big swig of Jack Daniels and wait for him to come to his senses? NO! I immediately jumped into Xena’s passenger seat and demanded that he drive me out to the scene of the crime, so I could assess the situation personally.

By the time we got back, the Shoot-0ut was long over, and I regret to state that since ESPN2, unlike Versus, apparently doesn’t run their programs over and over and over, the Paso Robles event most likely is lost to us forever. We literally didn’t remember till we closed the front door behind us again that we’d been sitting on the edges of our seats for more than a week, slobbering in anticipation for it. I have never felt like less of a devoted PBR fan than I did in that moment.

I’m feeling a little better now, but that’s mostly because SoCal Jay has come to my rescue with a report on the coverage of the Shoot-out that I’ll post here in just a few hours. For some reason, the whole experience reminds me of how much grace Michael Phelps showed this past week when he opted to take part in three relay races at the Olympics, even though that meant he was handing control of whether he would reach his goal of eight gold medals to his teammates. I can only be grateful that yet again, one of my friends has saved my bacon, and I can only hope that the rest of you will forgive us for letting one addiction trump another.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Jay's First Time

So while Montana Barn Cat and I were wallowing in anguish over our sad-sack performance in arranging for Mr. SoCal Jay to see some bull riding, that fine gentleman took matters into his own hands. A few days ago, we received this missive:


My toes are curling with anticipation. My
nipples are getting hard. This very Sunday, August 17th, the “Paso Robles Shootout” is being broadcast on ESPN 2 at 2:00 P.M., Pacific Standard Time.

We GET that channel here at home!

It’s only an hour-long televised viewing, from the looks of things. And my guess is that the PBR event took place a way’s back. But so what?! The “first time” is usually quite memorable for everyone, eh?

Loveys, Jay

Jay, you are a better man than we are, and we heartily hope that the first time will be grand for you. We will be watching too, though we aren't sure yet that it will run at the same time out here. Nevertheless, we promise to stay close to the telephone, in case you feel the need to holler at somebody who can actually respond to your exclamations. And we look forward to hearing all about it next week!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Built Ford Tough Invitational Presented by Cooper Tires in Glendale, Arizona, Part Deux

The Stockyard proudly presents the second half of Jean Hamman's report on the Glendale event. I am so glad to finally be able to post this. I most warmly thank Jean for going to the trouble to write this up in such entertaining style. Enjoy!

After Party Fun, sort of:

An applicable quote from William’s blog: “If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it.” ~Albert Einstein

After the event, we had a long walk to our parking place and 10 to 20 minutes to kill before traffic cleared enough to make leaving possible. During that time, we tossed around the idea of going to the After Party. We’re not party people. We’re wallflower, homebody types. We told ourselves it might be fun to step out of our normal lives for an hour, if only to have new stories to tell. We knew the name of the party venue and had a vague idea where it was, but no address or even cross streets to direct us. I called the eldest child, 27 years old, a fact which will become important later, who gave us directions with assistance from Google Maps. The Wigwam Resort was a mere hop, skip, and long jump from the event. We thought it odd that a PBR After Party would be held at the Wigwam, but we decided to go check it out, since it was closer than home. We could always leave quickly if it was too uncomfortable. It was 100 degrees in that parking lot even at 10:30 p.m. Perhaps our brains baked in the 20 minutes it took us to come to this decision.

As a member in good standing of Team PBR, I would like to volunteer right now to handle the planning for the After Party of next year’s Glendale PBR event. I don’t know whether to blame sponsor politics or just really poor planning for the particularly uncomfortable and non-festive atmosphere of this year’s meet and greet, but someone needs to be tied across the saddle of his horse and run out of town for that travesty.

As I pictured what a PBR After Party would be like over the past eight months, I envisioned crowded cowboy bars. Nice venues, not hole-in-the-wall dives, but definitely having a comfortable cowboy flavor. I did not expect the Wigwam Resort and Spa. This is a swanky spot. This is not a good ol’ boy hangout. This is a Lexus only/all others will be towed kind of place. The “Valet Parking Available” parking lot would have spit Reese Cates’ $2,000 van back onto the street and given it a hearty shove down the road.

Not only was the venue a poor choice, but the chosen venue seemed completely unprepared. Did someone spend all of five minutes planning this “party”? There were only three sit-down tables and two tall tables. The only chairs in evidence were around the three sit-down tables. This meant that my wheelchair would put me right at the rather personal level of belt buckle or butt with anyone we might meet unless they were at one of the sit-down tables, a fact which will become important later. There were three tiny makeshift bars set against three walls serving vastly overpriced drinks. I could have bought a small bottle of JD for what we paid for one small JD and mostly coke. On the fourth wall was a sound system of sorts and someone would run over to it periodically to change the music. At least there was a big screen TV in one corner showing some past PBR event. Please let me do this next year. I could have 10 times the party, snacks included, lined up in an hour.

What was fun about this party? Sitting in the back of the room, amusing ourselves with our own wit was big fun. William: “I wonder if those Copenhagen Girls fit between cheek and gum?” Me: “Well, now we know why Cord McCoy smiles so much. He only has to ride enough bulls to stay on tour so he can go to the After Parties.” Cord is one of the few U.S. riders we root for on weekends. We don’t care that his riding is inconsistent. We care that his good attitude is consistent. He falls off, he laughs, he rides, he laughs. He looks like someone we would enjoy knowing whether we agreed with him on issues or not. He makes us smile. I’m here to tell you that the boy is the same smiling, twinkling-eyed person we see on TV. Cord seems to be all about enjoying himself and he spreads that enjoyment around. He especially spreads that enjoyment to cute young ladies, who flock to that smile like tacks to a magnet. Every curvaceous young woman in attendance hit the tiny dance floor for a twirl with Cord. That’d be enough to make any young man smile.

We were amazed at the behavior of the other bull riders in attendance. Would you believe those boys are wallflowers? Four of our favorite riders were in attendance and only Cord behaved as if his boots were not super-glued to the carpet. Mike White stood in the same spot for an hour. Renato Nunez disappeared almost as soon as he arrived, probably hiding in a dark corner and trying to remain unnoticed. Guilherme glued himself to a wall at the very back of the room, next to one of the dinky makeshift bars, and as William noted, he had to buy his own drink. We couldn’t make ourselves believe that this was Guilherme Marchi. There were no bevies of breathless beauties surrounding him. He was not being accosted by every fan in the room. He was alone, against a wall, having to shell out money earned by bruised bones for overpriced drinks. Ya’d think either the PBR or the sponsors at Wigwam could have covered the man’s drinks, for heaven’s sake. Not hard to imagine why we didn’t see riders like Reese Cates there. Aside from the facts his van wouldn’t be allowed, and that he's underage, he and three other guys would have to share a JD and coke to afford one.

Nevertheless, the wallflower at the back of the room was indeed Guilherme. I knew it the second I saw him pass through the shadows toward the back of the room. “Honey, it’s Guilherme, I’d recognize that jaw anywhere!” I whispered urgently. We tried to convince ourselves it couldn’t possibly be him. William finally decided he’d go on a reconnaissance mission and slipped casually across the room (not easy for a 6'4" man in a room sparsely filled with short buckle bunnies, short old folks, and short bull riders), as if just stepping out to the men’s room. When he came back, he grabbed the handles of my wheelchair and said with a bit too much determination, “C’mon, you are going to meet Guilherme Marchi.” It was at that point, on those words, that everything I’d planned to say began pouring out of both ears and soaking into the plush carpeting. In William’s determined (determined not to chicken out) march toward Marchi, we steamed right past Mike White, who looked at me and smiled brightly. I about got whiplash turning my head to meet him but we whizzed passed before I could say anything. He looked amused. I suppose I should be glad we amused him at our own expense, because he and his fellow bull riders certainly entertain the heck out of us, at their own expense, on weekends.

The After Party Horror

From William: I had the whole speech worked out in advance: “I’ve been a fan of yours for a long time, and I feel that this is your year and I wish you the best of luck.” But what came out? “Errr, haberdashers, you know, nine-iron woodsman poker handle! Crumpets!” And Guilherme, being a pleasant and affable sort, smiles and nods and says, “Thank you very much.” (You can read the rest of William’s After Party Saga by clicking the link.)

I too had many speeches planned out over the last eight months. If I met Guilherme, I’d tell him we cheered him on every weekend. I’d ask about that darling new July baby of his and how he’d feel if the lad grew up wanting to ride bulls. I’d tell him we thought he was consistently underscored. I’d tell him that we appreciated the excellent sportsmanship of every young man on Team Brazil and that it was their attitudes even more than their talent that made us their fans. I had so many things to ask and tell that I planned to force him to sit with us old farts for a while and share a beer and conversation. What did I manage to stammer out as I sat there, level with his belt buckle, craning my neck back and staring up at that jawline, brilliant smile, and thick eyelashes?

“Guilherme, it’s wonderful to meet you,” and “We are planning a trip to Dallas just so we can eat at your restaurant!” And then no further words could be forced up my throat.

My mouth opened and closed like a boated bass. I wanted to die right there on the designer carpet, in this swanky resort, in the dark, amidst the out-of-place cowboy boots. “Do you want to meet anyone else?” William asks. “No. I’m done.” I answered meekly, fighting the urge to pull my shirt up over my head. I’m hoping Guilherme’s English skills only extend to English which makes sense and not to the English of shy, blithering, star-struck idiots. Don’t correct that thought, please, it’s the only way I’m getting to sleep at night.

Getting old isn’t for sissies. Actually, the real problem with aging is that my thought processes have stayed pretty much the same except that paying bills became more important than going bar-hopping. The worst thing about getting old is that one day, and it will come to you, the big two by four of life smacks you in the head and says “GET A GRIP! YOU AREN’T 25 ANYMORE.”

Sunday morning, as I was between barn chores and trying not to think of those inch-long eyelashes, the perfect smile, and the jawline that makes the man instantly recognizable to bad eyes across a darkened room, I happened to look up his rider profile. To my abject horror, I found that the kid is only 26 years old. My youngest child is 26 years old. Guillherme is, in fact, one month and 12 days younger than my youngest child. A kid younger than my youngest child had, in three minutes time, turned me to gibbering mush. I was torn between the need to vomit and the desire to just go to bed for the rest of my life, which would end in about ten minutes, the way I felt at the time. Then I told myself to cowgirl up. Next time, I’ll be damned if I blither like a moron at a kid half my age. If I can’t conduct an intelligent interview stone sober, I’ll just have four or five more overpriced Jack and cokes and truly embarrass myself by saying something like, “Come shit on mammash knee, shweetie.”

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Built Ford Tough Invitational Presented by Cooper Tires in Glendale, Arizona

Yet again, the Stockyard Queen is offering up a guest post by loyal reader and die-hard PBR fan Jean Hamman, who was fortunate enough to attend the PBR event in Glendale a week ago. Since we try not to spoil the fun for those who have to wait to see the broadcast, I have been holding onto this for nearly a week and believe me, that was almost as hard as sticking out a drought of PBR action without going on a bender. I am very honored to present for your entertainment Jean's observations, and I invite you to return later in the week, when she will be back with details of the after-party she and her husband attended.

Jean is the proprietress of Abraxan Mini Farm, where she raises miniature horses. Click on the link to go to her website and see her memorable post titled "Why We Love to Watch Bull Riding." You can also see pictures there of her lovely little horsies.

Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to my virtual friend and wickedly funny commentator, Jean Hamman:

Due to the unexpected death of my father and the ensuing trip to Louisiana to help sort through 50-plus years of accumulated “stuff,” I didn’t know if I would be able to attend the PBR event in Glendale this year. We’d planned to go since the beginning of the year, as we were desperate to see Adriano ride before his retirement. He hadn’t been at the event here last year, so this would be our last chance. I was exhausted and heartsick this week and daily asked myself, “Do you really feel like going to this event?” Each time the answer was, “I really want to go!” Wanting to go and feeling like going are two different things. Finally, at the last minute on Friday afternoon, I caved in to the side of me that just plain wanted to go whether I felt like it or not. While the final results were not what we had wished, we still had a great time. There were lots of wild wrecks, a worrisome number of hang-ups, a bullfighter down, people-watching opportunities, and the end result did not affect the awesome lead of our man Guilherme Marchi.

We didn’t have the parade of the new Army recruits this year. Instead, we had the parade of the Border Patrol. Several agents were introduced, then came the color guard, then came the mounted patrol. Personally, if I knew my horse was going to have to parade behind flapping flags, pass a couple of giant bull heads, and walk into an arena surrounded by a cheering crowd, I’d have worked with the animal a bit beforehand to avoid injury or embarrassment. I thought for a minute that this wasn’t the PBR, it’s a RO-DE-O! None of the horses was standing still. They were all side-stepping and whirling in circles. One kept backing into another trying to get away from the flags, another was non-stop rearing to the point that he almost went over backward. His rider had to bail out and stand for the remainder of the exhibition, trying, with only moderate success, to keep the horse calm. After the singing of the National Anthem, the horses were the first to leave and they did so in a big screaming hurry. The fellow who had to eject earlier was all but dragged out of the arena by his horse, who had just plain had enough of this noisy human foolishness. We don’t think the horses will be invited back next year.

One of the Flaming Bull Heads (FBHs) misfired during the introduction, so only one snorted flame. We thought of Stockyard Queen. The flaming hoop the riders had to enter through during the introductions was having some difficulties as well and wouldn’t stay lit. The fountains of sparks went off without a hitch and we wondered aloud if there had ever been a Michael-Jackson-style accident during the opening pyrotechnics.

The event itself started off with a bang for us bull fans. The first three riders were off in six seconds or less. This included one of our favorite riders, Dustin Elliot. He’s one of our favorites because he’s the only U.S. bull rider who dares to speak real English rather than fluent Texan, Redneck, or Good ol’ Boy. We love his tongue-in-cheek PBR commercial and, thus, when he came off his bull in about six seconds, we felt compelled to yell “It’s only eight seconds, how hard can it be?!”

Wiley Peterson rode but then the bulls came back with seven straight impressive buck-offs in which J.B. and Crazy Eddie tried to see whose head was hardest. Pistol got hung up on Astro and I think if you measured his left arm today, it’d be about four inches longer than his right. Briscoe got Shanghaied, Guilherme got pitched (we groaned), and Beau Hill got flung straight into the pole cam. I can’t remember which bull it was, but it was an 82.something score and William nudged me. “You can get 82 points for riding an ottoman? I can do that.” There was another bull that all but stopped bucking and I nudged William. “Honey, your horse bucks harder than that bull. You could do that too.” William owns a 26-inch-tall buckskin miniature horse with attitude that walks along between his knees.

We have a new Brazilian on the scene named Pim Rosa. He had a great ride on a good bull and rides in the style of a young Adriano. Mike Lee didn’t win his $5,000 from Enterprise, but he did have an impressive ride before he left the chute. The sliding gate between his chute and the next opened and the bull and Mike charged from one into the other. I’m not sure how he survived that but he was fine, nodded for the gate anyway, and promptly got dumped. Perhaps not his wisest decision. Renato had Blizzard in the championship round but the bull sent him flying back into the chute in short order. That was a shame. Last year at this event, Guilherme broke that bull’s unridden record.

By now, I’m hoping you all got to see Ednei’s near Darwin Award experience. After his ride, and before anyone could blink, he hopped onto the shark cage and threw himself backwards in what started out to be a graceful arc. One millisecond after his feet left the platform, his after-ride adrenalin rush petered out and his sense of mortality kicked in. He twisted in midair so that he could at least see the spot of dirt he was about to die on, and came down on his palms and head. He walked away, but not without a lot of ribbing.

I won’t go into any more details on the rides, wrecks, and dumb stunts, as that begins to sound like a grocery list, heavy on the hamburger, after a very short while. We didn’t mind that Clayton Williams won simply because it doesn’t affect Marchi’s lead, though we’d much rather have seen Guilherme win and have his lead grow further. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that what we really want is for that lead to grow as wide as Secretariat’s 31-length lead in the Belmont Stakes where no other contenders in the field had a snowball’s chance in Phoenix of catching him even if he’d slowed to a walk. We want Guilherme to enter the finals with a lead so astronomical that the points fairy, blind, clueless, or xenophobic judges, and bad luck combined cannot possibly take that well-deserved win away from him.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Bull Diaries, Episode Two

Friends and neighbors, this has been a dreadful week around the Stockyard, what with our devastating disappointment in the coverage of Tulsa and our consequent lackluster enthusiasm for the Edmonton event. Hard on the heels of all that came the news that cute little Brian Canter, whom the Stockyard Queen could probably rope, throw, and brand with one hand tied behind her back, was seriously injured during the first PBR Shootout in Paso Robles, California. Fortunately, it turned out that the wreck looked way worse than it was, but knowing that it's coming hardly makes me want to rush down to see the dreadful deed enacted this Sunday.

So just to top off the week in the style in which it began, I offer up Mr. SoCal Jay's description of the big PBR viewing at The Deer Lodge last Sunday. My dear colleagues, read it and weep.

Episode Two: Our hero walks into a terrible wilderness.

I guess I should’ve known it wasn’t gonna work out when I couldn’t attach my spurs to my flip-flops, no matter how hard I tried.

But other than that, I was ready, Freddy, to watch my first PBR event on the telly. (Montana Barn Cat had arranged the viewing at The Deer Lodge, here in Ojai, California.) Had my photographer/bodyguard, Wink, and my angel/wife, Pam, in tow. Had a printout of the draw/results from the “Express Classic” in Tulsa folded up in my back pocket. Within ten minutes, we’d secured a prime spot for viewing at the corner of the bar. The bartender had a crummy-looking goat roper hat on, and one of three TVs over the bar was Right There. Open pit BBQ outside. Things were coming together quite nicely. . . .

Ten minutes later, as visions of “Booger Butt” butt-busting a cowboy danced through my head, we still hadn’t been visited by the bartender. Turns out it was his very first shift as a barkeep, and he was having troubles. (Nice guy. But he needs more training, or another line of work.) We placed our food orders, then I asked, “Would it be possible to put on the ‘Versus’ channel? It’s bull riding.” He replied, “Any idea what channel number it is?” No, I didn’t. (Most bars, I thought, had satellite service. We don’t have that at our house.) “Well,” he said, “let’s see if we can find it.” He reached up, and started clicking from channel to channel. Watching the channel numbers go by, I noticed he had the same service we did. Which is to say, not much. Then, maybe halfway through his heroic search, he was interrupted by other bartenderly duties.

A while later, as a vision of “Woodpecker Lips” ripping the lips off some cowpoke played in my head, we asked him to resume his search. “If you can find the bulls,” I said, “there’s an easy five bucks for ya.” Wink thought that to be an absurd, reckless proposition, but I’ve spent more for less.

Going up and back through the channels, no bulls. He then checked with a waitress wearing a black Stetson at the end of the bar. I happen to know she’s worked at The Deer Lodge for a year or so. Coming back, he said, “Unless it’s on basic cable, we don’t have it. Sorry.”

So that was that, I figured, except for our meal. But midway through my pulled-pork sandwich, I thought: “What about ‘Que Time’? They advertise: “Make us your favorite sports bar!” It was only five o’clock. Still an hour left in the broadcast. And they were only a block from home!

So we went home to throw in another load of Wink’s laundry (long story), and I called “Que Time.” Did they get Versus? “What’s the channel number?” “I don’t know. Aren’t you guys satellite?” “No. We’re cable, and if it costs extra, we don’t get it.”

Well, I get it. Ojai has many attributes, but cutting-edge technology at beer bars and barbecue joints and my own barn ain’t one of 'em.

So it goes, I guess. If you get bucked off, you pick yourself up out of the dirt and try again, eh? And what’s that old saying? Something like: “All things come to he who waits.” I’ll wait. It’ll happen. I’ve got an iron or two in the fire.

Meanwhile, out back after yesterday’s wreck, I’m looking over the printout, sipping on a beer with Pam and Wink. It’s hot out there, but not too. “Ah,” I say. “'Scene of the Crash.’ You know who owns that bull?” They both look at me like I’m the stupidest person on earth to ask such a question. My mind ain’t all that sharp these days, so I say, “Who’s the guy with the Scotch in his hand, on the ‘Blue Collar Tour’?” Wink says, “Ron White!” I say, “Yeah. That’s him. And that’s HIS bull.” They both answer, essentially, “No way!”

“Way,” I say. “I don’t really know this stuff, yet, but I’ve seen clips of him online. To me, anyway, he’s one bad-ass bull.”

Then, over more beers and cheap wine and the last two inches of Jack Daniel’s and Pam and Wink trying to hit a ping-pong ball into the fountain from the porch with a golf club to win a nickel—first one in, wins--it got weird.

- Jay

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Don't Take Me Back to Tulsa

If you have dropped by here at all in the past six weeks, you know that the Stockyard Queen and Montana Barn Cat have been suffering mightily because of the dearth of televised PBR events. You probably also know that the event in Tulsa took place July 18-20, but the broadcast was delayed till Saturday, August 2, while Versus covered the Tour de France ad nauseam. Honestly, it was so wall-to-wall that I’m surprised we didn’t get to see the riders peeing into little cups, which is where the real action in that sporting event takes place.

And you might even know that the Stockyard Queen begged her most loyal readers not to talk about the results of the Tulsa and Edmonton events, so she might have the pleasure of seeing them for herself. You have all behaved admirably—I could not have asked for more.

Now, some people think that anytime you anticipate (maybe “salivate for” is a better description) anything for too long, you’re headed for a letdown. Probably I should have taken that into account, but nothing could have prepared me for how profoundly disappointed I was with the coverage of the Express Classic Presented by Creek Nation Casino last Saturday night.

The program departed completely from the usual PBR offering. The footage was severely edited—we didn’t see anything like all the riders—and the commentators talked about each ride like it was something that happened, well, two weeks ago. Which obviously it did, but after waiting for six weeks to see any bull riding, knowing full well that anytime I wanted, I could find out what had happened, and abstaining from doing so, I was terribly distressed to see the gate open for Mike White’s ride on Troubadour and to hear Justin McKee say, “This was one of the greatest rides in PBR history.”

Thanks, Justin. Thank you so much. But I really can’t single Justin out—all of the commentators were doing it. And frankly I can’t fault any of the rest of them either, since it became abundantly clear that they were sort of chagrined by it as well. I swear they sounded like they were all sitting in a hot tub at Club Med, drinking pina coladas and watching the footage and once in a while saying, “Oh, yeah, here’s that great ride again! Watch him make this correction!” At one point, there was footage of J.W. Hart behind the chutes and McKee remarked, “Hey, J.W., how can you be there and here at the same time?” “I’m multitalented,” J.W. intoned.

Well, I’ve got news for you boys—the coverage was BORING, which is the one thing I’d never expect to experience, watching the PBR. It was BORING despite the fact that PBR livestock director Cody Lambert said, “Since we’ve started the PBR, we’ve had three performances like that.” It was BORING, no matter how much McKee and J.W. harped about what a great event it had been.

How BORING was it? I got up about half an hour into it and cooked a five-course dinner and lit candles and put on my French maid outfit. Well, actually, that’s a lie, but the fact of the matter is, I could have, and probably I should have, instead of sitting there getting more and more pissed off as the boys rambled on like they were all comatose, except for when they just had to tell me what happened before the ride even got started. At least I would have been doing something useful instead of throwing two hours of my life away. It was exactly like saving yourself for marriage and then, after the big event, wondering why you bothered.

Obviously, the PBR is only one outfit that’s covered on Versus, and I suspect that Versus has longstanding arrangements to cover the Stanley Cup, and the Tour de France, but please, guys, don’t do this to me ever again. Frankly I’d rather go without than have to suffer through anything so dull. If I want to bore myself silly, I’ll just go read the tax code or clip coupons or something. That would have been a better investment.