Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Oh, the Things that We Learn in Times Like These

Sometimes it seems like Brian Canter just can't catch a break. His triumph at the Bass Pro Shows Shoot-out in Omaha last weekend, which was a long time coming and most definitely well deserved, has been somewhat overshadowed by the nasty pounding Brendon Clark took when Black Smoke threw him and then tried, and nearly succeeded, in stomping his guts out. I guess I'm at least as bad as everybody else on this score, because though I am genuinely happy that Canter is back in a big way, it's Clark's story that I've been following on the PBR website all week.

It looks now like Clark may be out of the Creighton University Hospital and on his way home to California by the end of this week. Doubtless he owes his rapid improvement to the bull fighters, who dashed in there to get the bull off him, to Tandy Freeman and his medical crew, who hustled in, assessed the situation, and got him out of the arena and to the hospital without delay, and to the doctors and nurses at Creighton, which also happens to be a first-rate trauma center. If there were ever a patient suffering from trauma, it has to have been Clark, who arrived at the ER with a lacerated liver, bruised lungs, and several broken ribs, spitting up blood and barely able to breathe. It also didn't hurt that Clark is in good physical shape--if he hadn't had such core body strength, his injuries might have been even more serious. Oh, and the vest. Never underestimate the protective qualities of the vest, which helped to spread the pressure from the bull's feet out over a wider area, just as a Kevlar vest simultaneously stops a bullet and spreads the impact out.

Still, I was interested to see that the "friend" who raced to Omaha when she got word of Clark's injury wasn't Anna Hunt, of bucking-bull-breeding fame, but one Allison Renz. Almost equally interesting is the fact that Ross Coleman called her with the news. This pretty much tells me that the "glamorous power couple," who were featured on 60 Minutes almost exactly two years ago, is a couple no more. I may be reading more into this than it deserves--I suppose Anna might be off at some bull breeder's convention in Kuala Lumpur and hasn't heard that her sweetie was mauled to within an inch of his life last Saturday night. But frankly, I doubt it.

All that remains for me to wonder at this point is whether Brendon Clark, who will be out of action for at least three months while he heals up, will follow the path of other badly injured PBR riders and drop off the face of the earth till he suddenly appears back on the BFTS circuit. Let me remind you that we never hear anything anymore about Lee Akin, who suffered a serious brain injury back in 2006, or about Paulo Crimber, who broke his neck last summer and pretty much hasn't been seen or heard from since. If I hadn't stumbled across that episode of CW's In Harm's Way last October, I most likely still wouldn't know that at that point, Paulo's doctors were giving him a less than 1 percent chance of ever riding a bull again.

In my most cynical minutes, I wonder whether this isn't deliberate--after all, it's a safe bet that nobody at PBR headquarters wants to keep reminding people how dangerous the sport is. In my slightly less cynical minutes, I suspect that it's a policy by neglect--the riders and the brass don't like to think about it, so they don't talk about it, and the fans are left to glean what little information they can from other sources.

All this flies in the face of the outpouring of support that Brendon Clark has gotten from the public and the riders. As Ross Coleman told him a day or so ago, “We’re brothers. That’s what we do for each other.” I don't doubt that's the case, but I do wish the PBR would update us more regularly about the status of those of our brothers who are out of our sight, but never out of our thoughts.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Return of the Native Son

Aside from the (predictable, but predictably irritating) overhyping of Kody Lostroh’s presence there, the story most obviously emerging at the Nile Invitational was the return of Flint Rasmussen to the arena. Flint had missed four events while he recovered from a mild heart attack in March. We attended the second night of the event, and there Flint was in his new white jersey, kicking up the dust.

His performance was definitely less energetic than we were used to seeing, and featured a lot more talk and a lot less action. Gone was the high-speed, impossibly kinetic dancing, the running up the stadium steps into the nose-bleed section, the charging around in the dirt like a maniac five-year-old on speed. In place of all that, we heard a bunch of jokes about his medical condition and treatment, the changes in his exercise regime, and his new diet. Probably the most interesting moment came when Travis Briscoe bucked off Big Mack and threw a small temper tantrum as he stalked out of the arena, which apparently he followed up with a bigger temper tantrum as he stalked down the hall to the locker room. Said Flint: “Boys, remember the movie Footloose? From now on when you fall off a bull, don’t stress! Dance!”

I really wish he were in a position to take his own advice, because as much as I wish Flint well, I didn’t particularly enjoy his performance Saturday night. My disinterest had nothing to do, really, with the lower energy level—I really just don’t find the man particularly funny, and there was a lot more that reminded me of how un-funny I find him. The low point was definitely when he donned a fake-fur coat and climbed up on the shark cage to sing a parody of Kid Rock’s “All Summer Long”—arguably the dumbest rap song ever written, right down to the opening riff that sounds like it was lifted right out of Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London.” Kid Rock is way overrated and Flint’s choice didn’t do anything to elevate my opinion of his taste. Just a sample of the lyrics: “Drinking Jack out of the bottle/Have a heart attack tomorrow.” Get the picture?

The evening had its moments, of course. One sweet turn transpired when Flint asked to have the spotlight turned on a group of fans in the middle level of the arena. There they were, all the way from Hungry Horse, Montana—damned near a seven-hour drive—decked out in their Flint outfits and holding up their “We ♥ F-L-I-N-T” signs. Even if I can’t fully appreciate his performance, I can certainly join those folks in heartily wishing him a complete and uneventful recovery.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Dear Guilherme

I want to apologize for failing to keep my promise to shake your hand at the Nile Invitational in Billings last weekend. I am genuinely sorry that Montana Barn Cat and I didn’t get to meet you. We had been looking forward to it for a long time.

One of our problems, quite frankly, is you weren’t scheduled for any public appearances during the day on Saturday. I really do wonder what that is all about. It seems like every year, the PBR trots out the same crew in Billings—Chris Shivers, Mike White, Mike Lee, Ross Coleman, and Brendon Clark. I won’t say “the same old broken-down crew,” because I have no call to insult any of those guys, but still, you get my drift. This year they did manage to add Robson Palermo and Valderon to the line-up at Shipton’s Big R, but you were nowhere to be seen. Reese Cates also was at the Boot Barn, but sadly, we had made a lunch date with some friends we haven’t seen in a long time that conflicted with both his and Robson’s appearance, so we didn’t get to meet either of them. I really wanted to ask Reese about that van, too.

I have to confess I’m totally mystified as to why the PBR folks didn’t have you prominently on display sometime during the day. You are, after all, the reigning world champion! Are they afraid of your accent? Are they afraid of your charisma? What’s going on here?

Something else did raise its ugly head during the competition on Saturday night, and I sincerely hope that it doesn’t mean what I, in my worst moments, suspect. For some reason, Kody Lostroh rode Soulja Boy, the last bull in the next-to-last flight, rather than at the end of the evening, as usually befits the event leader. As a Kody-Lostroh-rides-a-spinner experience goes, it was okay, but it was most certainly not a 91-point ride, not by any stretch of the imagination. The only conclusion I could draw was that the judges were trying to score Lostroh high enough to guarantee he’d win the round, even though five top contenders were yet to come. Your ride on Why Not Minot, which is the bottom picture, was way better than Lostroh’s, but what did you get? A measly 86.25! Just take a look at this picture, at the top, that Montana Barn Cat took, about five seconds into Lostroh’s ride. This is what a 91-point ride looks like, Guilherme! Yes, you're right! It looks exactly like a bull’s ass!

Now, ordinarily, I would have to excuse myself from this discussion because I am completely in your corner, and thus might not be the most objective person to talk to on the subject, but what really convinced me that Lostroh is being favored is the fact that Zack Brown, who literally got his guts stomped out at the Metra in 2005, and who came back out of retirement to win the event there last year, got practically NO acknowledgment from the announcers. That was bad enough, but I was mortified that the crowd didn’t seem to remember him, either. Between you and me, if you don’t repeat as champion this season, I am rooting for Zack. As far as I’m concerned, he has all the goods.

So all in all, the experience of the Nile was a mixed bag for us this year. Our seats were marginally better than last year, but we were stuck at the end of the row, next to a barrier, which meant we couldn’t get out without crawling over about nine other people, so we regretfully passed on the beer. With the exceptions of Apache Leap, Wrangler Big Rig, Unabomber, and Husker’s Terror, the bulls in the go-round really weren’t very good, but the cowboys kept falling off left and right anyway, so I guess I really can’t complain too much about that.

Our single biggest mistake, however, was that we raced out to the parking lot right after the event was over—and sat there for one hour, count them, 60 minutes, before we managed to get out off the Metra grounds and headed back to the interstate. We were in a rush because the restaurant we wanted to try closes at 10 p.m., but as it worked out, we would have been better off to have stayed and shaken your hand during the autograph session. We won’t do that again, I assure you. If you’re back next season, we will stick it out to meet you, come hell or high water. That’s a promise.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Dreaming of Billings

Dear friends, I write to you today as one who has her eyes fixed firmly on the prize, the Nile Invitational in Billings, Montana. This weekend Montana Barn Cat and I will saddle up our hosses and point them east, where we will land overnight in a free hotel room (courtesy of the millions of not-free hotel rooms we stayed in back during the Flood of '08), eat indigestible objects and wash them down with huge quantities of beer and hard liquor, and then toddle, weaving a bit in our high-heeled cowboy boots, down the long concrete staircase at the Metra to the Saturday night event.

All is in readiness here. We have the animal-sitting routine lined out for the youngster who will be charged with their care, the car gassed up--hell, we're even almost packed. This will be our third trip to Billings to witness firsthand the semi-organized chaos that is a live PBR event. We hope to see a bunch of Chad Berger bulls, especially Big Tex, and we hope to get to talk to some of our favorite riders, especially Guilherme Marchi. We've come close on a couple of occasions, but always before that weird tongue-tied shyness has overtaken us. Not this time, sez I. This time, it's shake the man's hand, or bust.

You could certainly make the case that Billings, Montana, is one of the least attractive cities of its size anywhere, and if you further suggested that it's one of the stinkiest, you'd get no argument from me. What with the flat, prairie-like terrain, relieved only by the Rims lurching abruptly skyward at the north edge of town, and the three or four oil refineries belching out huge clouds of hydrocarbons, you'd be hard pressed to find another contender. But I have my reasons for loving Billings. If you dropped by here in April of last year, no doubt I bored you senseless with my two-part rhapsody on the subject. In many ways, I count that long-ass post as the true beginning of this blog. On our return, I will bring you the best observations I am capable of, and this time, I promise, there will be pictures, too!

Saddle up, Barn Cat! It's time to head east. See y'all round the Stockyard next week.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Yes, I've Sold Out

Folks, you've doubtless noticed that suddenly advertisements are showing up on "Turn Him Out!" Yes, I must confess, I've signed up for Google Ads. I seriously doubt that I'll see any revenues to speak of, probably not enough to buy me a cup of coffee, but maybe it will help assuage my conscience for putting in time here that might be better spent elsewhere.

On the other hand--where could I possibly better spend my time? When I read the Zonkboard and your comments, I feel like I am being lifted up by a host of angels. I wish I could gather you all up and deposit you in my living room some Saturday night, and serve you snacks and drinks while we whoop and holler and yell at the tv set and offer up our unvarnished opinions on the bulls and the riders and (gulp!) the judges. But until such a moment arrives, wherever you are, laissez les bons temps rouler!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

It's Deja Vu All Over Again

So I was lounging around Sunday evening after supper, knitting (yes, I know, I'm the most boring person on the planet) and watching the PBR. Dull as it doubtless sounds, I was thoroughly enjoying myself as the short-round riders commenced flying off their bulls. And then suddenly I had the strangest feeling: I've seen this all before.

No, I hadn't fallen down a rabbit hole. No, I wasn't having an attack of vertigo. No, I hadn't drunk too much Jack Daniels and slipped off the sofa in a heap. No--I had just seen Guilherme Marchi ride Big Tex for an astonishing 94 points, and I was jumping and hollering and embarrassing anybody within earshot. And then Kody Lostroh turned in an adequate, but hardly stellar, ride on Big North, was awarded 91.25 points for his pains, and stole the win from Marchi--by three-quarters of a point.

I started feeling like Yogi Berra when Lostroh was climbing down into the chute. I just had the most awful feeling that if he rode, he was going to get the win, regardless of what kind of ride he got. See, I was right! Again! And doesn't that make me feel special?

No, it doesn't. It made me furious. It took several days, as you can see, to get a tight enough grip on my feelings to write something even modestly coherent on the subject. My initial reaction was, "Marchi was robbed!" along with a bunch of stuff that I can't post here, for fear of offending even my most tolerant readers.

How to explain this atrocity? Some possibilities:

1) The judges just get so excited when somebody rides exceptionally well that they feel like they have to score the next guy high, too. I, for one, would like to know what's in that confetti--seems like anytime it falls, the judges lose their heads and start handing out 90+ scores like Halloween candy.

2) The judges think the guy in first place has to be "knocked out" to lose--in other words, if he rides at all, he deserves to outscore everybody else.

3) The judges were trying to impress everybody with their ability to run their calculators fast enough to figure out that three-quarters of a point would be enough to put Lostroh in the winner's circle.

Other possible explanations are, frankly, way more sinister. We talked about them all last year, when any (white, American, born-again Christian) rider who could stick for eight seconds seemed to outscore Marchi. But how anybody with any objectivity could have watched those two rides Sunday night and in good conscience have decided that Lostroh deserved a higher score escapes me. It makes me wonder, and not for the first time, what the judges are thinking. Damned if I can figure it out.