Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hold the Phone

It now appears that Randy Bernard has asked to have till Monday to make a decision tabout leaving the PBR for the IRL in Indianapolis. Me smells the possibility of a deal to keep him in Pueblo afoot here.

Shannon Goes to Anaheim, Part 2

Here is the divine Shannon's report on the Friday night action in Anaheim. Sorry it's taken me a bit to get this up, but now that it's up, please enjoy it.--SQ

Friday night!

When I finally got to the arena, I went in and looked around a bit, then headed to the mixer. This little fan event normally consists of people standing around talking to their friends or the volunteers. Not a lot of mixing going on. But, it does perk up a little when the rider of the night shows up. This time, it was Ross Coleman who provided us with my second favorite image of this weekend—Master Cooper Teague Coleman, who once again was the man of the hour. This time, dad was a little more accommodating with fans and less protective of the little guy. What made him man of the hour this time? Could it have been the little cowboy hat? Maybe it was the button-up shirt, jeans, belt with a buckle, and chaps. I think, though, it had to be the little cowboy boots complete with not only spurs, but little blue lights that blinked when he walked. He was everywhere and he was the hit of the mixer.

A few minutes after the autograph session, it’s time for the TV interview. The rider is ushered in with Leah and the fans are asked to stand behind the little stage and cheer. Of course we will! On TV during an interview?! Being three feet away from the actual interview instead of having to watch it on TV?! You bet!

Except not. Because of the in-house announcer, you don’t hear a thing that is being said. Thankfully, this time, it was J.B., so I was at least able to know when he was going to start speaking because of the trademark shrug and I would know when the interview was over because of reading his signature “thank you very much” on his lips.

When it was over, I made my way back to the worst seats I’ve ever had since going to live events and watched as the beginning of the 5th event of the 2010 season began to unfold. I was a bit confused at first because Flint didn’t come out, but then I realized that we were going to be treated to a whole new opening. I enjoyed it, because, even though I like Flint well enough as an entertainer, I’d gotten tired of the “dancing fool in the audience” routine. I much prefer the new video of the wrecks and rides of last season and seeing Brandon Bates during the introduction. The new fire-lit sign was great, but it felt kind of bittersweet to see our new world champion up there in the top spot when, at that point, he’d gone 0-6 over the last couple of weekends.

Throughout the night, I watched the usual rides and rerides, the bulls, Flint, and some audience members showing off and listened to those around me. Later, I watched with amusement as the Tecate Light girls teetered out on the dirt in spiked, needle thin heels, blue paint brushed over their bottom halves to look like they were wearing pants and halter tops tied so high under their breasts that there was no guessing on whether or not they need to eat a sandwich. And to think, I was once mildly offended by the Jack Daniels’ girls, who now look like stuffy prudes in comparison.

At one point, Flint, entertaining us during a judges’ review of Zack Brown’s ride, said, “I have an idea. These guys were actually on the bull, they have nerve endings in their hands, why don’t you just ask them if they touch the bull?” He calls to Zack: “Zack? Did you touch the bull?” Zack says, “No.” Flint respond, “See? It’s simple!” Sometimes, he still gets a smile and laugh out of me.

When the end of the show came around, we were asked to stick around for a short concert that was to be preceded by a small group of religious riders answering a few questions from the local minister. While they were setting up, they ran a nice clip of Kody talking about random things like taking small pot shots at Los Angeles for not having a pro football team, talking about what he likes to do for fun in his time off (accompanied by clips of those things) and cracking up when he kept making mistakes with the script. It was a surprisingly light moment for Mr. Lostroh-—I don’t recall the last time I’ve seen him smile, let alone laugh, during an interview. By the end of the video, I saw Wiley, Austen, Kody, and Mike Lee coming out to the center stage and the chairs that had been set up. I was willing to stay a bit later into an already late night to see what they had to say, but when the minister started getting cringe worthy--not with the God talk-—there was hardly any at all while I was still there-—but, with his interview skills, I opted to leave. I won’t get into how long it took me to find my car and why I’ve already embarrassed myself once with an admission of my poor navigating skills.

After a 40-minute ride home, then picking up the things around the house that my husband and kids overlooked—as I’m told many kids and husbands do when mom’s gone all day—and checking a few things online, I crawled into bed at midnight with my alarm set for 7 a.m. the next morning.

Godspeed, Randy Bernard

The Indy Star is reporting that Randy Bernard has accepted the post of CEO for IRL. This story does actually get at least some of the facts about the PBR right, most likely because they let Randy speak for himself for a change.

Good luck to you, Randy. Despite the ridiculous comments of those racing fans who labor under the delusion that you have to "know the sport" (meaning you have to know how to ride a bull or drive an Indy car) to market it, I'm sure you'll manage to right the ship if the bosses will just stay out of your way. Thank you for your exemplary service to the PBR for the past 14 years. You did an extraordinary job for an outfit that needed all the help it could get. Enjoy Indianapolis, and we hope to hear soon about your successes in your new endeavor.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I have This to Say About That

Breaking news: The Divine Miss S has alerted us to a post on titled "IRL Offers CEO Position to Randy Bernard." If you are brave, you can also see the comment I just couldn't keep myself from making. As my friend Sandy in St. Louis used to say whenever she found herself in the midst of a knock-down drag-out fight, "I was in my glory."

Although Randy has as yet neglected to call me for my opinion, I just want to go on the record to say that if the IRL offers him a good deal and he likes the idea, he should have no qualms about taking the job. The most valuable piece of advice I ever got about working was this: You are working for yourself. In other words, you should never forget that your personal satisfaction with what you do for a living trumps everything else. This is something that many women I've known have particular trouble grasping; they think they are working for all kinds of reasons that, in the end, are beside the point.

Randy Bernard has been CEO of the PBR since 1995. He was just 28, a kid by my lights, when he took the job. That is a long haul by any standard, particularly in this day and age, when people seem to job-hop like frogs on a hot sidewalk. Bernard has taken the organization from its scrappy beginnings to its present level of prominence. It would not surprise me one bit to find out that he feels like he's done all he can do. Everyone who has ever worked a job at one place knows that after a while, resistance to your ways and means tends to stiffen. Plus, he might be really tired of living in Pueblo, CO. Indianapolis is not my ideal city, but I've been there quite a lot, because one of my most important clients is there, and it's a town with quite a lot to offer.

So, Randy--whether you go or stay, you have my blessing, for what that's worth. If you decide to stay, maybe you can pry some concessions (and, with a little luck, a bigger paycheck) out of the PBR Powers That Be. If you go, I have good friends in Indianapolis who will be pleased to show you around. Just give me a call, I'll be happy to set it up.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shannon Goes to Anaheim, Part 1

Here it is, what we've all been waiting for--the first installment of the divine Shannon's report from Anaheim. She tells me there is more to come--what riches! Friends and neighbors, without further ado, I present to you her auspicious account.

Where do I start?

Maybe I should start with a couple of confessions:

First, I was in a friend’s store the other day and saw a small, impersonal item that I couldn’t resist picking up for Kasey and his new wife. I brought it home, wrapped it in a small box, and stuffed it into my purse, hoping that I’d see him and figuring that if I didn’t, I could unwrap it, take out the personalized card I made them and give it to either Cord, Shane, or Cody Nance—-whoever I ran into and felt good vibes from. The rest of that story will come into play later.

Second, I’m a Christian. Yes, I go to church whenever possible. I just don’t prosthet . . . prostety . . . talk about it . . . unless I’m asked, except for the occasional comment about church on Sunday or something small like that. However, that didn’t stop me from bringing my Bible with me, thinking that it could open up some interesting discussions with the more religious-based riders. Unfortunately, it would seem that that particular base of riders stay at different hotels, so I’m left not only having not really talked to anyone, but having to confess to God on Sunday that I was using the Bible for personal gain—something I’m not sure He’d take kindly to. But, I digress. . . . Now, back to my day.

Why do I do this to myself? Really. I’m 40 years old and after all this time, I know darn well that I’m a shy person and no amount of bravado or psyching myself up is going to change that and when I try to force it, embarrassment ensues. I’m a bit of a paradox, actually, in that if someone not shy and very engaging makes the first move, then I turn into chatty Cathy. Unfortunately, I’m going to guess that at least 90% of our riders are not open and engaging (although, I’m sure that number is relative to the age, sex, and general appearance of the fan attempting to talk to them). But, nonetheless, I once again trudged my way through the rain to spend five relaxing, and at times fun, hours in the lobby.

When I got there, the first pleasant surprise awaited me in an unexpected manner: Chad Berger was there and remembered me from last year! Seeing as he’s not any more engaging with strangers than I am, we didn’t exchange too many words, but enough for it to be one of my better encounters. I watched later as someone presented him with a beautiful painting of Big Tex and how he showed it off to one of the riders before heading up to his room to put it away. I was also amused to hear him call a friend and ask, “What is that drink you always order at Starbucks?” (Answer: a vanilla latte—my personal favorite.)

At one point, I watched with curiosity as a woman approached him enthusiastically with a hug. After a minute, she sat down near me, noticed my boots, and asked if I was a PBR fan. When I said yes, she told me that she was a Diamond Resistol Relief supporter and that this year the event fell on the weekend of her 50th birthday. One of her ways of celebrating was to get a hug from everyone in the PBR. She was well on her way that day as I watched her approach several riders with her arms spread saying, “I turned 50 today! Hug me!” They all responded well as I sat there wondering why I hadn’t thought of that for my 40th, then remembering that I’d chicken out every time anyway. Anyhow, Dee, as she liked to be called, spent a bit of time with me gossiping about some of the guys (I won’t divulge anything in a public forum—some of it was nice and funny, some not so much), then took off with her family for lunch. It was a whirlwind every time I ran into her, but she definitely made it interesting.

The next person I met was a lovely, elegant looking older woman. She was sitting across from me, looking as classy as ever, when she stopped the bellman and asked about all the guys in cowboy hats. He said they were bull riders and left and when she glanced at me, I grinned and said, “Yep. The cowboys are in town.” This started a conversation that turned her into student and me into teacher. Not only did she want to know about the rules, the tour, and where to watch it on TV, but, she wanted me to alert her every time a rider or someone involved walked through the lobby. I listened with amusement as she told her husband over the phone, “Honey, guess what? The top bull riders in America. . . ” (at which point she looked at me questioningly and I said “the world”) “ . . . in the world are here. They have an event in town. Apparently, it’s a big deal. . . .” When that conversation was over, she turned back to me and gave me a mental image that I will carry with me for a lifetime:

“Well,” she said, “that explains what I saw the other day. I was in the fitness center here and there were these three young men in there working out . . . ” (by her hand gestures, I’m guessing treadmills) “ . . . and they were wearing shorts, t-shirts, and cowboy hats.” Ha! Thank you, ma’am, I needed that. What an amusing image to carry around with me.

Anyway, the day went on and because of the weather, there weren’t too many guys walking around. I had the pleasure of seeing and saying hello to the Brazilians again, got to see Robson’s pretty young wife and adorable new baby girl, watched Renato laugh and joke with McKennon and his girlfriend. Reese Cates and Brian Canter provided me with an entertaining look at their bad weather clothing, proving just how different we all are: Reese in baggy, black sports shorts (like the kind you see on soccer players) that went to just above his knees, a black t-shirt, and slip-on white sneakers, Brian in a thick, blue hoodie, red-and-black flannel pajama bottoms, and slippers.

Finally, when it looked like running into Kasey was going to be a bust, he walked in and to the elevator. Looking at my watch and seeing how much time it was until the event started, I knew that it was going to be now or never. I crossed over to him, present in hand, called him and said that I wanted to congratulate him on his marriage. Handing the gift to him, I told him that I’d seen something in the store the other day that I couldn’t resist getting for him and his wife. He thanked me for the congratulations, but seemed surprised that a fan would get him something and said, “You didn’t have to do that.” Of course, being who I am, I couldn’t simply smile and say, “I know. But, I wanted to.” I had to mutter something mushy about romance, while the little voice in the back of my head said, for the first time that day, “Shut up!”

Sadly, that was the last encounter with Kasey for the weekend, save for one brief moment of eye contact the next night during autograph signing, where it was obvious that he either didn’t recognize me, or hadn’t opened the gift yet. Some other friends were hoping I’d get a comment on what I bought him and Leah.
After sitting for a bit longer, it was time to hit the road again and go to the event. This year, I had my trusty navigator with me. Sadly, when what she wanted me to do didn’t sound right, I thought maybe I typed the address wrong and headed down a different road and once again got turned around. How embarrassing. I really hope that Cord and Jet fare better across the world than I do in Anaheim, CA! Turns out, she was right, and I was wrong. Oh, well.

(To be continued…..)

Monday, January 25, 2010

True Confessions

I have, I regret to say, a serious of sins I must confess before I get into the meat of this post, and it’s possible none of them will interest you in the slightest. Nevertheless, here goes.

First, I have to confess that I’m not really that anxious to tackle this subject. I have spent the past week looking at the videos and reading the official press releases, but in the end, I put off writing anything about the way a judge underscored Eliot Jacoby the final round at Sacramento. There are a couple of reasons for this, one being that I have been insanely busy for the past month, but another is that I really wanted to see how the commentators at Anaheim would spin the news that judge Jeff Shearer had been suspended for five events.

Second, I have to confess that I have not looked at any of the comments on the subject on the PBR website, so I’m sure that what I’m about to say is nothing you folks haven’t heard already. The truth is, I am not psychically equipped to read all that crap and keep my wits about me. Even if I thought my life depended on it, I would not be able to wade through the flaming and name-calling and general bad behavior that takes place there pretty much anytime, for any (or no) reason. If that is the level to which the average PBR fan is willing to sink, then I will do without knowing about it, thank you very much.

Third, I was really hoping that my main concern with this situation would be addressed, which, as far as I can tell, it has not. (Disclaimer: See confession #2, above.) Certainly I haven’t heard any of the PBR Powers That Be address it.

So, having said all that, I will get my opinion of the scoring fiasco out of the way: I believe that Jeff Shearer deliberately underscored Elliot Jacoby because he knew J.B. Mauney would be riding after Jacoby, and he wanted to do whatever he could to make sure that Mauney won. Despite S. Hawkins’ thoughtful reasoning about why she believed this not to be the case, I am pretty much convinced of it.

I am equally certain that J.B. Mauney had absolutely nothing to do with the scoring situation, and I do not believe this is evidence of a larger conspiracy. In general, I think conspiracy theories are for the weak-minded who might even be paranoid, or are, at least, close to it. I don’t have any patience with conspiracy theories and I have less with people who are easily convinced that conspiracies take place right under our noses, every single day.

Truthfully, however, what I found most interesting about the whole episode is that the Rules and Regulations Committee was called in to investigate. Here’s my question: Why now?

We all know, and have complained, about specific instances in which we were convinced that one judge, or more, had screwed up. How many times have we heard a judge’s score explained away with, “Nobody can help having a favorite”? We have even seen instances of what my friend Jean calls “the Points Fairy” mysteriously changing scores considerably after the fact. Hell, if a single event passed by without my screeching at the television over a scoring atrocity, Montana Barn Cat would probably drag me off the hospital for psychiatric observation. Just exactly what made this such a big deal that the PBR had to call in the big guns?

I have no answers for that, and I found Ty Murray’s explanation that the committee had to act because the judges had “no accountability” to be either troubling, or ludicrous, or both. If they aren’t accountable, then what possible credibility could the scoring of any event have? More to the point, if they aren’t accountable, who’s to blame for that?

I also am somewhat concerned that prominent people like Murray and J.W. Hart (using the word “prominent” as loosely as possible) will be second-guessing the judges to an even greater, and more public, extent. Now that such disapproval appears to have teeth, I am worried the judges may be prone to practicing their profession less boldly.

Despite the fact that I myself have frequently wanted to get up into a judge’s face and demand an explanation, I do not want them to feel like the bosses are free to meddle in their decisions at will. Given the apparent, meaning unexplained, capriciousness of this action on the part of the PBR board, I think that fear is well founded.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Our Woman in Sacramento

Dear Friends, please enjoy this exceptional report by the illustrious S. And take a gander at this exceptional photos! Sadly, thanks to the limitations of Blogger, I can't seem to get them exactly where I'd prefer they go. (It's also possible I'm just to lame to figure out how to do it.) I do plan to get a little post up myself later today, but in the meantime, feast at this glorious banquet, courtesy of our talented friend.

Our Woman in Sacramento
On Saturday, the trusty Prius and I incongruously glided into the parade of Ford F-150s entering the parking lot to the Arco Arena in Sacramento, California. Ah, Sacramento, the land of the Governator and apparently also the land of PBR controversy--but more on that later.

I'll start off by saying that I am really tired of Sacramento getting such lousy bull pens. 2008 and 2009 weren't great, and 2010 was certainly not an improvement; in fact, I think there may actually have been a decline. The event ran at least half an hour long due to all of the re-rides, some of them even in the final round. There were re-rides of the re-rides of the re-rides (and in Mike Lee's case, I think perhaps even more than that, and I felt like he filled an entire flight by himself; by the end, I was sharing his inclination to hit myself in the head). One bull, the aptly named Oscar the Grouch, refused to participate entirely and flailed around in the chute for awhile before lying down. Many did a lame hop and skip around the arena, or just bucked really poorly.

Sure, we got Troubadour and Necessary Evil, but would we have had them without the Mauney versus Lostroh match-up? I doubt it. Of course, sometimes bulls have a bad day. But this was a lot of bulls having a bad day on the same day. Maybe they don't like SMUD (Sacramento Municipal Water District, and I can't say I blame them as I don't like them, either). Come on, Hawaii, put out some more like Hawaiian Ivory and save us from the yearly Sacto doldrums.

There were a few exciting bull moments that I don't believe were televised, like one bull threatening to charge the audience multiple times, and another (Pick a Spot) taking offense to Flint's mockery from the shark cage and having a stare-down with him. Also, a few enjoyed the limelight and had to be roped and escorted out by Julio Moreno. It's unfortunate that there was not a lot of excitement produced by the actual bucking.

As far as the riders were concerned, I was disappointed that Guilherme Marchi was not having a great weekend, and although I am not the world's biggest Kody Lostroh fan, I did feel some pity for him when I saw his defeated body-language. I think the ride of the night for me would be Brian Canter on Pick a Spot; that little guy showed a lot of grit and determination to stick on a bull that was bucking his heart out. Dusty Ephrom's wreck was really frightening, and I'm amazed he came out of it with only what appeared to amount to a giant, nasty bruise on his neck. I enjoyed seeing Adriano Moraes filling in for Cody Lambert, and it seemed like the Brazilians were enjoying having him around, as well as having Paulo Crimber there, who I hope is thinking with his head and not just his heart about his possible return.

Some random amusing things: the opening flaming bull heads seem to have been retired, and have been replaced by a metallic-y PBR logo that bursts into flames and rises to reveal . . . Kody Lostroh! I thought it was kind of daft, but the PBR seems really excited about it, so look for it at a city near you. Also, Ariat had some sort of remote-controlled dirigible with a picture of a bull head on the front, which flew around the arena, dropping what I assume was coupons. I didn't get anywhere near one, so I don't know exactly what they were, although one would probably be safe in guessing it was some sort of discount for something related to Ariat.

Flint is still Flint. Does he do the "this is how much screen time I get in the coverage" skit at every event? (SQ says: Yes.) I did enjoy his Kid Rock impression, and his voice wasn't half bad as he sang his own PBR-styled lyrics to "All Summer Long." He also seemed very enamored of how "cute" the bull Snowball was, which, well, I kind of have to agree. Shorty's hair was alarming, but luckily was only in view for a short period of time. Shorty's hair didn't help him be the "Go To Guy" for the evening, and the bullfighter who replaced the injured Joe Baumgartner (Eric Layton) seemed mildly embarrassed to be singled out for the honor.

As far as the controversy, it's interesting to me that both of the "lightning-rod" moments I have witnessed live in Sacramento seemed to not be a big deal at the time. During the Kasey Hayes helmet fiasco, the in-arena announcer sort of laughed and said, "Yeah, that'll show him [the bull]!" and that was it. It wasn't until I got home and saw the telecast and Justin McBride's commentary that I had any idea this was going to turn into another round of extra-special venom on the comment section to the PBR website, and result in disciplinary action for Hayes. After further thought, I didn't disagree with the punishment, even if it did seem rather harsh. That's what making an example of someone is all about.

In this case, the people at the event, and I presume J.B. Mauney and Elliot Jacoby, didn't know the individual breakdown of the judges' scores, so it really didn't seem that dramatic. I certainly was more concerned with the way that Mauney was holding his hand, and the look on Jacoby's face, like a kid who was given a Christmas present and then had it snatched away as he was told it was actually for his brother. It was only when I got home and saw that Ty Murray definitely had something to say about the score that I realized we were in for more fun with vile bickering online and, somewhat surprisingly, disciplinary action for the judge, in what I would say is pretty clearly yet another situation of making an example of someone.

My feelings and thoughts on the matter have little bearing on anything, but coming from someone who was there, I would say: a) judge #1 had no way of knowing that J.B. Mauney would ride Troubadour when he scored Elliot Jacoby; b) the judge also couldn't know that if J.B. rode, his ride would get good scores from the other judges; and c) he would also have no idea what scores the other judges were giving Mauney when he was scoring Mauney's ride. Since the judge has not explained his scoring, we can only speculate as to whether he purposefully was under/over-scoring, had an unconscious bias for Mauney's style or against Jacoby's, saw something the rest of us are missing, or if there were other factors, but I truly don't believe that this was some sort of deliberate fix, in part because it would be a really clumsy and ineffective way to go about it.

In addition, it seems to me that cowboy commentators can get the fans riled up like no one else, and the PBR had to respond in the face of that, and they did respond. The situation ended up being awkward for Jacoby, Mauney and the judge (and probably the Rules and Regulations Committee as well), but it was dealt with and hopefully will discourage any repeat situations. I do wish the PBR would get the take-home message that the fans (or, at least the ones who are vocal online) aren't interested in having one rider being the focus, and if they backed down a little with their rivalries and favorites, there would probably be a whole lot fewer conspiracy theories and wild accusations.

In my unsolicited opinion, the PBR is making the transition from smallish niche sport to mediumish niche sport, and there are always going to be problems associated with this kind of move. It's nice to see that they do seem to have set up a process that can be called upon when things go haywire, and hopefully they can continue to re-define themselves and take corrective action when needed. Not everyone is going to be happy with it, and many will make noises about the good old days and these evil business people, but if the sport is going to grow, it is also going to change, and that isn't necessarily bad. On the other hand, a system like in other judged sports with six judges and the high and low scores being discarded would certainly help do away with any real or perceived impropriety in the future, and in a much more concrete way than slapping down one judge one time.

I do hope that Jacoby gets a win soon, that J.B. Mauney holds his head high and rides well, and that the fans can move on; I hold little hope that the commentators will hold their tongues and think before talking. Ride on, boys, ride on, and may the bull pens not suck from here on out.

In other news, Adriano Moraes (who was doing a signing with Wiley Peterson at the Ariat booth), upon seeing my newest drawing, said I could make a living at it. I nearly died. I would love to do that, by the way. So if anyone from the PBR is interested, please contact me. ;)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where’s My Parachute?

Good afternoon, gentle readers. I do plan to comment here shortly about the Madison Square Garden event, but I just had to share this with you all first. It all started when we were lounging around on Sunday afternoon, watching the PBR on NBC and making our customary snide remarks. All of a sudden, I was moved, for the first time this season, to go pull out my Turn Him Out! journal so I could make some notes.

Yes, friends, I am embarrassed to admit that I have an actual journal specifically for this purpose, and if you saw it, you would doubtless write me completely off as a poser, because I snagged it at a used book sale and it actually has curlicues and flowers and flourishes and the words “rose” and “love” in a girly golden script floating around on the cover. But it also has a spiral spine that makes it easy to write in while I’m holding it on my lap, and big pages to accommodate my slanderous observations that sometimes, I am sorry to say, do get writ large in really black ink. Suffice it to say that what’s on the inside doesn’t match what’s on the outside very often, if at all.

As luck would have it, I retrieved the journal just as Ty Murray was talking about whether the riders should think about hiring coaches, and when I opened the book up, what should fall out but three pages of scribbles from God knows when. It’s embarrassing but true—though I have an actual journal, I still sometimes just snatch up whatever scrap of paper happens to be wandering by at the moment and scrawl down whatever I'm thinking about. The miracle is that those errant chicken scratchings do generally end up getting stuffed into the journal at some point, even if I never look at them again.

Anyway, I opened up the folded pages and immediately found the inspiration for this post. It was not, I’m sorry to say, so salubrious a discovery as Mary McCarthy’s stumbling up on the materials list for her Catline costume in her old Latin grammar book, but since I’m dealing with subjects rather less elevated here, I will have to make do.

And I swear I am not making this up: the pages were covered, front and back, with a list (probably written under the influence) with this heading: “Why I Should be a PBR Coach.”

First of all, I was dumbstruck (and that rarely happens) to realize that this discussion has been going on for so long, because this pencil scrawl has to date to at least last summer and possibly earlier. Second, I was equally amazed to realize a great simple truth: Nothing has changed. Although Montana Barn Cat was been heard several times lately to mutter imprecations about the way the Powers That Be keep mixing things up, I was stunned to realize that nothing that’s been said on the subject in the past nine months has moved the discussion forward one iota. Suffice it to say, kind folks, that I am just as qualified to coach in the PBR as I was the day I grabbed a pen and started writing up my resume.

Since I am sure that many of you, too, are as qualified as I am to fill these important positions, I have to throw my hat in the ring right away, before too many of you catch on to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. So herewith I offer up my sterling qualifications, recorded so long ago and still as true as the day I first wrote them down.

1. I know the basics as well as anybody. To stick to the back of a bull, all a rider has to do is follow this advice:

a. Tuck your chin;
b. Stick your chest out;
c. Stay out over the front of the bull;
d. Break at the hips;
e. Turn your toes out; and
f. Don’t look off to the side.

So far, so good, right? I guess I haven’t been listening to these guys natter on for nearly 10 years now for nothing. Ah, but there’s more!

2. I know the lingo, which qualifies me not only to coach, but also to talk to the media, if any of its members care to show up. To wit:

a. You got to ride ’em jump for jump;
b. I don’t pay attention to no bull scores;
c. I ain’t never seen that bull before;
d. You got to have your hammer cocked;
e. You got to keep your powder dry; and
f. (a golden oldie) He’s got the try.

I ask you, fellow fans, what else would you possibly need to know? After all, no cowboy in his right mind would conceivably take seriously Adriano’s comment that the riders need at least four coaches. Hell, this crew is so determined to do it themselves that most of them would rather get hung up and stomped half to death daily than PAY somebody to give them advice. Fortunately for me, I have one huge advantage that none of the other candidates have:

3. I’m a girl.

That’s right—it’s a deal-maker, because nobody would even have to KNOW I’m actually a coach. I could just appear to be hanging around the chutes with the other buckle bunnies, though the first guy that calls me that, or the considerably less complimentary “chute bitch,” will get his clock cleaned and no mistake. I’ll even clutch my girly journal to my chest and pretend I’m just there to gather autographs. I’ll be perfectly incognito, I promise.

So what are you waiting for? I’m the complete package! Now’s the time, boys, to step right up and enlist the Stockyard Queen to coach you to the next world championship. The very best part is, if it doesn’t work out, you can always pretend I wasn't coaching you, or if worst comes to worst, point out that I'm a GIRL. This is an offer you can’t refuse.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

New Year's Resolutions

Friends and neighbors, it’s time again for the Stockyard Queen’s annual attempt to improve both herself and the sport she loves so much. That’s right, once again she’s trotting out the resolutions she has made on behalf of the organization, and in the spirit of fairness, she’s offering up some for herself and Montana Barn Cat, who doubtless won’t appreciate being suborned into these activities, but doubtless also will go along for the ride because he won’t know what hit him.

Resolutions for the Stockyard Queen

1) I resolve to post here at least once a week during the season, come hell or high water. I may take a breather during the weeks when there are no events, but I am sick to death of the slovenly way this blog has been run for the past year and I will brook no more whining and complaining about how the principals are just too buried in work to mend the fences and muck out the stalls at the Stockyard. I can’t deny that things have been perfectly awful here for the past two years, but I also can’t say that not posting has made anything any better. Certainly, it hasn’t made me feel better. I may be doing nothing here but indulging myself by clapping my gums together, but if all I accomplish is an improvement in my own attitude, it will be worth it.

2) I resolve to persuade Montana Barn Cat, who came up with the idea for this blog in the first place, to post something every once in a while his own self. MBC, we need to hear from you, please.

3) I resolve to continue to investigate the effects of premium gin on PBR events, and to try out as many brands as I can find without ending up on the floor snoring at the end of the telecast. Since on Sunday mornings I go to work at midnight EST, I can’t afford to be drunk and disorderly when the event is over, so I will be prudent. But I also can’t think of anybody better qualified than me to take this task on.

4) I will finally, somehow, find the perfect Western shirt to wear to PBR events.

5) I will attend the Nile in Billings and the Enterprise event in Bozeman. I would like to try to get to Nampa as well, but since it’s always the weekend after Billings, it’s problematical, especially since my dog sitter has had the audacity to find herself a boyfriend (and a fine man he is, too). Consequently, I hesitate to ask her to disrupt her life for two weekends running so I can go off joyriding around Sun Valley. This is especially an issue since looking after our dogs involves taking your life in your hands when you open the door, because MacKenzie still thinks that everybody in the world is pleased to be knocked to the ground and licked half to death upon arrival.

6) I will make every effort to get to the PBR Finals in Vegas this year. I can’t promise, because being in business for yourself means that you can’t conclusively predict what your income stream will be, but I really want to get down there. Every year, MBC and I talk about it, and every year we have ended up deciding against it, because to do it right meant spending a fortune and 10 days—in Vegas, for God’s sake. We don’t enjoy gambling (although some might contend that the second sentence of this paragraph proves I’m a liar), so you can imagine how much we would enjoy being stuck there for that long, even if we did manage to slip off to LA in the middle of the week to see some of our friends and relatives. But now that the PBR has collapsed the event into a single week, we might manage to get down there for at least the last two or three days. We will work on it, I promise.

Resolutions for the PBR

1) To insist that Leah Garcia, and not Donna Brothers, will be the *girl* reporter when events are broadcast on NBC. I wish just once someone would explain to me why the rest of the PBR broadcast team (need I point out that they’re all men?) moves over to NBC, but Leah is always left behind. I have not forgiven Brothers yet for chasing the crying Adriano Moraes down the hall after his last ride in Vegas in 2008, and I don’t plan to, ever, and just forget it. Leah is the one who really works her tail off at the events and, more often than not, shows a lot of guts when she questions the riders, so I’m willing to overlook the way she fawns on Kody Lostroh. Please, folks, vote Donna off the island. I’m sick of the sight of her skinny behind.

2) To finally make wearing helmets mandatory. Really, people, how long do we have to keep talking about this? My woman Leah had a long-ass report during the Baltimore event about how the PBR has officially sanctioned two types of rowels for spurs, so maybe fewer riders will get hung up in their ropes and dragged all over creation, but the Powers That Be can’t suck it up and insist that the riders put on helmets or take their business elsewhere? Does that make any kind of rational sense to you? A year ago, the National Football League initiated a study of the effects of multiple concussions on players’ lives AFTER they leave the league. In case you haven’t noticed, those players are REQUIRED to wear helmets, but apparently that isn’t enough to protect their brains from serial injury over the long haul. But the PBR, for God’s sake, can’t cut the mealy-mouthed crap about this being “an individual decision” and save a few lives, to saying nothing about the quality of those lives? Really, I’m fed up with this macho posturing. Do the right thing and make those boys put on helmets.

3) To encourage some riders to just retire and get it over with. I am ready to see Cord McCoy, Mike White, Mike Lee, Brian Herman, Ross Coleman, Sean Willingham, and Luke Snyder bow out, because overall, none of them is riding worth a damn anymore. I really love some of those guys, but I’m ready to see some new faces. More importantly, most of these guys are just embarrassing themselves by hanging around. If I never see Brian Herman bucked off again, I will be a happier woman, and I for damned sure won’t miss hearing the commentators rhapsodizing about how Brian spends so much time in the gym. Whatever he’s doing, it ain’t working. Next case.

4) To revive the slogan “The Toughest Sport on Dirt” and ditch the milque-toast version you’ll now see on PBR merchandise, “The Toughest Sport on Earth.” And to fire the genius who thought the latter was an improvement. This is a no-brainer, folks.

5) To start a national campaign among the fans to provide Code Blue with all the Waffle House waffles that adorable baby can eat. I’m ready to sign up, right now.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dear Kody Lostroh

I’ll get right to the point—I’m breaking up with you. I know it’s bad form to conduct such business via the Internet, but no doubt you figured out when I didn’t write or call over the holidays that I was not happy with you. I am sure you carried your cell phone around with you every waking minute, hoping that you’d see my number on caller ID. I am not in the least sorry to have disappointed you.

Several factors have contributed to my decision, not the least of which was that your winning the PBR World Championship sent me into a profound funk. I am sure that my loyal readers discerned that something was the matter with me, since I could barely bring myself to type an observation on the Zonkboard, but you, in typically oblivious male fashion, just went right on celebrating with no regard for my feelings.

Perhaps that is as it should be. I have to admit that I was not proud of myself for feeling let down by your victory, and I’ve spent quite some time thinking about why it affected me the way that it did. In my heart of hearts, I did not really believe that Guilherme would manage to pull it out during the finals, since I had intuited what Adriano verbalized when he commented that “Guilherme doesn’t like pressure.” It’s one of those absolutely spot-on observations that cuts a fan to the quick, but I could not deny the truth of it. So by the time the finals rolled around, I had pretty much decided that if J.B. Mauney won the title, I would be able to dance at the party with a heart as light as my heels.

So when you won, I was perplexed because I just couldn’t be happy about it. Certainly I wasn’t surprised—everybody keep saying you were going to win, for months on end. I don’t believe that I am just a dog in the manger, sullenly growling that if my guy can’t win, the guy who wins shouldn’t enjoy it. One of my strictest rules is that I never, never wish that anything bad happens to anyone involved in the sport, not just because I think it's in poor taste, but because though I am not religious in any conventional sense, I do believe that in the end, we reap what we sow.

No, the truth is, something about you has always rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t find your riding style particularly inspiring, and I really dislike the way you go for the easiest bull in the draft every single time. Those are minor matters, however, so despite my sad moping, I was fully prepared to keep my mouth shut and just move on. Then my readers suddenly started pointing out the pictures of your bobcat hunt on the web, and I knew that I had to speak up.

Nearly 20 years ago, when I fired my insensitive and self-absorbed husband, I moved halfway across the country to work for one of the most important history museums in the world. If I mentioned its name, it would no doubt silence any suspicions you might have about how I just don’t understand the rural way of life. One of my co-workers was a courtly Southerner, a graduate of William and Mary and of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, who had worked for several conservation outfits before he landed at the museum as public relations director. He loved fly fishing and hunting for game birds, and he kept company with a long and distinguished line of extraordinary hunting dogs who were, in his view, members of his family.

One Monday morning, he remarked that he’d been out over the weekend on a deer hunt with some folks from back east, and he said in passing that it was the last time he planned to do that. When I asked him why, he said: “Because big game hunters are assholes.”

I won’t go so far as to say that, because as it happens, I grew up in a family of hunters and I have eaten my fair share of venison and game birds. I have no quarrel, none, with anyone hunting to put food on the table, or even because he or she prefers wild game to domestic meat.

But I know, down in my bones, that trophy hunting is despicable, and trophy hunters are despicable, and I want nothing to do with anyone who indulges in it. That most definitely includes you, Mr. Lostroh. I cannot for the life of me understand why anybody would want to shoot a bobcat. They aren’t much bigger than a domestic cat and the worst damage they could possibly do would be raiding somebody’s chicken coop. Just exactly what did you get out of that, besides a big adrenalin rush and the firm conviction that your cojones are bigger than anybody else’s? It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to find out that you’re one of those jerks who hankers to go shoot an elephant or a tiger. Those people are the lowest of the low, in my book.

So from now on, when Leah sidles up to you after a ride, I will be hitting the mute button. When Justin McKee starts waxing poetic about what a great rider you are, I will leave the room. When you see me in Billings this April, don’t even try to look me in the eye. I will not be asking for your autograph, and I will not shake your hand. Just walk on by, Kody. Don’t write me, and don’t call. You and I are done.