Monday, April 25, 2011

You Haven't Lived Until . . .

Yes, it's been a scandalously long time since we were in Albuquerque, and none of us has stepped up adequately to discuss all the goings-on there, but I just have to share this with you.

A bunch of us trailed over to Dan's Boots and Saddles on Saturday afternoon before the event. After I finished handing over millions of dollars for a new pair of Adriano Moraes-endorsed Ariat boots, I spied our gay bull-rider friend checking out the helmets. I sashayed over there just in time to hear the salesclerk ask her where she rode.

"On the International Gay Rodeo Association circuit," my friend said.

The salesclerk rocked back on her heels and looked my friend over. After a long pause, she said, "I guess we don't have that here."

Believe me, child, it's your loss. I'd rather watch wild horse drag race than barrel racing any day of the week. If you're thinking of competing, though, be warned: Open-toed shoes are verboten.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Live Blogging the Last Cowboy Standing--Round Three

Flint is leading a Journey singalong. I wish he'd take the midnight train going anywhere.

Aaron Roy bucks off Titanium Tough and takes a shot to the head as he wheels off over the bull's head.
Pistol Robinson gets SLAMMED back into the chute by Black Pearl. Bull starts bucking as soon as the gate comes open and throws Robinson almost instantly.
Sean Willingham bucks off Slim's Ghost at 7.93--really did look like he was going to ride him. Willingham challenges it. Hummer says Willingham had the tail of the rope in his hand at eight seconds, but the judges do not give him a score.

LUKE SNYDER BECOMES THE LAST COWBOY STANDING IN HIS 300TH EVENT!!!!! He's not my fave, but he earned this one. My hat is off to the man. He wins $210,500.

Here's Jim Haworth, the CEO of the PBR--but frankly, I will skip that part. Now Luke is standing with Haworth and the two showgirls--the cameraman zooms in so close on one of their butts that I can see how fine her fishnets are. A fitting end to the broadcast, I must say.

Oh, just one last tidbit, which some of us have been anticipating: Hummer says, "Pay Per View looks to be the wave of the future." You heard it here first.

Live Blogging the Last Cowboy Standing--Intermission and Round Two

Here is Justin McBride a-sangin'. He's got a big mess of chopped-off strings going every which way up on the neck of his guitar. Justin, for future reference, you can cut those strings off short for special occasions, like if you're going to be on TV.

For back-up he has a fiddle player and another guy on guitar--I guess that mob he hired for the Finals has deserted him. Sez Montana Barn Cat: That guy sucks.

This is PAINFUL. What fool told this guy he can sing?

And now we present, for only the 99th time this season, Ty Murray's Bull Riding Basics. The only worse thing is the crap that Flint has been putting out into the stratosphere. Pearl, if you're there--you saw Flint's same show in Albuquerque, believe me.

Here we go.
Alves bucks off Hank, big time.
Fabiano Viera bucks off Spitfire.
Kasey Hayes bucks off Jawbreaker--huge jumps.
Ben Jones bucks off Yellow Jacket Jr.--11 buck offs in a row for this bull.
Reese Cates rides Smackdown for 6.43 seconds--then bucks off. Seventh straight buck-offs for this bull.
Caleb Sanderson bucks off Perfect Poison. Sanderson challenges, but no reride.
Douglas Duncan bucks off White Magic at 7.71 seconds. I have NEVER seen White Magic so rank. Bucked him off finally and then took a run at the bull fighters.
Valdiron de Olivera gets manhandled by Stubby.
LUKE SNYDER RIDES BRAVEHEART for 90.5. Gets his bell rung when he hits the ground, but he has a score.
Kody Lostroh gets slammed by Big Tex, but gets a reride--and I'm sorry to say, I have to agree. Bull clearly fouled himself coming out of the chute.

Now I'm really in a jam--I have thought for years that Snyder should quit, since he stays on the BFTS by dropping down to the Touring Pro tour. And you all know how I feel about Lostroh.

Lostroh's reride bull is Sue. Uh-huh.

Guilherme Marchi bucks off Little Hummer at 2.45 seconds.
David Kennedy gets helicoptered off The Situation. Probably the fastest bull we've seen tonight.
Colby Yates bucks off High Octane Hurricane at 5.93.
Aaron Roy rides Paycheck, so now we have two riders in round three. 85.25.
Pistol Robinson rides Hee Bee Gee Bee for 90.5. Way overscored, but it's a score Says Ty: "Now we have a horse race, Craig."
Sean Willingham rides Priceless for 90.75. Scoring is out of control now.
Lostroh's reride--SUE BUCKS HIM OFF at 7.25!!!!!!

Shorty predicted that four would move on--this is scary.

Leah's with the four contenders. Pistol is thinking of ABSOLUTELY NOTHING. Willingham credits lake boarding with improving his bull riding and clearing his mind. Snyder says they are all on a roll. Roy says he knows the bulls in the next round pretty good.

It's MCKEE back for the draw. He's now got a total of maybe 12 MINUTES of airtime on this event!

Shorty says two guys will ride in the third round.

Live Blogging the Last Cowboy Standing--Round One Continues

Going to have to try something different--going too fast to report each one. Qualified rides in round one:

Luke Snyder 88
Silvano Alves 87.75 on Wrangler National Patriot--astonishingly great ride.
Kody Lostroh 87.25
Colby Yates 87.25
Kasey Hayes 86.25
Valdiron de Olivia rode Rico for 86.25--he was off more than he was on, but he rode.
David Kennedy 86
Aaron Roy 86
Sean Willingham 86
Ben Jones 85.5
Pistol Robinson 85.25
Guilherme Marchi 85.25-honestly, I thought he was off a dozen times. An amazing ride! Bull was RMEF Bugle.
Fabiano Viera 84.75
Reese Cates 84
Caleb Sanderson 83.5
Douglas Duncan 83.25

FINALLY--here's special guest McKee! Hummer says, "You're like our Bob Costas--you only show up for the big events!"

He's hosting the Lucas Oil Deep Clean Playback. His entire contribution so far--FOUR MINUTES!!!!!

On to the draw.

Live Blogging the Last Cowboy Standing--Round One, Opening and Flight One

Good evening, folks! We are going to start out by blogging about each flight in turn. Once the first round is over, it's anybody's guess.

First up: a bad version of Viva Las Vegas! Now here's Flint. I notice they haven't shown us the crowd yet. Country hick voice-over dude is ON TV--and that ain't good.

Now we're praying.

Now--Las Vegas showgirls are up on the shark cage, showing us their navels! If you are prone to migraine, this is not the place to be right now.

They're introducing the cowboys, who are walking up ramps on the shark cage between the showgirls. Most of them are obviously trying not to look left or right till they're past the nearly nekkid ladies.

The Cirque du Soleil Singers are singing the national anthem. Better than a lot of renditions I've sat through--or it was for a while.

Hummer and Ty are talking, and we can finally see the crowd--I'd estimate it's just a little more than half full.

The hair is standing up on on JW's arms!

And here we go!

Dustin Elliot rides Touch of Class, but bull stumbles--Elliot gets a reride.
Douglas Duncan rides Go To Guy.
Ben Jones is on Gin and Tonic--reaches down at 7.19 and pulls his rope. No score. He challenges because he says, "Fuck! The fucking bell went off!"
Ty Pozzobon bucks off Bible Belt.
Paulo Lima bucks of a big red bull--they can't be bothered to tell us who the bull is.
Ryan McConnell bucks off Spartacus.
David Kennedy rides Zip Code--a big, dirty, slow bull.
Cord McCoy bucks off Secretary of Soul.
Fabiano Vierra rides No Guts.

And we have a ruling on Ben Jones! He gets a score. Leah asked Jim Bob Custer about it--he says that Ben heard a whistle and pulled his wrap. Custer says that no one in the arena heard the whistle, but the guys in the production truck DID hear it. So--Jones advances!

Elliot Jacoby falls off his bull, which is unfortunate because he would have gotten a reride.

So we have four who rode in the first flight.


Friday, April 15, 2011

Taking One for the Team

Folks, I write to inform you that after all our shucking and jiving, we WILL be watching Last Cowboy Standing tomorrow and, as an added bonus, sort-of live blogging it, most likely on the Zonkboard. The way this came about is fairly embarrassing because it shows just how wishy-washy we can be in our resolve sometimes, but then, we never claimed to be paragons of consistency. Around here, we're more of the Walt Whitman frame of mind: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then." We will leave the high moral ground to certain of our readers who KNOW that all issues are black and white.

The short version of the story is that Montana Barn Cat was supposed to be away this weekend, so of course The Stockyard Queen had planned to spend both days lying on the sofa, eating bonbons, drinking tequila neat, and watching Sex and the City 2 and reruns of shows that give MBC the bends. Alas, his trip got canceled, and he REALLY wants to see LCS. So, being the fairminded sort that I am, I blackmailed him--I agreed to shell out the $30 IF he helps me live blog. Amazingly, he agreed.

You heard it here first, folks. Tune in tomorrow night for the debut of that maniac blogger, Montana Barn Cat, reporting live from The Stockyard!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Albuquerque -- The Ambiance

Every year, it seems like the commentators on the TV talk in hushed, reverent tones about how The Pit is "like no other venue." Assuming that this was like all the other overblown commentator-speak that we hear at each event, I couldn't really appreciate that what they were saying for once lived up to the hype... until I was there in person, staring down the seemingly endless stairs heading into the depths of The Pit.

Let's just say that going to bull riding at The Pit is almost like going to an event in a giant funnel, or perhaps being seated in the midst of Dante's Inferno (only way more appealing and with hopefully a few fewer sinners being tortured), with bull riding at the bottom instead of the final circle. (See helpful illustration by Botticelli.) Although at times it did sound as if one were in a funnel (or possibly the Inferno), with crowd noise ricocheting around with nowhere to go to be dampened, this somehow only added to the excitement that pervaded the venue.

The seats are set in a very steep, tiered fashion, which comes decidedly in handy when at least half the audience is likely to be wearing cowboy hats that can impede the view. The actual floor of the arena is relatively small, necessitating the shark cage to be placed on one side of the arena next to the crowd, and for there to be only four chutes on one side, which, combined with the fact that no matter where you are sitting, you feel as if you are on top of the action, lends a strange intimacy to the proceedings.

The unique layout of the venue also apparently limited the usual over-the-top pyro, as the flaming bull heads sadly did not make an appearance here, and the "PBR" flaming letters were a bit odd, with a loop around the front. To balance out the incalculable loss, most of the audience should have been able to see things they can't always at other venues, being basically stacked up above the chutes no matter where they were seated: the bulls milling around in their pens, and a nice view of the bulls and the cowboys in their "natural pre-ride habitat." The one big drawback of the venue became clear when watching the cowboys have to make the long trek up and down the many, many stairs, their only entrance and egress, which the audience only had to attempt a few times.

Incidentally, one side bonus of this venue is that it has great lighting, which is not a given at any bull riding event. Besides making it a generally nicer viewing experience overall, it also ups the chances of getting any decent photographs. Which, as you can probably guess, is an interest of mine.

Ty Murray clearly loves this event with his name on it, and it was nice to see him on the dirt rhapsodizing about it. He may not be a natural commentator, but he can be a charming guy. It was also nice to see the Native American invitees -- while they may not have done very well this year, the crowd definitely made noise for them and they seemed ecstatic and grateful to be there. Another unexpected and somewhat unlikely return was Tony Mendes, a blast from the past who came out with his breast cancer awareness chaps and made a case for returning to the tour once again after his heyday in the early 2000s.

If the crowd went crazy for the Native American riders, it was nothing compared to the arena-shaking roar that went up for the New Mexico natives, Ryan McConnel and L.J. Jenkins. I find Ryan McConnel kind of endearing with his devil-may-care approach and crazy sense of style, and there's something a bit bashful about L.J. Jenkins that is appealing, so seeing them react to the approval of the crowd was a bit touching, even for those of us who found the scoring for this even to be a bit... convenient. (I'm sure Stockyard Queen and/or I will have a whole rant on this in a future post.)

Stockyard Queen has already waxed poetic about the overwhelming bull power of the event, so I won't go over that ground again, but how could I talk about the ambiance of this event without talking about "the moment" of the event -- the moment that Valdiron de Oliveira chose Bushwacker in the draft. This thick, expectant silence fell over the audience once Valdiron spoke; there were almost visible thought bubbles over many a cowboy hat, "Wait, did he just say that?!" Say that he did, when he had a decent selection of much more rideable bulls from which to choose. And as it sank in, suddenly, as one, the crowd let out something that was half gasp, half yell, building up into a huge cry of approval that nearly brought a tear to this cynic's eye.

It was one of those "goosebump moments," and I will try my hardest to hold on to that moment whenever I read some ignoramus going on about how "the Brazilians" (because they apparently operate as a unit) always choose "the easy bulls" (because, apparently, some short go bulls are always easy) and that's why "they" are winning, or whatever nonsense. And of course Valdiron de Oliveira can't win here, because those who scorn "the Brazilians" for choosing "the easy bulls" can now rejoice that he bucked off Bushwacker (even though obviously he is far from the only one to do so) and conveniently ignore the fact that he chose the rankest bull in the pen. But, whatever the ignoramuses may say, he had the confidence to make the pick, he seemed to be doing it strategically to try to make up some points, so I for one salute him for the effort.

There was something about that moment and the reaction of the crowd that was a little unreal, a little magical -- this strange little arena makes it seem like anything can happen. I may have my doubts about the direction the PBR is taking, I may have had my doubts about the scoring at this event, but overall this event made me feel like we were back in the glory days. Let's hope I can recapture that feeling in the face of the increasingly obvious judging shenanigans of the events since.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why I'm Here for the Duration

Let’s face it, folks—it’s been one tough season for devout PBR fans. We’ve seen sudden, inexplicable, and completely unexplained changes to the broadcast, the addition of a ridiculous short-go at the end of each round that basically just guarantees that any rider who is on a (even momentary) tear will move from front runner to unstoppable, and apparent changes in the leadership of the PBR—I say “apparent,” because despite multiple reports of such goings-on, we have yet to hear one word from the organization itself about whether Jeffrey Pollack is still working in Pueblo. We’ve seen changes to the live events that range from amusing to excruciating, while of course the crap that NEEDS to be changed is piously being preserved, like dead bugs in amber. Since the first crack out of the box back in January, it’s just been one damned thing after another.

Consequently, Montana Barn Cat and I debated long and hard about whether we were, in fact, going to venture to Albuquerque for the Ty Murray Invitational at the end of March. What finally convinced us to go was 1) we had made the arrangements months ago, and of course not one, but BOTH of us, would have had to suffer traumatic amputation of all four limbs (and possibly our heads, too) before the airline would consider refunding our money, and 2) we have good friends there, and had invited yet more good friends to join us there, and we are not ones to miss a party, particularly not when we promised we’d throw it.

After many high jinks and dubious adventures, our crew (Pearl de Vere, Montana Barn Cat, a gay bullrider from San Francisco and her escort, two friends who had yet to be inducted into the mysteries of bull riding, and myself) all gathered on Saturday at our hotel, from whence the very cute shuttle driver (my BFF Elisabeth would have dubbed him a “cocktail frank” on the spot) trundled us down to The Pit. Even though he was driving a minivan, it still took two trips. We reassembled at our seats just before the lights went out and the WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! IF YOU ARE PRONE TO SEIZURES, GET THE HELL OF HERE THIS MINUTE BEFORE WE START SHOOTING OFF FIREWORKS AND FLASHING LIGHTS! crap commenced.

But finally the foolishness was over, and the bulls started bucking, and I was, as my drama queen friend Sandy used to say, in my glory. The bulls were absolutely at their best all weekend long. I don’t see much point in rehashing the rides verbatim when the illustrious Pearl has kindly offered to share with me what she modestly calls her Buck-off Gallery, and we all know how loudly a picture speaks. Some of these photos are from Saturday night and some are from Sunday afternoon, when she, Montana Barn Cat, and I (the diehards) returned for our second helping, but I have no shame—I will cheerfully mix them all together and revel in every dusty second of it.

You all know that I certainly don’t want to see any cowboy get hurt, but I most certainly want to see ALL of them hit the dirt, so the short round on Sunday was pretty much heaven for me. Ten up, ten down—I can't recall ever having seen that, but I am grateful I got to see it once, live and in person.

Weren’t they just irresistible, those long-horned, short-horned, muley, black, white, black-and-white, brown, red, and speckled babies? Weren’t they just poetry in motion—Flip Side, Wild and Out, Lincoln Electric’s Bring It, I’m a Gangster, Palm Springs and Too Tall and Slim’s Ghost and all his brother clones?

The one who epitomized my ongoing love affair with the sport, though, had to be Insaniac. He’s a 1,500-pound five-year old bull who’s been on the tour for two years now. His riding percentage is too high for my taste—66.7%—and on Friday night, Ryan McConnell had ridden him for 87.50 points. But apparently somebody forgot to send him the memo about how he was all washed up, because on Saturday night he promptly threw Anderson Viana Alemcar for a loop, and then took a victory lap around the arena, lifting up his feet, tossing his head, snorting and pawing the dirt, daring anyone to tell him he wasn’t the rankest bull in the pen.

That, right there, is why I’m here: the bulls just keep getting better, and the best of them never doubt for one second that they belong in the big leagues. They don’t get star-struck and fall to their knees before Bushwhacker’s pen. They pay no mind to bright lights and loud noises. They don’t waste one second thinking about whether the cowboys on their backs are newcomers or world champions. They are there to put the cowboys on the ground, and they glory in every leaping, belly-rolling, high-kicking second of it. The new ones are as brash and confident as the seasoned ones, and there is no shortage of new ones waiting in the wings. As long as the bulls keep showing up and bringing it, so will I.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

S. in Fresno

Our intrepid reporter S. has journeyed to the land of Fresno, and has brought back the following report and photos for our enjoyment!

I have to say, against all past experience with Fresno, outside of the Finals, Fresno has now become my favorite event to attend live. This year was even more interesting in the interpersonal arena, since the hotel we stayed last year and stuck with this year was suddenly the host hotel.

Unfortunately, this hotel seems to have a problem with getting rooms done on time and this has not changed in the intervening year. When I attempted to check in at 3:00, the lady at the desk said, "Well, check-in is at 3:00, so your room is not yet ready." What? Anyway, we ended up waiting quite some time, which would have been incredibly annoying, except: see the previous statement about this being the host hotel. So as we forlornly sat in the breakfast room, our luggage strewn about us, we were entertained by the comings and goings of various folks, including:
  • Brandon Bates, who has a snazzy hand-tooled belt with his name on it.
  • A limping J.B. Mauney, on a quest for a fork.
  • Shane Proctor in work-out gear.
  • Cody Nance, pre-neckerchief, with his apparent newbie under wing, Corey Bailey.
  • Shorty Gorham, who was very excited about some magazine.
  • Keith Ryan Cartwright, bustling to somewhere.
  • Ben Jones' dad.
  • Much of the Brazilian contingent, including Valdiron de Oliveira, Elton Cide, Paulo Lima and Silvano Alves.
After an hour of being amused in this manner, we could finally check in and then had a brief window of time to get ready before heading off to the SaveMart center in our scheduled hotel shuttle. Unfortunately, some shuttle-stealing cowboys thwarted us, leaping into the shuttle and zooming away as we stood in a cloud of exhaust and confusion. We were more amused than anything, since those guys have to be at the arena much more urgently than we do, plus we ended up meeting a neat older couple that we would run into again and again over the weekend -- I really enjoyed meeting them and they helped me gain some perspective after I narrowly avoided launching myself in incoherent rage at some fans expressing their, um, views on the Brazilians.

As we did not have tickets for the first night, we bought some cheap seats at the arena, which actually turned out to be pretty decent. As TeamPBR members, we were allowed into a mini meet and great, which featured Paulo Lima, Fabiano Vieira, Silvano Alves, Douglas Ferreira, Valdiron de Oliveira, Ben Jones and Chris Shivers. The newer Brazilian qualifiers really impressed me, as mingling with people you can't really communicate with has to be a bit daunting, but they were extremely pleasant and appreciative of the fans. Ferreira even did some joking around, and joking around has to be pretty hard when you don't have much of the language. My camera settings, pre-loaded for bull riding, were sadly not terribly cooperative with the opportunity.

As far as the introduction to the even itself, I was happy to see the return of the flaming bull heads. I had missed them. There seems to be an excess of pyro now, though, and the ridiculous voice-over lady and man and "Get Off on the Pain" are apparently inescapable. I also had to laugh at the "Warning! Warning!" with the red flashing lights that tells you to flee if you don't want to see the pyro, etc. Really? So cheesy.

We had Trace Adkins singing the anthem, which, well, this is the first time I have heard the anthem sung in the bass range. Trace Adkins also had a running gag of threatening to beat Flint up in the parking lot after the event-- no idea what that was about. Flint now does 1980s sing-alongs-- be warned. Things get awkward when the crowd doesn't know the lyrics to "Don't Stop Believin'," let me tell you.

I'm sure you've all seen the event so I won't go in too much detail on that, but in the immortal words of Charlie Sheen, the bulls were, "Duh -- winning!" In contrast to the usual state of affairs in the other NorCal event, Sacramento, the bull pen was really strong, and there were very few re-rides. The bulls were doing so well that for awhile that I thought there wouldn't be 10 rides to fill up the new short go, but we ended up with 11 qualifying scores.

Now, not to get too off topic here, and you all know that I love Valdiron de Oliveira, but this format is pretty much tailor-made for him and it makes things pretty lopsided. His riding percentage is insane, and if you give him a chance to have another bull run under him, more often than not, you are giving him another score. And in this case, he was the only one to score in the new short go, meaning he had a huge advantage over the rest of the field (which was fine with me and I'm sure with him), but it seems like this new short go is really changing the way the season will go. We shall see how it plays out, but I'm suspecting that short of injury, the way it is going to go is Valdiron winning handily, with Renato Nunes, Robson Palermo, Shane Proctor, Austin Meier and a few others doing their best to stay in it.

After the event, there was an on-the-dirt signing, which I found a bit weird. I enjoyed being on the arena floor, but sadly, not all fans have manners. The cowboys were trying to sign things for us and for people on the railing; it was kind of chaotic. My mission was to get Shane Proctor a copy of the drawing I had done, and to get him to sign one for me, and at least that was successful. And Renato, complete with a big grin, remembered me as the one who did the drawing for him, so there was also that. Doing the drawings is something I enjoy for the process itself, but getting nice feedback doesn't hurt, either.

Anyway, we exited into a cold downpour, which would come back to haunt us in the morning. We rose early in order to attend the bull housing tour, which I was incredibly excited about. Unfortunately, we got a call from the front desk saying that the event was canceled as the rain had made the grounds too sloppy. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement, although obviously I understand the liability and safety issues. I really hope that I can catch one of these in the future, because of all the things going on in Fresno, this was the one I was anticipating the most.

Having been denied the bulls, we headed down for breakfast, where, if you will excuse me, I will use a quote from the movie Spaceballs to illustrate a point: "So, Lone Star, now you see that evil will always triumph.... because good is dumb."* Let's just say that several of the Brazilian contingent were at a table, looking clean-shaven, neat and pressed, eating what appeared to be balanced breakfasts. They looked well-rested and were chatting cheerfully with fans. In the meantime, several cowboys from countries other than Brazil stumbled down, looking disheveled and rumpled, and started digging into biscuits and gravy while staring blearily around the room with jaundiced eyes. Now I'm not saying that it isn't fine for guys to come out to ride to make enough money to have a good time touring and partying with their buddies, but when they are going up against people who treat this as a serious profession, I really think that says most of what there is to say about the Brazilian dominance of the PBR. There may be a few non-Brazilians that are taking the same approach they are, and some with enough talent that they don't need that approach, but overall, I think the Brazilians have a plan and they are executing it with aplomb.

Tiring of cheese pizza, we took a break from the world of the PBR to get some sushi, and then it was back to the SaveMart. Team PBR, it turns out, had arranged something new and different for us. Besides another mini meet and greet, they had set aside a room where the BullStock Media folks, the saviors of many a time the Live Event Center has been down, had set up a photo studio of sorts. You could go in and get your photo taken with Chris Shivers, Cody Campbell and Aaron Roy, and then they would print it out for you with their super-duper printer, all in a matter of moments. Kind of nifty and definitely appreciated, even if it did end up looking kind of like a photo Christmas card, with less Christmas tree and more cowboys.

As to the event, to revisit a comment from Chris Shivers last season, is it time to breed a better cowboy? We were pretty scarce on rides, and outside of Renato's triumphant outing in the short go, there was nothing going on for the cowboys there. The bulls are getting better and better, and the cowboys are seeming outclassed. The odds are against the cowboys anyway, and now with these professional and organized breeding programs, the odds are not getting any better. For bull fans, that's fine, but it will be interesting to see how the fans of the cowboys react as there are fewer and fewer rides. Oh, and one thing to look out for when you are at a live event -- Shorty talking to himself. Obviously he's talking to the broadcast, but it's kind of funny to see him during a moment of down-time, waving his hands around and talking to the air. I like hearing from the guy, but I hope this double duty doesn't pull him too many ways.

Other things that might not have made the broadcast: Curveball exited the chute alone, leaving Paulo Lima clinging to the back of the chute. There was lots of yelling and gesturing, and it was determined that Paulo hadn't called for the gate. How does this happen? Between the malfunctioning timer and this kind of thing, it doesn't give one a lot of faith in the professionalism of the sport. Nor does the fact that the commentators can't figure out how to pronounce Silvano Alves' name. Of the range of names in the PBR, Silvano is really not one of the tougher ones, guys. Come on, now.

Although, one moment of judging did impress me. We were seated by the replay judge (not sure who it was, as I don't know many of the judges by sight), and Fabiano Vieira had hit the replay button on the time for his ride on Get Off. The in-arena announcers had said that it was declared a buckoff, but no one who spoke Portuguese apparently told Fabiano, because he was standing around in confusion for what seemed to be quite some time. The replay judge finally gestured to him to come over, showed him the replay on his screen, and showed him the timer along with the ride on the screen, all in a clear, calm and patient manner. I have to say that I was favorably struck by the way this was handled.

Another moment that impressed me was Robson Palermo taking the hat off of his head to lend it to Renato Nunes, whose hat was in the midst of being trampled by RMEF Gunpowder & Lead. There's something wonderful about the comradeship that all the riders have, but the Brazilians seem to have a special bond, and that was just a sweet little moment. I guess it helped, too, since Renato rocked it out for 92 points, and capped it off with some strange little victory breakdance. Valdiron didn't ride in the short go but finished off the evening with a win based on the strength of his earlier performance. That is, unless you are Erin Coscarelli, in which case, Renato won. Okay, Erin, one is 5'9" tall and 165 pounds, and is the current world number one. The other one is 5'7" and 135 pounds, and is the reigning world champion. They don't look remotely similar. How embarrassing. Back to you, Craig.

One random story for you: we caught the shuttle back to the hotel, and as we were heading off, the driver got a call to pick up some people across the street. As we pulled up in front of the place, the driver started heading around the back so as to not be in the middle of the road. As we started to round the corner, there was a blur of white cowboy hat in the logo-covered shuttle window and a loud, startling banging on the side of the van. My friend yelled out, "Cowboys, stop! Stop!" Our driver screeched to a halt and opened the door to reveal Cody Nance, Corey Bailey and a friend. Upon finding out that the driver really was going to stop for them, there was quite a lot of laughter as they realized that they didn't need to charge a moving vehicle. In the words of Cody Nance, "We made a memory!" We also had an interesting discussion about the insurance, or lack thereof, that the riders have, and discovered that Cody Nance is an old-fashioned gentleman who offers his hand to ladies getting out of shuttles. I would have expected nothing less of our favorite neckerchief-sporting cowboy, but it's good to know first-hand.

Anyway, a great two evenings of bull riding, rank bulls, nice fans, gritty cowboys and interesting interactions. Here's to hopefully doing it all again next year, however it is this year turns out!

*Disclaimer: take the Spaceballs quote as seriously as anyone should take any part of the movie Spaceballs. Which is to say, not at all.