Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This is a True Story

I received the March 2009 issue of Pro Bull Rider magazine yesterday, which includes a nice story about Ryan Dirteater. Of course, it made me very sad because Ryan has since broken his femur and will be lucky to get back in action any time soon. But the call-out on the cover, "The Name's Dirteater, Get Used to It," reminded me of a story my brother told me years ago.

After I was grown and gone from home, my family lived in a town close to the Oklahoma border, and a lot of Cherokee folk lived in the little communities over in the edge of Oklahoma. My brother made friends with one of his classmates, who was Cherokee and whose last name was "Glory."

So one day my brother, who would ask the devil himself pretty much any question that came into his head, and would enjoy the conversation up till the moment the devil got tired of it and vaporized his inquisitor, asked his friend how he came by that last name. The friend replied that when his grandfather enlisted in the military, the recruiter asked him what his last name was, and Grandfather replied with the English translation of his Cherokee name: "Dog."

The recruiter probably sputtered a little when he informed Grandfather that "Dog" was not an proper name for an American soldier. Grandfather replied, "Okay, put my name down as 'Glory,' then."

Descendants of that man call still themselves by the last name he chose for himself on that day. But if you go out to the little cemetery where Grandfather is buried, on his headstone you'll find the name "Dog."

Monday, March 30, 2009

I'm the Pot, and I'm Calling the Kettle Black

Gentle Readers, last week was pure hell here at the Stockyard, for reasons professional and private that I won’t burden you with. Suffice it to say I was so mired in the mess that I paid scant attention to the permutations of the big Kody Lostroh versus J.B. Mauney challenge, finally held on Friday night at the Ty Murray Invitational in Albuquerque. I did notice, just for a second, that suddenly it was being billed as “East Versus West,” instead of “Number One Versus Number Two,” and of course I knew that this change in midstream came about because our hero Guilherme Marchi outrode Mr. Mauney AND Mr. Lostroh in Tacoma. Suddenly, Mauney wasn’t Number Two anymore. Quelle quandary!

I really didn’t have time to follow all the discussions, so I am grateful to the splendid Jaye of the Tarheel State for telling me that apparently after Marchi nudged Mauney out of second position, some fans helpfully pointed out that the “Number One Versus Number Two” appellation wasn’t accurate anymore. Soon enough, somebody changed the name of the challenge to match the circumstances. I don’t have a problem with that, really—I happen to think that the ability to adjust to changing situations is one mark of professionalism, and, indeed, of good sense. Now that you know that about me, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that I thought young Cody Ford was out of his mind when he explained his determination to ride with a concussion and a stiff neck by saying, “I’ve never turned a bull out in my life. I was going to get on no matter what.” There’s brave, and then there’s stupid, and I’m sure you can guess which label I’d apply to Mr. Ford.

But I also imagine that a lot of fans thought Marchi should be given the chance to ride against Lostroh, and if I’d been running the show, that’s exactly what would have happened. Still, I suppose somebody somewhere must have felt that the tide couldn’t be turned and the show must go on, as billed.

The remarkable aspect about this whole drama, however, is that after all that hype and hoopla and hurrahing, the challenge was barely covered—at all. At intermission on Saturday, Versus aired clips of Lostroh and Mauney falling off their respective bulls the night before, and nobody, not one soul, said a single word about the results, or speculated on who “won,” or indeed said anything at all about it beyond, “This is what happened.” Furthermore, I couldn't find one word posted on the PBR website about it. Given that the PBR website is genuinely confusing and difficult to navigate, maybe I'm just not looking in the right place. It wouldn't be the first time that's happened to me. But considering that the run-up was all over the home page, reasonable people might expect to find some report of the outcome there, as well.

Now, I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten up on Monday morning, full of vim and vigor and vitality, and sworn with God as my witness that I would post on “Turn Him Out!” five times in the coming five days, and made a list of possible subjects to scrutinize, and started off on the straight and narrow, only to be sidetracked right out of the chute and, metaphorically speaking, pitched face down on the arena floor by a host of other obligations, my own self. I’m embarrassed to confess that I know all about follow-through and the lack thereof. Fortunately, I’ve finally come to my senses and learned not to announce that I plan to write the grand treatise on bull riding over the course a week, because some damned thing always comes up to derail me.

But I still can’t understand why the PBR didn’t do a better job of handling this controversy. The difference between them and me is obvious—I work for a living, I work for myself for a living, and if I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Nobody is going to go hungry if I don’t post on the blog five times a week. The folks at the PBR have an obligation to fans and riders to finish what they start. Their handling of the challenge suggests that they are slinking off and trying to pretend that nothing happened here. Here’s a bulletin from the Stockyard Queen: That ain’t the Cowboy Way.

Monday, March 23, 2009

I Hope the Rest of the Week Goes Better Than It's Starting Off

Gentle readers, I am so bummed. Yesterday morning, our cable box suddenly developed a hiccup. First, it had no audio, then it had neither audio nor video, then finally (after I'd spent a half hour on the phone with a cable company tech), it had both audio and video for about 30 seconds, at which point it would considerately turn itself off.

So here we are, stranded in a high country snowstorm with no television. We missed the ongoing sagas of the PBR and Breaking Bad, and the season finale of Big Love, and since the cable company can't get anybody out here to fix the box before tomorrow morning, we will also miss 24 tonight. This is no way to start off the week.

Please, please take pity on me and enlighten me. I know that Ryan Dirteater broke his leg, but what happened on Sunday night? I can always look at the results on the PBR website, but they can't possibly tell me as much as you can. Throw me a line, please!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bucking Through the Pain

There once was a bull name of Bones
Whose balls were as big as millstones.
But that baby got hurt,
Left his pride in the dirt,
Now Big Tex has the largest cajones.

The trash talking has stopped, the contest is over, Tom Teague’s pocket is lighter by $50,000, and a lot of people, including my poor suffering friend Jaye, are off licking their wounds in dark corners and muttering to themselves. I don’t have much comfort to offer, since I do think that Big Tex bucked harder than Bones on Sunday night.

But it seemed clear to me as soon as Bones left the chute that he didn’t have the same trip he had before he got hurt. Now I’m a little worried that we may never again see that adorable baby jump straight up in the air and then make that big signature drop of his. The cowboys who rode through that must have felt like they were strapped to a car careening over the edge of a ravine, watching the ground come up to meet them and realizing the brakes were useless.

After weeks of Dr. Carla's therapy, Bones may be feeling as good as new, but it’s impossible to explain to an animal that what hurt before shouldn’t hurt him now. I’m betting Bones remembers what it felt like to land on that injured shoulder, and I’m afraid he won’t be jumping like he did before for a while, if he ever does. I genuinely hope I’m wrong, because it would be a huge loss to the sport if I’m not.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bring on the Alligators

Friends and neighbors, we have much to look forward to at the PBR event in Birmingham, most notably (or at least, most loudly) the big contest between Bones and Big Tex. I for one will be glad to get this settled. I started to say “settled once and for all,” but somehow I have a sneaky feeling that no matter which way it turns out, this shoot-out won’t be the last shot fired.

All that said, I really haven’t minded Tom Teague and Chad Berger trashing talking one another, because it’s distracted me from something I haven’t wanted to think about. What it boils down to is this: Every time I see Kody Lostroh climb into the bucking chute, I wonder why I really don’t give a damn about whether he rides or doesn’t. Then as soon as the ride is over (and sometimes before that), I hastily sidle off to some other line of thought, since if I think about this at any length, I’ll have to write about it, and the next thing you know, I’ll be up to my ass in alligators. But Guilherme Marchi’s return to the winner’s circle last weekend has forced me to deal with the issue. Here, in ascending order, are the reasons why Kody Lostroh bores me senseless.

1. His riding style is dull.
Obviously a lot of people are going to disagree with me about this, and clearly the judges do, because it all goes back to my preference for buckers over spinners. It seems to me that all I’ve seen Lostroh do all season is perch on the back of a spinning bull. Surely at some point he must have ridden some wild and crazy bucker, but I cannot for the life of me remember any such occurence. I don’t, for instance, recall Lostroh ever completing a ride remotely as spectacular as J.B. Mauney’s on Crosswired at the PBR finals. Since the judges always, without exception, favor spinners over buckers, I’m not in the least surprised that Lostroh is leading the pack on the strength of such rides. But I don’t like it one bit. And the endless nattering from the broadcast booth about how Lostroh “dresses up a bull” just adds insult to injury. Chris Shivers, who actually does manage to make watching a spinner sort of interesting, is the only rider who merits the “dressing up a bull” honor, in my book.

2. He’s not charismatic. Now, unlike many of my lovely readers, I’m not unduly swayed by looks, so it’s probably unfair of me to even mention them here. As Montana Barn Cat once replied to my question on the subject, “I’m a brains man.” But on reflection, I have to admit that it’s not just brains that appeal to me, it’s also charisma. Lostroh may be the most charming rider ever to strap on a pair of chaps, but I haven’t seen any sign of that so far. It really struck me last Sunday night, as I watched Marchi stride out of the arena after he’d ridden Big Iron in the short-go, that I like ’em smart, confident, and charming, and good looks just sweeten the deal for me. I don’t always agree with Ty Murray, but I think he is the third most adorable cowboy I ever laid eyes on—behind Adriano Moraes, and Marchi, of course. Who can resist those dimples, that manly scar on his chin, those huge forearms, that swagger? Watching him makes me purr like a cat high on catnip. Compared to that, Lostroh is offering me a plastic cup of pink Zinfandel out of a cardboard box—another elitist comment that will doubtless land me in hot water. Well, damn the torpedos, and grill me up some arugula.

3. Every once in a while, something creepy raises its ugly head. I’m thinking first of the incident in Dallas when Lostroh told an interviewer that he’d ridden “like a girl.” My recollection is that he was talking to Leah, which only makes the offense worse, since the divine Ms. Garcia is a former all-around rodeo champion and professional mountain bike racer, and presently runs her own personal training business in Boulder, CO. I bet she could take Lostroh two falls out of three, probably in her dancing dress and high heels. She even has a college degree, which is more than I can say for most of the boys she spends her time interviewing for Versus.

I can sort of excuse this crap on the theory that like most of the riders, Lostroh spends his time hanging around with guys whose senses of humor would make frat boys look like card-carrying debutantes, so maybe it just hasn’t registered with him that other people might not find that expression as funny as he apparently did. But then there was also that time when Lostroh posted a video of himself and some of his buddies hunting an old, worn-out lion for sport online and then appeared to be mystified at the outrage it provoked. He finally apologizing in the “whatever” vein that every parent of a teenager is intimately familiar with.

I am loathe to decide on the basis of these bone-headed missteps that Lostroh holds opinions that are creepier than those of your average redneck, but I’m also not ready to let him off the hook yet. I will need to see a little more sensitivity out of him before I regard him without any suspicion at all. And unless and until I can get the bad taste out of my mouth, I’m not going to be cheering him on to the world title. In that department, my heart belongs to Guilherme.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Three Guys Were Sitting in the Versus Broadcast Booth

Which you might consider as close to heaven as you can get, but then think about our good friend Shannon, who sat right behind the chutes at Anaheim two weeks ago, and you’ll realize that there are other places a lot closer to the celestial choir at a PBR event. Anyway, these three guys were sitting in the Versus broadcast booth in St. Louis, and somehow, in the midst of the gabfest we are privileged to enjoy anytime Justin McBride and J.W. Hart both shoehorn themselves in there, the third guy, Justin McKee, turned to McBride and asked why there had been so few qualified rides in the first two rounds. Was the long, grueling season finally catching up with the riders? Were they getting hurt? Were they just tired?

I didn’t hear how McBride responded because I was too busy getting up off the floor, where I had landed in my astonishment. But I am happy to answer on Mr. McBride’s behalf, since I’m sure he didn’t get the answer right.


Anybody who has stopped by here since the season began knows that I was not impressed by the bulls that bucked for about the first six events. Thank God somebody has finally come to his senses and gotten us some decent stock, because frankly I was so bored during the Baltimore, New York, Fresno, and Sacramento events that I was seriously considering finding something else to waste my time on, like needlepointing new seat covers for all my dining chairs or taking up growing bonsai, or maybe, in a pinch, building model suspension bridges out of pipe cleaners. All that started to change in Dallas, finally, and certainly since Oklahoma City, I have had no complaints about the bull talent.

So, Mr. McKee, I don’t know whether the cowboys are *tired* or maybe just *tired of all the drama,* which you have to admit has been considerable this season. What I do know is, at St. Louis, twelve riders—just twelve! twelve out of 40!—rode more than ONE bull all weekend long. Out of that twelve, four rode only two bulls, five rode three, and a grand total of three rode all four. I was glad to see Zack Brown ride well—he finished third, less than three points behind the winner—but doubtless everybody already knows that I don’t give a damn how Kody Lohstroh rides, and Wiley Petersen is just about to lose me for good, what with his giving God the praise and the glory whenever a microphone is shoved in his face. I mean, really, Wiley. Do you think God is what’s keeping you on the backs of your bulls? Do you believe you score more points the more you proselytize? Actually, the last proposition might be true, since nobody can tell why the judges score any rider or bull the way they do, but as for the former, I can guarantee you it just ain’t so. I’d say it’s a safe bet that most, if not all, the riders are praying they’ll ride, but the stats speak for the efficacy of that strategy.

So bring on Kansas City, folks. I, too, am back in the house, on the couch, clutching my remote in one hand and my Jack Daniels in the other, hollerin’ and cussin’ and generally making Montana Barn Cat clap his hands over his ears about 30 times each go-round. It feels just like old times.