Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The 2010 PBR Kickoff, or, the Challenger Series Championship in Drag

Folks, I am pleased to welcome you to Black Boot's stellar description of the PBR Kickoff event in Georgia. Where would I be without my loyal readers? Sad and lonely, that's where. And take a gander at Ms. Black Boots herself. Isn't she gorgeous? Enjoy this--I certainly did.

Three nights of bulls! My best friend (hereafter known as the inimitable “E”) and I settled into our seats on Friday night with giddy anticipation. Thanks to the PBR’s 50% off ticket sale on Halloween, we scored seats in our favorite section (low on the left chute side) for all three nights. It’s prime viewing for bulls, chutes, and arena action. This being the first event of the season, there were some changes. First thing we noticed was the program, or the absence of one. Instead, we got a day sheet wrapped with 2 pages of articles culled from the PBR’s website, with a glowering J.B. Mauney on the cover. Inside, though, were 56 glorious riders. Not a one was Kody Lostroh’s. E and I were not displeased, since we had heard more than enough about our New! World! Champion! two weeks earlier. Also conspicuously absent were the Flaming Bull Heads O’ Death. Instead, we had the four world champions present (Ednei, Mike Lee, Shivers, and Guilherme) standing tall over the chutes with sparklers glowing in front of them, which seemed to startle Ednei the first night. Atop the shark cage was Mr. Mauney with his ever-present toothpick. He got the smoke machine and blue lights treatment.

Once the fire and mayhem were dispensed with, on to the bulls. The Friday pen was rowdy as all get-out. The minute you came into the arena, you could hear them clanging and shuffling around, which was scary considering that the pre-show lights were low and you couldn’t see who was causing the ruckus. When they bucked, it was like broncs with horns. They galloped, they scraped, and they panicked their rookie selves all over the arena. Entertaining for us and even more so for the folks new to the PBR (and there were TONS of them every night), but at the end of the evening the gate and pickup men were exhausted. Saturday night was a mixed pen (Skyhawk Cut-A-Rug, Booger Butt, plus rookies), and then Sunday afternoon was the short-go with Code Blue, Voodoo Child and Chicken on a Chain.

As far as the three-day event being “the best riders you never heard of,” a line Flint kept flogging—well, it wasn’t. The top 15 from the Challenger Tour were familiar names to most PBR fans—Matt Bohon, anyone? We recognized almost everyone behind the chutes. As for the riders we truly didn’t know—Jordan Hupp is a standout. I’d look for him on the BFTS early on this season.

We were thrilled to see Paulo Crimber on Friday, hale and hearty and thoroughly enjoying pulling ropes. He visited with Robson, Valderon, and Guilherme for a long time—fun to watch them joshing around. We were also treated to Guilherme’s warm-up routine all three nights and if you haven’t ever seen it—well, ladies, you need to put it on your bucket list.

There was no mention during the entire event about Dustin Elliot’s father’s passing, so it was awful to learn about what he was going through while we enjoyed watching him ride. (I hope to HADES those Versus cameramen didn’t know about what had happened or they should be dangled by their privates.)

It was tough to see Chris Shivers have such a rough weekend. He didn’t make the last cut and was replaced on the opening hoopla on Sunday by hometown boy Sean Willingham. We sat next to his family and enjoyed meeting them. E and I like Sean because he’s a Georgia native with a genuine accent, and when interviewed, he comes up with something more interesting to say than, “I just ride ’em one bull at a time.”

We decided that “Seems Like a Nice Guy” awards should go to Ryan McConnell, McKinnon Wimberly, (who must have been granted honorary Brazilian status, because wherever they, go he goes) and Harve Stewart. I tried my darndest to point these gentlemen out to my 21-year-old daughter on Saturday night, but she was more interested in exercising her newly acquired legal status (i.e., she was buying a beer) when they strolled around after the event. (I was her designated driver that night, so it was fine.) Her favorite rider is J.B., which will become more important later.

Highlight of the weekend #1: One word--Guilherme. What a thrill to see him ride with that verve and passion. Viva!

Highlight #2: Meeting Ednei, Edimundo, Renato, and Valdiron after the event on Sunday. They were all in high spirits and were wearing these crazy beat-up straw cowboy hats Ednei had tried to fashion into a fedora. He is evidently the prankster of the bunch. Valdiron was truly moved when E told him how happy we were that he wears a helmet. What a sweet, sweet man.

Highlight #3: Instead of the Dickies, bullfighters we were happy to have a Bullfighter Team competition. There were five teams of two bullfighters who rotated in and out of each flight. I’d love to see more of this, and it gave Flint some new material (thank God.)

Highlight #4: On Sunday, Chicken on a Chain was in the pen closest to us. What a big, handsome dude. He spent the entire final round before the short-go standing quietly and scanning the crowd with huge, liquid brown eyes. It gives me chills to think about it. And call me crazy, but when I whipped out my camera (which decided to act up that day, dammit), he knew I was shooting his picture. It’s a bit fuzzy, but I’ve included it here. Just call me the bull paparazzi!

And finally, the J.B. story: On Sunday, just after we’d met Valdiron and Co at the rail, we saw J.B. Mauney in the autograph line. He is my daughter’s favorite rider and she would have been happy to meet him--only that day she had to go pick up her best friend from the airport (no stopping for beer.)

“My child would have a bull calf if she knew we were about to meet J.B.,” I laughed.

“What if we take your picture with him and she ‘accidentally’ sees it?” E mused.

We cooked up the dialogue while he approached, and as he signed my day sheet, E asked “J.B., would you mind helping us with a practical joke?”

JB shifted his toothpick. “Um, yeah.”

“Would you please pose for a picture with my friend? Her daughter just turned 21 and she's smart and funny. And oh yeah, she’s really good-looking.”

No response. E tries speaking his language. “Actually, she’s downright smokin’.” On cue, I nod emphatically. JB’s toothpick stops and his eyes light up. E continues. “She couldn’t make it today. You’re the young lady’s favorite rider and she’ll have a bull calf when she sees this picture…”

Out comes the toothpick. J.B. musters his most dazzling smile and staunchest grip-and-grin pose, then visited with us until arena security shooed us out the door. Said picture is here (that’s me with Mr. Mauney.) What a good sport he was to help out with the shenanigans of two funny old ladies, and thankfully, the camera worked beautifully for the shot, that did indeed cause my girl to have a bull calf of major proportions.

So it was glorious. Three nights of bulls. Lots of Marchi madness. The best prank ever on my daughter. (I know, payback’s hellacious.) I know it was confusing and disappointing to some fans not to have the televised emphasis on J.B.’s Tour win, but rest assured he got the same amount of accolades in the arena that Guilherme did, plus one of those nifty hand-tooled leather PBR hat boxes. I want one!

And 167 rides, not a one of which was Kody Lostroh’s.