Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our Woman in Fresno

So here we are, folks, toiling away in the unfruitful vineyard day after day, and wondering why, and wondering why somebody doesn't pay us to do what we really want to be doing, which is blog about bull riding all day long, and realizing it's probably because despite how riotously entertaining we are, we are just two (mostly one) voice crying in the wilderness in PBRLand. Fortunately for us, our loyal readers continue to attend PBR events and send us their reports of their adventures, which perk our spirits right up. Ladies and gentlemen, the Stockyard Queen proudly offers to you the account of the Divine S, who attended the event in Fresno almost two weeks ago now and filed this with the bureau here. Enjoy!

S, Reporting from FresYes

If someone had said to me prior to the event that in Fresno I would have an incredibly exciting PBR-related evening, not to mention that I would feel anywhere close to as thrilled as I did at the 2008 finals, I probably would have laughed. All my past experiences with Fresno have been miserable, and the bull pens in Sacramento for the past few years would not lead one to think that California is a priority for the stock contractors. But then there was the Table Mountain Casino Invitational, newly expanded for 2010, which turned things on their head.

Our adventure started with a relaxing trip by train, and a shorter but somewhat alarming trip by taxi, followed by arrival at the hotel, where unfortunately the room was not ready. However, it was amusing to hang out in the "breakfast room" with other people in PBR shirts who were also waiting for their rooms (the room cleaning service seemed to be a problem). I also discovered, via laptop and complimentary wifi, that there had been several activities, such as the pre-show taping, added to the roster since the last time I had checked. There were also several cowboy sightings, which livened up the proceedings much more considerably than the coffee that had been in the carafe a few hours too long. Finally, at 3:30, we were able to race up to the room and quickly get ready so we could race back down to catch the shuttle we had scheduled for 4:00. This was followed by the somewhat awkward revelation that we would be sharing the hotel shuttle to the SaveMart Center with "one of the participants" (which turned out to be Travis Briscoe, along with his wife). Thankfully, the trip itself was not especially awkward.

As TeamPBR members, we were allowed "early entry" (15 minutes, whoohoo!), which I used to utterly baffle the people at the hamburger place (just try to get a grilled cheese sandwich at an arena grub place that doesn't have it on the menu sometime; they were really nice about it, even if in the end, their rules required me to buy a cheeseburger and the burger part went on someone else's burger). In addition to this, we stumbled upon Robson Palermo taking pictures and signing at the Cooper Tires booth. After entering several drawings and trying to avoid hearing any more about Pillow Talk's fate at the Exclusive Genetics booth, it was down via elevator into a strange basement-type area, through several sterile, cement hallways that could easily be featured in an episode of "Law & Order: SVU," and into the pre-show taping area.

The very nice crew there kept trying to herd us behind Craig Hummer, Justin McKee, and Justin McBride, to "fill in the thin spots" not already filled by other TeamPBR members, an offer which we repeatedly declined. I found watching the taping from the front much more interesting and much less distressing (and I bet you can't hear much when you stand behind them anyway). Although I knew the crew must film some spots ahead of time, to see it happening, to watch someone choreograph the clips of rides and how they would be inserted into the televised show along with the commentary, was fascinating. Not to mention seeing the commentators razzing each other when the camera was off, and getting to see little silly human moments like Justin McKee suddenly realizing he needed to spit out his gum, then realizing he was tied in by cords and couldn't go anywhere, and so giving up and spitting the gum into the pages of a day sheet. Incidentally, the day sheets were on nice quality paper and were in color--how mysterious and delightful.

And suddenly, McKennon Wimberly was ascending the podium as Justin McBride was descending, and my friend and I were engulfed in madness as a whirlwind of people advanced on McBride. The end result, after several misfires, was a "Let's do it" from a rather mellow McBride, and a pretty hilarious photo. I can't say I was ever expecting to meet Justin McBride or that he would be so accommodating if I did, but I was really impressed with his demeanor. As it was getting close to showtime, we headed out soon after this encounter. On the way, we passed the pre-show stretching rituals of Joe Baumgartner and Frank Newsom; their brightly-colored uniforms made the creepy cement hallways seem much more interesting.

Then, it was time for the main event, which kicked off with J.B. Mauney standing behind the naff flaming PBR logo in place of the injured Kody Lostroh. Now I'm wondering if we'll see Renato Nunes standing behind it next week. I'm assuming most of you have seen the event on television, so I won't go too much into the rides. I will say that the crowd was very enthusiastic, cheering for high scores, and booing for ones perceived as too low (such as Fabiano Vieira's on Pick a Spot). The place nearly came apart at Renato Nunes ride on Sooner Shaker, but the incredible sound paled in comparison to that during his short-go ride on Hank. The short-go pen was rank--those bulls were bucking hard and it made it all the more thrilling when a cowboy stuck it out the full eight seconds. In fact, the bulls throughout were pretty great, and it was nice to see this caliber of bulls in person here in California--Pinball Wizard, Skyhawk Cut-a-Rug, Silver Wings, Chicken on a Chain, Major Payne, Necessary Evil... the list goes on. I was a little bewildered by Charlie Bullware's odd and not great out, but I was glad that Mike Lee escaped a potentially horrible wreck in good enough shape to take on Hot Tamale, and overall there were very few re-rides and/or poor showings.

There were some random fun moments of note, such as Justin McBride messing with Ross Coleman on the shark cage, getting to see Ben Jones do his dance... thing, and Aaron Roy's spectacular get off from Rodeo Joe (only funny because he appeared to be fine afterward). Then there was the poor bull who refused to leave the arena, and was incredibly annoyed by being roped; he was shaking his head around so wildly to free himself from the rope that he entirely missed the fact that the shark cage was in front of him, and ran into it face-first. I don't think that improved his mood at all, but he was eventually convinced to leave the arena.

In other news, Flint has new material! Because I was spending any downtime playing with my new camera and its settings, I wasn't paying the most attention to what he was doing, but he had a new-to-me contest, which involved a really blingy dealer's outfit and giant playing cards. A guy managed to not only win tickets to the World Cup, but also double down and beat Flint to get tickets to the Finals. (How do they choose the people for these contests? I have never seen this part happen.) There was also a fishing contest... and something involving throwing baseballs into the crowd (I didn't really understand that part). Oh, and a "dance-off" between two guys in the crowd, both of whom were not great dancers, but both of whom won some cold, hard cash for their efforts. The "fan of the night" was the bride part of a bachelorette party dressed in matching outfits.

At the end of the event, I managed to wedge myself by the rail next to a very nice lady who was getting a T-shirt signed for her brother. There were a fair amount of new-to-me cowboys at this event (side note: has anyone seen anything that clearly explains the last cut? I am lost), and I had the delight of hearing the rambunctious girls with programs behind me yell, "What page are you?!" to the cowboys and seeing how they reacted. Most looked slightly alarmed, and while I can't say I blame them, my favorite answer was that of David Kennedy, who said, "I don't have one... yet!" It came off as delightfully cheeky, probably in part because of his Aussie accent. These same girls also screamed, "JODY! JODY! JODY!" over and over again, until a confused Jody Newberry, who had nearly exited the arena, came all the way back across. They didn't appear to have anything momentous to say to him once he got there, but he was very obliging.

Strangest exchange of the night: Shane Proctor looking at the photos on the photo collage I had made to be signed, one of which was of him. He then said, "That's me on Bo Devil! I've seen that picture on the internet!" I wish I knew what my face looked like at that moment, but I guess only Shane Proctor knows. So, for future reference, apparently Shane Proctor is net savvy. Other favorite moments included the woman next to me flustering Guilherme Marchi by calling him the best-looking rider in the PBR, and a palpably thrilled Renato Nunes responding to our congratulations with something pretty close to, "Yes, I am number one! Number one for today! First for this weekend!" All said with a big grin on his face.

We had noted that there was an after-party scheduled at something called the Dog House Grill across the street from the SaveMart Center. We briefly considered attending, but after the shuttle went by the site and it, rather unsurprisingly, appeared to be loud and full of people drinking a lot of beer, we decided to pass. Our exciting alternate destination? Denny's! There we encountered Jody Newberry, Ednei Caminhas, Robson Aragao, and another of the Brazilians (I was trying not to stare at them, so I didn't see who it was). Fresno is a happening place and we were all clearly living the high life. And our cowboy encounters didn't end there, as we returned to the hotel, turned the corner to the elevators, and once again found ourselves in a confined space with Travis Briscoe and his wife. They seem like sweet people and I'm glad that Travis is having better results this weekend in New Mexico than he did in Fresno.

So, in conclusion, I left Fresno on a high from all the great bulls, great rides, and great interactions with other fans and cowboys, and was filled with a conviction that Fresno might be a new event destination for both days next year. Fres-NO? Fres-YES! Take that, Sacramento. One of you has been named the winner, and one of you is out.