Monday, October 20, 2008

Life is Messy

Friends and colleagues, we have arrived at the precipice and now we are looking over the edge and asking ourselves, where did the season go? It seems only yesterday I was bitching about how the PBR had cancelled the Cincinnati event at the last minute— remember that? It was nearly a year ago now! How time flies when you’re having fun!

But we’ve weathered it, all 33 BFTS events, a few Challenger events, the Team Shoot-out, and the Grudge Match, and in two weeks, we will all be glued to the tube, watching the finals in Vegas. If my circumstances were a little different, I’d probably be grateful for the break, since once Vegas starts up there will be no let-up, but I’ve worked at least part of every weekend for the past month, so I’m actually a little bummed that I’ll have no PBR action on my first full weekend off. Maybe I better look for another little job to fill in all the empty hours.

I always get a kick out of the Mohegan Sun Invitational, because it’s at that totally insane Indian casino up in Connecticut, and the interior shots of the crazy waterfalls and so forth cheer me right up. And generally speaking, I was okay with the way the event panned out, since the only competitor who gained any ground on Guilherme was Valdiron. But I would be cheating myself (and my loyal readers) if I didn’t offer up some acerbic observations on the event in particular and the sport in general. I have to warn you that most of what follows is based strictly on my personal prejudices, and of course you are welcome to disagree loudly in the comments field if you feel so moved. Of course, if you want to agree or just “jine in,” as they say where I grew up, you are equally welcome.

Cowboys who came back too soon

There are three riders in particular who have come back from pretty serious injuries recently, and every one of them should have just skipped this event (and quite possibly a few earlier ones) and tried to heal up for the finals. They include Brian Canter (head laceration and broken jaw) and Travis Briscoe (broken leg), neither of whom has ridden worth a damn since returning, and Beau Hill, who is riding with broken ribs and makes me want to mainline morphine every time I watch him climb aboard. I suppose I can’t really understand the pressure on these boys to ride, and of course I know nothing about their financial solvency (or lack thereof), but I find it hard to believe that the chance to win some money will make up for a punctured lung and a long hospital stay in Las Vegas. Canter in particular looks to me like he’s lost all confidence, and why wouldn’t he? He was lucky to get out of that wreck alive and unless he is totally absent upstairs, he has to have thought about that at least once in a while during his extended convalescence. My thanks, by the way, to reader Sheila (Flash of Blue), who pointed out after Hill got hurt that he, too, is a member of the class of 2005.

Cowboys who need to consider a different line of work

In this category, we find various and sundry individuals at various and sundry points in the careers, but did that ever stop me? I hereby recommend that Ned Cross, Matt Bohon, and Jared Farley all take some time off and reassess their options. None of them has ridden squat lately, and frankly it’s a miracle to me that any of them are going to the finals. I’d throw Luke Snyder in that pile, as well, but he’s riding about 50 percent of the time, so it must be my imagination that every time he gets on, I see him flying through the air well before the whistle. I know he won Rookie of the Year about a million years ago, and I know he’s got that Titanium Man thing going, but enough is enough. Bohon in particular looks like he needs to go back to Cole Camp and think about what he might like to do with the rest of his life. Today.

Cowboys who need to retire

In the enough is truly enough category, I put Brian Herman and Ross Coleman, who have both ridden well and badly throughout the season and who just seem to be to be taking up oxygen. Both of them seem like nice enough guys, but I’m ready for some new blood.

Another cowboy who should hang it up is Mike Lee. I’ve never been able to get any sense of Mike’s personality and I gather I’m not alone in that, since even a lot of the other riders seem to find him an enigma, but I really think he’s suffered so many head injuries that the next one could cause him permanent harm, assuming that hasn’t already happened. You have a wife and twin baby boys, Mike, and career winnings of better than $2.5 million. If you won’t give it up for your own sake, do it for them. And for us. None of us likes seeing you lying on the ground while Tandy tries to get you to tell him what your babies’ names are.

And Ednei Caminhas really has to go. He just barely managed to qualify for the finals this weekend, and he practically said himself that it was because he screwed around all season long and then got caught up short when he realized he might not get to go to Vegas. I’d say the fire is gone. Unless you’re planning to sign up for some motivational course during the off-season, make this the last trip, Ednei. It’s time to go home.

Cowboys who need help
If Mike Lee doesn’t retire (and of course he won’t, because he was raised up by a maniac who practically forced him into the sport), then Dr. Tandy or somebody who cares about him should really insist that he go see an expert on head injuries and get the straight skinny on what his status is. I’m not a doctor (though my family is riddled with doctors like some are riddled with cancer), so this is based strictly on my observations, but I don’t think Mike is the same guy I saw the first few years I watched the PBR.

Another dude who needs serious professional help is J.B. Mauney, whose antics after he fails to ride are wearing thin. This weekend, Ty Murray went on and on about how he loves to see that kind of passion, but I say that anybody who throws a temper tantrum before he even gets out of the arena either needs a spanking, like your mamma used to give you when you acted up in the grocery store, or some counseling. People who hit inanimate objects sometimes do hit other people and animals, you know. At this point, the best we can hope for is that he’ll break a toe or a hand instead of cold-cocking some innocent bystander or cowboy who has the poor judgment to mouth off at him. The facts of life tell us that everybody falls off his bull sometimes. Cool your jets, J.B., and show us you can act like a mature individual who takes the bad in stride. If you can’t do it on your own, go talk to somebody who can show you how to cope.

Pleasant surprises
Two riders I was really pleased with this past weekend are Robson Palermo, who is also back from an injury and riding well, and Zack Brown, the bright thread running the wrong way through the pattern and throwing everything off balance. Given how well he’d done early in the season, I’m not entirely stunned that Palermo is back in a big way, but Brown has ridden so hot and cold that it’s a pleasure to watch him when he’s hot. I hope both of them do well at the finals—it would be great if they could end their seasons the way they both started off.

Bulls to watch
Several bulls performed exceptionally well at Mohegan Sun, and since we might not see them again this season, I want to tip my hat to Catie Did it, Whiplash, Hammer Handle, Lil Wicked, and Lil Feller.

But I have to save my big salute for Sir Patrick. What a magnificent animal he is! Owned by Chad Berger, Clay Struve, and Julie Rosen, he has 59 outs on the BFTS and has been ridden only nine times—an 84.7 buck-off rate. He always has the same trip—one big lunge out of the chute with his heels about touching the ceiling, into the spin and then reversing with a sharp, whipping action, and in about 4.15 seconds, the cowboy is usually flying off the bull’s butt and Sir Patrick is ambling to the exit. I could watch him buck all day long.

And guess what—according to the PBR stats, Sir Patrick also is a member of the class of 2005. His first out in the BFTS was in Columbus, when he dumped Sean Willingham and got a bull score of 42.5. Some things never change.

The finals have been a long time coming, haven’t they? Let’s hope they are worth the wait. I could say a lot more as preamble, but for now, I’m ready to park it in front of the television and watch it all play out. See you in Vegas!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Oh, Sweet Bird of Youth

Gentle readers, I greet you today somewhat mollified because on Sunday afternoon, having worked most of Saturday, I managed to watch one hour of X-Treme Bulls in Cody, Wyoming, four hours of the PBR in Cincinnati, and a bonus hour in the form of CW’s series “In Harm’s Way,” which focused on professional bull riders. Thus, I feel like I finally managed to get enough bull riding into my system to keep me from just going crazy under this huge pile of work. Not that I’m complaining about having plenty to do. I feel really fortunate to be in that position, given the way the economy is imploding all around us.

Had I to rank my bull-riding watching, I’d have to say (sorry, Jean and William) that the X-Treme Bulls event, filmed over the 4th of July weekend, just did not cut it. It was pleasant to see the old stomping ground, of course, what with the mountains looming up behind the Cody Stampede stadium, but frankly, the riders were nothing to write home about and the bulls, er, sucked. The only bull I recognized was Nervous Waters, who appears to be on the downhill slide to the packing plant, but he did manage to buck his rider off right smart. One thing I did like about it was that the scores were relatively low, but since just about every cowboy managed to ride, that didn’t help my attitude much. And I was really conflicted about seeing Wesley Silcox, because it only reminded me that after he and Dustin Elliott won the PBR Team Shootout in Molalla, Oregon on August 9, Silcox got stepped on during an X-Treme Bulls event in Bremerton, Washington, on August 24 and suffered a broken leg. I am not sure whether he’s been back in action since, but at the very least, it had to slow him down some.

The PBR events in Oakland and Cincinnati did calm my nerves some, since Guilherme Marchi is riding rather better than he was. He got bucked off his bull in the short-go, but he still came in sixth overall, and J.B. Mauney, Mike Lee, and Valdiron didn’t gain any ground on him. I’m not quite ready to relax totally, but maybe I won’t wake up sweating, worrying about Marchi for a while.

By far the most interesting, though, was the CW show, which documented the run-up to the Tulsa event this season. Naturally it focused way more on Justin McBride than I would have liked, ending up with his 94.5 ride on Voodoo Child. But it also featured Robson Palermo, who is one of my favorite riders, and Mauney, who is not. I was happy to see that Palermo has apparently settled down in Texas with his family and seems to be doing well. But a good portion of the show dealt with Paulo Crimber, who appears to live fairly close to Palermo and was hanging out with him at the ranch. Palermo remarked that Crimber, who was tricked out in the biggest cervical collar I’ve ever seen, had only a 1 percent chance of returning to riding bulls. I hadn’t heard that, of course, since it seems like we never hear much about the truly badly injured on PBR broadcasts. What was the last time you heard Tandy Freeman talk about Paulo Crimber? Chris Shivers? Lee Akin? It’s almost like it’s out of sight, out of mind, or maybe it’s more like it’s bad luck to talk about it.

I am willing to consider that maybe my present state of melancholy was actually brought on by the same thing that lifted my spirits temporarily—that is, watching all that bull riding, pretty much back-to-back, while I tended to various domestic chores of a Sunday afternoon. It just reinforced how inconceivably young these boys are, and how astoundingly tough they are, and how fragile, in the end, we all are.