Monday, November 16, 2009

Finito: S's Adventures in Vegas, Concluded

Folks, I have managed to beat the millions (oh, all right, maybe three) who are demanding my services back long enough to post the second half of S's charming tale of the finals in Vegas. Here it is, and I for one am sad it's over, it was so much fun. But wasn't that true of the whole season? Enjoy!

Sunday -- The Main Event
Because the hotel we were staying at did not get Versus, and we were too cheap to pay $9.99 per day for the interweb and also had musical theater plans that interfered with locating a sports bar, my knowledge of what the numbers were on the final day was shaky at best. Upon arriving at the Thomas & Mack, I purchased a day schedule and found it very useful; like a big nerd, I wrote down which bull went with which guy and what the score was (and notes like "?!?!" next to the scoring for the ride where J.B. Mauney was hanging off the side of the bull for a substantial portion).

As far as the event, I have yet to see the televised coverage so I don't know what was shown and what wasn't, but I'll try to focus on things that might not have been revealed to home viewers. First of all, as I was entering the arena, I passed by the goofy commentator booth with the Ford truck grill on the front, cordoned off outside the arena. I'm not entirely sure how that worked; I'm assuming there was a live feed so the commentators could, well, comment on what was occurring. Ford can also be, er, thanked for the inflatable "thunder sticks" draped on the backs of each seat in the arena--fortunately neither I, my friend, or the people around us decided to inflate them, because they were quite unwieldy and made an unpleasant noise akin to a high speed inner-tube wreck.

My seat was up in the hinterlands, although at least in the hinterlands midway between the divided arena, so I could see all the chutes without difficulty. To my left were two Kody Lostroh fans; to my right, a couple celebrating their silver anniversary. We started the afternoon off with Not-Tim McGraw (Sean Patrick), a giant flaming $1M on the dirt, and a monstrous American flag descending from the ceiling with sparkles and rappelling army guys. We also had enforced prayer, and a surprisingly not overwrought version of the national anthem as sung by Kissy Simmons, the current Nala in The Lion King at Mandalay Bay. There was also of course a face-off between J.B. Mauney and Kody Lostroh on the bed of a Ford Truck, and a pile-up of cowboys on a slowly revolving platform. Then Flint tried to get a guy who turned out to be a cop to dance to warm up the crowd, but since the fellow was practically shooting a tazer out of his eyes while standing with unmovable folded arms, Flint moved on to someone else.

In-arena announcements that might not have made the broadcast: the white horse (I believe it was a mare, possibly named Jo) was retiring after 17 years working the arena. She also got a moment of fame when her rider jokingly roped the Ford truck that wouldn't start and thus couldn't clear the arena; they jokingly pretended to haul it (in the end it turned out that they were attempting to use the wrong set of keys, which I guess is good as it didn't look so great for the reliability of the Built Ford Tough brand at that moment). Randy Bernard announced that the World Cup will be held in Las Vegas in April, to coincide with the Country Music Awards, something that I see little to no press on, so I'm not sure what that means. The bull Avalanche retired in style by bucking off Dusty Ephrom. And finally, I'm pretty sure I heard the announcer say that Ednei Caminhas is not retiring, in style or otherwise.

There were a few confusing moments... like Say I Won't Gunner having a truly wretched out. Clayton Baethge, well, his being there at all was surprising to me as I wasn't up to date on injuries, but his hang-up in the rope was truly scary. The arena was dead silent for what seemed an age while the bullfighters circled him, and the audience cheered when he was able to walk away. The same thing happened when Cody Nance hit the ground hard and was stunned for a bit; there were a lot of cheers when he walked out of the arena under his own power. There were some very nice moments in addition to the strange and scary, like seeing Guilherme Marchi get it together and make a ride, and seeing Validron de Oliveira's smooth, smooth riding style in person (I had a forlorn hope he'd be the spoiler this year, but maybe next year).

During the "intermission," the lovely woman who won the Invasion of the Bulls custom PBR Ford truck was fun to watch. She looked so incredibly happy. This whole segment also helped me understand why I had seen a camera crew following a guy around at the Meet & Greet--he was one of the finalists. I believe that somewhere in here, Shorty Gorham won an award--he was wandering around with a giant check, anyway. I was distracted by some traditionally nasty nachos at the time and wasn't entirely paying attention; please forgive me.

And then it was back to the action.

I understand from others that on the televised coverage there was a lame off-hand comment from Craig Hummer after a break and before the short-go saying they'd run the numbers and Kody Lostroh was the world champion no matter what happened, which seems tragically anti-climatic. I can tell you that it wasn't like that in the arena at all. Short of any enterprising math people in the crowd running the numbers themselves, I don't think anyone there knew for sure how it was going to play out. When Mauney got his ride for 93.75 points, the fans went absolutely crazy.(I loved seeing the pure joy on J.B. Mauney's face when he rode Black Pearl, I have to add.) And then as Kody Lostroh looked like he was going to ride Voodoo Child, the crowd jumped to their feet at around 7 seconds. The arena was filled with cheering in the expectation he would ride, and there was a huge gasp as he bucked off shortly thereafter, mixed with what I can only assume were the cheers of people who thought that meant that Mauney would take the title. I don't think Lostroh himself knew if he had enough points to win, as he promptly pressed the red review button. The in-arena announcer was emphasizing that if he was holding onto any part of the bull rope to 8 seconds, he'd get a score. It was tense, tense, tense as the crowd and Lostroh waited for the verdict.

The arena was filled with awkward silence while people shuffled around and wondered what was going on. Eventually the buck-off was upheld, and parts of the crowd groaned. Kody Lostroh had disappeared somewhere behind the chutes, and when the announcement finally came that he had won, the crowd made some noise but he was nowhere to be found. I'm still not sure Lostroh knew he won at that point because it seemed to take some time for him to make his way out to the random red carpeting and foliage, and then to burst into a huge smile as Randy Bernard said something like, "But no one wants to hear from me, they want to hear from your new World Champion, Kody Lostroh!"

I don't recall them announcing bull of the year, or why Bones wasn't there, but I'm sure they must have at least done the former. I don't remember much going on in regards to Cody Nance, our new Daisy Rookie of the Year. I hope he got some congratulations at the Awards Banquet, which I did not attend, nor did I attend the press conference (instead I sped out to the mile-long line for cabs). I do wonder why so little has been said about Cody Nance since, but I guess it really doesn't matter because he's quite talented, and I'm sure we will see more from him.

And while I am not a wild Kody Lostroh fan, he earned his moment in the sun and seemed genuinely thrilled. It will be interesting to see how he deals with the additional media scrutiny he will get as the World Champion. J.B. Mauney fought a good fight and has nothing to be ashamed of with his event title and with being the first man to stay on all 8 bulls during the finals. Guilherme Marchi seemed to be getting his mojo back at the end there, so I have high hopes for next season. All three guys, as far as I saw, conducted themselves with class in the face of the PBR attempts to build up some sort of rivalry mythology between them, and were truly good sportsmen.

And on that note, I will conclude this far overblown tale of my time in the tacky, tacky desert town with cowboys, musical theater and sangria, and leave you to try to figure out the signatures on the in(famous) drawing, and I will attempt to come down after a thrilling weekend.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

S's Adventures at the Thomas & Mack

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present the report of the divine S, who journeyed to Vegas last weekend for the PBR Finals. Reading this cheered me up immensely--I hope it does the same for you. And check out these photos. That's her, S herself, in the arms of Valdiron! Lucky girl! And don't blame her for the inexpert arrangement of said photos--that you can lay at the feet of the Stockyard Queen and Blogger. Enjoy, folks. It's the next best thing to being there.

So, your intrepid reporter set out to the city that never sleeps, the city that is so, so unabashedly tacky, the city that hosts CSI: The Experience (for a mere $30, you too can collect evidence!), the city of neon and dollar margaritas... Las Vegas, Nevada. Friends and coworkers alike were confounded by my reasons for doing so: the PBR, musical theater, and a side of tapas. I soldiered on in the face of their disbelief.

Saturday -- Team PBR Meet & Greet
The PBR part of my adventure started bright and early on Saturday morning at Mandalay Bay, where my friend and I, firmly clutching my poster tube and my coffee, walked through halls festooned with banners and signs depicting the top cowboys and bulls (including I'm a Gangster, leading me to wonder just when these were printed). After joining a massive line outside the Fan Zone in the parking lot, a friendly man gave my TeamPBR membership card a cursory glance before handing over some red paper bracelets for entry to the Meet & Greet, and a friendly woman handed me a map of the Fan Zone that I quickly disregarded as utterly useless (my directional sense is not great and the map wasn't great either-- bad combination. What I needed was Cowboy GPS. Sadly, this does not appear to have been invented yet). Immediately following, I was bewildered by being handed, in quick succession, a free DVD which is apparently some sort of cowboy testimonial (I can't say for certain as I didn't exactly rush home to the DVD player to find out) and lanyards and cards from Cooper Tires, who had their people out taking pictures of fans and the cowboys, to be uploaded to their website for future viewing and downloading.

In an attempt not to be tedious, I won't go on about each interaction I had, but overall, the cowboys were friendly and kind, as were the fans I talked to in various lines. The ones that weren't, well, although I do wish that a few of the guys would have summoned at least a semblance of interest in the proceedings, I can understand lack of enthusiasm at 8am, especially when tons of people want a piece of you. Part of my general good impression might have had something to do with the fact that I didn't even attempt to get anywhere near Kody Lostroh, J.B. Mauney or Guilherme Marchi (although he did bump my friend's elbow as he was coming through to get to the draft), all of whom had utterly insane lines.

As you may know, I had prepared a digital painting to get signed, and the reaction from the cowboys and other fans was good for my ego. Pretty much every cowboy said, "Hey, that's Brian Canter on Big Mac," or, "Who is that there on Big Mac?" when they saw it, which was pretty amusing and thrilled the former art major in me. Also, numerous people asked me where I bought it or where they could buy one, so I guess I missed a lucrative opportunity. Alas. Perhaps next year.

A few highlights:
- Running into Chad Berger, who was zipping madly around on a Segway. Just try to picture that. He seemed tickled that fans were talking to him and since Big Mac is his bull, he seemed to enjoy signing my painting as well.

- Having Shorty Gorham and Frank Newsom tell us, "Be safe." Um, right back atcha, guys.

(I'm the one grinning madly behind Shorty and clutching the prints of the painting. What can I say, I like the guy and his predictions.)

- Meeting the sweetest table of guys ever: Cody Nance, Wiley Petersen and Michael Manes and his dorky glasses (henceforth they will be dubbed "Team God," although I don't know if Manes is a big God guy or not). On Sunday, Wiley would remember me as the one with the drawing. Good memory on that guy, since I'm sure he met hundreds of people the day previous.

Team God is, unfortunately, rather blurry.

- Seeing a very pained-looking Ryan McConnel trooping through the Meet & Greet; I was worried for him but much like his bull riding career this season, he seemed determined to stick it out and you have to commend that. I hope he is getting whatever treatment he needs now.

- Watching Zack Brown joke around with a bemused Skeeter Kingsolver, and wondering why, if the cowboy in my painting was whoever he wanted it to be, he wasn't wearing Zack Brown's chaps and sponsor patches.

- Talking with Dustin Elliot about the process of making the drawing. Thankfully, no Bob Ross wigs were involved.

- Randomly bumping (well, not literally) into Brendon Clark in the hallway on the way out, which was quite unexpected. He would later reappear at the event with a set of keys that may or may not have started a custom PBR Ford truck.

And of course, the crowning glory was meeting Adriano Moraes, something that had somehow not entered my consciousness as a possibility at all. Some of the cowboys were at tables inside the main merchandise tent (including Team Border Patrol, consisting of Austin Meier and Luke Snyder, and the aforementioned Team God table), and I noticed while we were in there that there was a sign at the Jeffrey Scott booth with a giant Adriano face on it. The small print revealed that the man himself would be there signing during the time slot for the draft. So my friend and I made the easy decision to ditch the draft to get in the already somewhat long line for Adriano Moraes.

After admiring the handcrafted Jeffrey Scott buckles, and taking a picture for the nice North Carolinan in front of us, the conversation went something like this:

AM: "Hey, this is a pretty nice drawing, did you do this?"
Me: "Yeah, thanks so much. It's an honor to meet you."
AM: "That's Chad Berger's bull. You should show this to him. You know, I am breeding bulls now. Maybe one day you'll draw one of my bulls."
Friend: "You could commission her!"
AM: ::look of mock outrage:: "That's not how it works! It should be the other way around!"

Needless to say, if Moraes ever does have a top bucking bull, I'll probably be drawing it. Love that guy, and he looked relaxed and happy, which was nice to see.

In other news, although I don't have any need for a Big Tex trailer, a Ford truck, a Daisy airgun or in fact, anything made and/or sold by most of the PBR's sponsors, this urban liberal vegetarian female can heartily recommend American Cowboy Coffee, a place with great coffee and coffee-based items (such as soap and organic lip balm), which is run by very kind people.

To Be Continued...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Could I Make This Up? Well, Maybe.

Because our hearts are going to be gladdened a little later this week when the divine and refined S reports on her experiences at the PBR Finals, I thought it might be nice to offer you some contrasting scenes that took place in my living room last weekend. Well, maybe I made up some of them, but as Ruth Reichl recommends, never wreck a good story by sticking to the truth. Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I bring you snippets of conversations at the Stockyard during rounds 5 through 8 of the PBR World Finals, courtesy of Bombay Sapphire and Martini and Rossi vermouth. Oh, and don't forget the queen olives.

Stockyard Queen: I hate that Sir Patrick was ridden and I hate that that piece of s--- rode him.

Montana Barn Cat, having interrupted his viewing to repair the dog door, solicits SQ's opinion of his new door flap, conveniently created from the seat of his worn-out Wranglers. Stockyard Queen: It's a thing of beauty.

Stockyard Queen, speaking of a rider who shall remain nameless: I am going to drive to wherever he lives, slap him senseless, slap his entire family senseless, slap his dog senseless, bulldoze his house, set fire to the rubble, and sow the soil with salt.

Montana Barn Cat: That'll show 'em.

Montana Barn Cat to the Stockyard Queen, who is lying nearly prostrate on the sofa, begging for another martini: Did you hear what Leah just said?

Stockyard Queen: That she needs another martini?

Montana Barn Cat: She said she was moving her legs for him.

Stockyard Queen: Who was she talking to?

Montana Barn Cat: Kody Lostroh.

Stockyard Queen: Damn. She could have at least saved that for Elliot Jacoby.

Montana Barn Cat, having survived nearly half an hour of swearing and spitting on the part of his lovely Stockyard Queen: Why are you telling me this? You should be writing this s---I mean, these pearls of wisdom down. Where's your bull riding journal?

Stockyard Queen: It's in the other room. I reserve that for important stuff, like Challenger events in Miles City.

Montana Barn Cat, rummaging in the breakfront for a writing implement: Can't you at least keep a pen down here in case we have to make a grocery list or something?

Stockyard Queen: Do you mean to tell me you mind having to run to the grocery store 15 times every weekend to buy one thing? Oh, and don't forget the olives this trip.

(Disclaimer: I don't remember what the s---I mean, the pearls of wisdom are. I just remember MBC advising me thus, then grabbing a notebook and scrawling away on it. I bet everyone of you wish he'd just kept it to himself.)