Monday, January 30, 2012

Just Say No to Nostalgia

Howdy, friends and neighbors! I anticipate we may enjoy a guest report on the Sacramento event a little later this week, but ever since the event in Portland, something has been eating on me, and I decided I might as well let it rip.

First off, I want you all to take note that I have not ranted about J. W. Hart in a good long while—as a matter of fact, the last time anybody at the Stockyard complained about him at any length was back in August 2009, when Sir Alexander MacKenzie commandeered the computer to demand that JDub be shown the door. So I guess maybe it's time Mr. Hart took a bow on his way to the woodshed, because that's where I'm taking him.

I am absolutely sick to death of hearing JDub insist that the guys whom he competed against who are still on the PBR tour can ride as well or better this second than the cowboys who are currently at the top of the heap. I will grant you that Chris Shivers has shown us some great stuff so far this season, but seriously—Sean Willingham? Isn't that the dude that JDub himself ripped a new one last season because he couldn't ride a stick horse? Mike Lee? Really? Yeah, he's ridden a few this year, but does anybody with two eyes and any sense at all really believe that Mike is riding as well as Silvano or Valdiron?

And for damned sure I don't want to hear one more word about Brendan Clark or Ross Coleman or any of the others who have either been cut or have finally come to their senses and retired. It's embarrassing enough that those guys are being trotted out to drive the Ford F-150 around in those lovely infomercials we are treated to each week. Some newer fans probably have never even HEARD of half the guys JDub keeps praising to the skies. For their sakes and ours, John—give it a rest.

Of course, JDub isn't the only such sinner—his best bud Justin McBride is at least as guilty. Say what you will about how crazy Ty Murray makes me with his endless bull riding clinics during the broadcasts, but he, at least, seems to be looking at the current field and assessing their riding reasonably well.

It all comes down to this—nostalgia is a useless exercise for a sport that is scrambling, at this point, to hold its own, let alone bring in new fans. New riders come onto the PBR tour all the time, sometimes from one week to the next, as witness the astonishing performance in Sacramento of young Mr. Marco Eguche.

Those who are running the PBR need to look forward, not backward, on every single front—I have a strong suspicion that this mess with the broadcasts is a perfect example of the boss dogs not paying attention to something that in hindsight was perfectly obvious—and they would do well to advise those who are the public faces of the operation to do likewise.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Shannon Concludes!

Finally, I offer up a few observations.


-Every year, his show gets smaller and smaller. I'm not sure if it's because of health issues or something else, but it's certainly nothing like it was a few years ago (it's even less than what it was right after his heart attack).

-Am I crazy, or is misogyny alive and well within the confines of the PBR? Not with the "rides like a girl" comments or the "girls can't ride at this level" comments, but has anyone ever been to an event where Flint's fan of the night has been a woman? Or has the best dressed award ever gone to a little girl wearing wranglers, a button-up shirt, and cowboy hat? Because I have yet to witness that. Oh, and while I'm discussing it: I wouldn't be surprised if one day, the Rock Star girl showed up in body paint just to see how long it would take people to notice. And, of course, the Jack Daniels girls were back, although this year, they were wearing flat cowboy boots. Yet, they still teetered on the dirt. Really, girls--heel, toe, heel, toe....I've been on that dirt in boots, it's not that hard to walk on.

-On the up side, Flint did make one remark that I had to pass on: He said that he really appreciated Valdiron's honesty. That when he asked other riders if they are okay, he gets, "Yeah, I'm fine," but when he asks Valdiron, he gets "No." I like the honesty, too.

The rides

Not much to comment on here, really, except for these three things.

-Astroid is amazing to see in person!

-Renato got hit so hard, I was sure he'd be unconscious, but he got up and walked away. What a tough guy!

-As exciting as Guilherme's rides and wins were, Justin Koon has my vote for the ride of Sunday night. I didn't even need to see it up close and on replay via the tv. It was that incredible watching how he just stuck to it, hung on, and worked hard for that buzzer.

Fans and riders

It's always interesting for me to sit back and watch the fans, as well as riders' reactions to them. This year, while the kids were getting autographs, I figured I had every one I really cared to have this time around, so I just sat and listened. There were the typical reactions from both, but while watching Ryan Dirteater both nights, taking a lot of time with everyone who wanted to talk to him (and there were a lot), I reflected on just how patient they have to be and how I don't blame some of them for not really wanting to deal with it (although I do appreciate the ones who suck it up and do). For Ryan, I wondered how especially uncomfortable the moments are, like on the dirt Saturday night when one male fan was taking a picture of his girlfriend with Ryan and, attempting a joke, said awkwardly, "Just keep your hands to yourself." Sheesh! Poor Ryan! I'm sure some riders can handle that well, but to say it to Ryan? Talk about not knowing your audience.

Then we got a big eye-rolling kick out of the two girls who, with almost every rider who passed by, would say "Wait! Are you married? No? You're cute, how old are you?", and then would hand them their phone numbers. Boy, did that give us something to talk to the kids about on the way home! Some of the riders ate it up, of course, but others didn't seem to care.

So, with my live events out of the way for the year, I find myself wondering how I'm going to approach next year. Should I bother with the fan club membership again? Should we save money and try for the chute seats? Oh, we'll go—it's fun and a tradition now, but I am mulling over a few things. Until then, I'm looking forward to seeing just who clenches the victory this year.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Shannon Speaks!

Folks, The Stockyard Queen is proud to present the first of two installments of the Divine Shannon's report on the Anaheim Invitational last weekend. Next post will be up tomorrow morning, so drop back to check out the rest of her observations!

Just When You Start Thinking, "You've Seen One Show, You've Seen 'Em All. . . ."

After we spent a ridiculous $645 on six tickets, our weekend arrangements were this: Date night for me and my husband at Saturday's round, then a family day for Sunday's round.

Rick and I arrived in Anaheim early so we could enjoy a nice dinner before heading to the arena, because if we were going to spend $50 or more on food, it was going to be a good meal with waiter/waitress service. We figured since there is a nice variety of restaurants right across the street from the host hotel, we might as well park there, venture through the lobby, and out the front door. Before we even parked the car, we saw what appeared to be the cab of a trailer. It was really cool. We parked by it for a closer look just as Rocky McDonald stepped around to the driver's side. We commented on the truck and asked how many miles to the gallon it got. When he said, "12," it hit home just how much it costs in gas alone to haul bulls to an event. After talking to him for a minute, we were on our way. (If I may be allowed a bit of fan-girliness here: His eyes are so dreamy!!)

We chose Outback Steakhouse and were pretty much glued to the TV sets over the bar where one hell of a play off game was being played between the San Francisco 49ers and the New Orleans Saints. They still had some time left when we walked back through the lobby of the hotel and, since the lobby TV was on that game, we joined a few fans standing in front of it. Within minutes of us stopping, Colby Yates and Harve Stewart (fellow Saints fans) strolled up and began watching it with us. So engaged in the game was Colby that, when the Saints pulled ahead with 1:30 minutes remaining, he asked if his cab driver could wait. We had a nice chat with both guys (and a few quick comments with Guilherme when he passed by), until the game was over. The 49ers pulled out a TD with only nine seconds left, eliciting some groans among the two of us and Colby, although we did agree that it was a great game.

With a few more minutes left, I sat down on that famous lobby couch while Rick stepped away for a moment, and who should appear but Robson Palermo! I was very confused at first, looking at him blankly, then finally shaking myself out of the fog, saying "Robson?" He nodded, then walked over and sat down. We had a great chat about his daughter, whom he obviously adores, his desire to wait until he's fully recuperated to return, no matter how hard it is to sit around, and McKennon's trip to Brazil. (Apparently, McKennon still gets dizzy spells and is having a hard time with his left side. However, he is not only very determined, but was also extremely helpful on the ranches in Brazil.) Robson had to leave a few minutes after Rick got back, and then we were on our way.

The first thing we noticed while walking along the concourse is the lack of giveaways this year. There didn't seem to be quite as many booths up and, of those that were, they weren't really giving away anything except fliers. Ariat still had the "win a pair of boots" contest and Rock Star was giving out hats and samples of their drinks, but beyond that, there wasn't much happening. (Rock Star is very good, btw. At 10 calories each, I'll be picking up a lemonade can whenever I'm exhausted and have no time for a nap!) Also, the "This flight is sponsored by" announcements have stopped, nor was there a big Armed Forces spectacle in the beginning of the show. I'm not exactly sure what to make of this--hard economic times? Is there some sort of shake-up in behind the scenes? Hmm....

Anyway, we met one of our PBR Fan Club friends and her husband, who mentioned that they might be able to get us up to join them for a few flights in the front row of the chute seats. We thanked her and moved to seats we paid for, and lo and behold, just a few minutes later, she texted me with "Meet us at ground level, section 224 NOW!" OMG--she got us in! We would have been grateful for just a flight or two, but were told by a very nice PBR employee that we could stay for the first five flights, but had to make our way back before the short round. Wow.

Wow, wow, wow. From the moment the event started, time stopped. Flint barely existed (although, part of that, which is the only complaint I have about the front row chute seats, is that the sound from up there sucked). I didn't even register most of the scores and at times whether or not someone rode or was bucked off. The activity, the explosiveness of the bulls coming out of the just drew me into another world. The seats are very expensive and something I wouldn't do more than once, and that would only be if I was sure I could spare the money, but, imo, worth it. Now, I would NEVER pay for the second row. I heard complaints all night that you couldn't see the rides on the opposite side from where you were sitting, but we saw it all from the front row seats. We were very grateful for chance to experience it. However, the one thing I did not need to experience was just how dirty it could get. One bull sent some...atmosphere...flying and hit Skeeter right in the side of the face. He was obviously a bit grossed out, but seemed to handle it well. I guess if you're going to do this for a living, you have to ready for anything. Blech.

The night ended with a really disorganized trip down to the dirt. It's really not too exciting anymore since I've met most of the riders already, but since I paid for it, I was going to do it. After that, we met with the friends who got us into the seats, and then left for home.

Sunday, family day for us, brought much of the same, though, without the special surprise of chute seats. Still our seats were fantastic and we all had a great time. Nothing really out of the ordinary happened, except for a comment or two from the woman sitting next to me. It was her first BFTS event and she had won All Access tickets. She wasn't impressed. She said there were supposed to be riders on the tour, but none of them showed up and the food was so spicy she couldn't eat it, except for the soft pretzels. This is good to know in case I find myself looking at those tickets for next year.

Tomorrow, I will offer up some general observations about the event. Do come back and see us!

Losing My Heart Again

We will proceed apace to the Divine Shannon's report on the Anaheim Invitational last weekend, but before we do, I want to draw your attention, please, to two stellar performers at that event.

As is his custom, that fine and divine bovine Charlie Bullware unloaded Ben Jones almost before Ben could take a seat, and then in his typical business-like fashion went looking for the out gate. Charlie is one of the rankest and most consistently overlooked bulls on the PBR tour. He has a 85.11% lifetime buck-off average, an average buck-off time of 4.54, and his record just keeps improving. He has been ridden just SEVEN TIMES since 2009, and if his debut performance in 2012 is any indication, he will keep laying the cowboys low for as long as he's bucking. I have a hunch that if Justin McKee had been in the house on Sunday, he might have said something about Charlie's contribution to the sport thus far.

The other is newcomer Grey Feathers, who had no use for Mike Lee and let that young upstart know about it almost instantly. He's so new to the tour that he isn't even listed on the PBR website--although now that I think about it, maybe that's no surprise.

And speaking of that, it's a sorry situation when a girl has to go a bull's Facebook page to actually get a look at him. But we have learned to our sorrow that if there's one thing you can always count on, it's that the PBR website will be baffling, awkward, and, when you finally get where you want to go, somewhere between adequate and useless. In Charlie's case, calling it "adequate" isn't even an option.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Well, Isn't That Special?

First up, on the off chance that you haven't seen it already, here's the link an article that ran in People magazine last week about the PBR.

I thought you might particularly enjoy reading it (possibly for the second or third time) because it now appears that there will be NO broadcast of the PBR event in Anaheim on CBS Sports until Sunday. I've checked both the PBR website and my local listings, and that is the only conclusion I can draw.

Which brings me to the point of this post—I thought the move to CBS Sports was supposed to be big leap forward for the sport, but now I'm not so sure. First off, the coverage of the event started half an hour late last Saturday night because you can never depend on basketball players to get the game over within the allotted time, and now it is looking like we are going to be endlessly jerked around from one weekend to the next, trying to figure out where to tune in and when.

All this makes me wonder why the PBR forsook Versus in the first place. I sort of doubt that they are going to herd a whole bunch of new fans into the fold with this late-Saturday-night crap, although of course those of us in the western time zones won't fare as badly as our comrades on the East Coast or even the Midwest. I guess they can always hope that some rednecks will have passed out drunk on the couch in the early evening and will awaken to find that their basketball game is over, but hey! We see guys climbing on the backs of bulls! Must still be feeling that cheap tequila!

And for those of you who managed to watch the Friday night event last week on YouTube, I am truly happy for you, but I will not be joining you. I'm sure it's all because I tried to watch it on my laptop, but all I succeeded in doing was getting a migraine. I refuse to consider watching on my PC—I work on the damned thing about 60 hours a week, I have to work until 6 p.m. on Friday nights, and I am not going to sit in front of the computer for another second past that hour, thank you very much, not even for the PBR.

We are not starting off well, folks. First we have all this hassle with actually managing to SEE the events, and then when we do manage to see it—ye Gods and little fishes, Dakota Beck got smacked in the face and suffered a "through and through" laceration of his cheek, and then on Saturday night, what a horrible wreck Pistol Robinson got into. In hindsight, J.B. Mauney's recorded comment that his dad always told him to get up and walk out of the arena "unless you have two broken legs" seems like the worst possible coincidence, unless you, like Freud, believe there are no coincidences, and no accidents, either. If Freud had followed professional bull riding, he might have rethought that position some.

I suppose we should be grateful that it only took the PBR about four days to report that Pistol had undergone not one, but two, surgeries, that when he finally gets up, he'll be walking around on titanium rods and a double handful of screws in both legs, and that the surgeon reported that putting Pistol's left leg back together was like reassembling a jigsaw puzzle. I won't be the least bit surprised, though, if that's the last we hear about Pistol for at least a year, since, needless to say, he's out for the season.

So hightail it on over to the People website, folks, and get your (admittedly weakass) PBR fix for the next three days! That is, of course, unless you are braver than I am and are willing to wrestle with the new and improved LEC, where, as far as I can see, you can't see anything beyond the last five rides. Laissez les bon temps roulez!

And before I forget: Bring back Justin McKee!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It's Time to Ride

Howdy, friends and neighbors! We are swabbing out the Stockyard, preparatory to a great year of bull riding. It's a new dawn, it's a new day, it's a new life—you get the picture?

Considering everything we endured last season, it's a damned miracle I'm ready for the whole wonderful pageant to start all over again. We've had a bull doping scandal, we've had life-threatening injuries, we've had interviews by commentators and remarks by bull riders that were so dumb that we were ourselves struck dumb trying to figure out which end of the bull rope to pull on.

Right after the PBR finals, one of my loyal readers sent me a note, asking if I hadn't posted anything about the event because 1) I was too busy or 2) something had upset me and I was too pissed off about it to write yet. The answer, fortunately, was 1)—the end of the academic year is always a busy time for me, and this year seemed even more insane than usual.

Equally as fortunately, the answer was most definitely not 2). Watching the finals this year was a great experience—I could not possibly have asked for a more exciting series or a better outcome. Sure, there were at least a couple of nights when the bulls were subpar, and there were a lot of nights when the American riders were subpar, but all in all, it was a great finals.

In the interim, I have been mulling over some complaints from some of my readers that I am too prone to dwelling on the negatives about the PBR, and I have decided that 1) that's a load of bullshit and 2) I don't plan to change my ways. There's plenty to like about the PBR, but there's also plenty to gripe about, and I will never let it be said that I backed away from my obligations to help tote the load. If you want to read puffery about the PBR, there's always the PBR website. I'm sure they'll be happy to have you over there.

Which brings me to the point of this meandering post: The good, the bad, and the "haven't they learned a thing"? To wit:

1. We are starting a new season WITHOUT JUSTIN MCKEE, which is just a fucking atrocity. I have thought about this state of affairs a lot over the past year, and I concluded that the reason McKee got bounced was David Neal's fundamental ignorance about the sport—he apparently didn't get that half of the bull riding equation is the bull. We need Justin McKee back, if he'll have us. The boys in the booth just have not been able to dish out the same level of information about the bulls that Justin had at his fingertips. I do not intend to shut up about this just because a year has gone by.

2. We must pray to whatever gods we believe in that Neal has at least learned one singular fact about bull riding: From one week to the next, you can't count on any rider being in the mix. How can we forget Neal's rhapsodizing about how wonderful Brendon Clark's accent was and how he planned to involve him in the production? And the long-ass intro with Gary Allen wailing as pictures of the riders flashed before our eyes? Fast forward to the end of the season: Brendon Clark was no longer even on the tour, and a whole bunch of those guys who had been lauded to the skies at the beginning of the season were either barely hanging on, or were injured. I suppose it might have been an honest mistake—after all, the worst injuries you can suffer playing poker are probably a paper cut and/or being over-served—but on the other hand, nobody should start a new gig without doing due diligence. I see no evidence that Neal has done that to this date.

3. We are starting a new season on CBS Sports. I will be interested to see whether that move will bring in new fans to any degree, or whether we are going to learn, once and for all, that bull riding is in fact a niche sport loved only by redneck refugees from NASCAR and a handful of liberal women, which is where Turn Him Out! comes in.

4. We are finally rid of Erin Whosis, and I for one hope she didn't let the screen door hit her in the butt on the way out. I did my best to cut her some slack, I really did, but after I witnessed with my own eyes her stalking rudely away from Valdiron when her five-second standup with him in Billings was over, I was so done. And the woman's boots looked like shit, too.

5. We are starting off yet another season with the PBR PR department doing its utmost to 1) confuse us totally or 2) keep us completely in the dark. The press release about the move to CBS Sports might as well have been written in Sanskrit for all the information it imparted. We did, of course, learn that the sponsors are the real reason there even IS a PBR, which can't be news to anybody who attended a live event this past season.

What we didn't learn was that Peter Farley was very seriously hurt in Australia sometime around Christmas—it took Kris DiLorenzo posting about it on her fine blog to get the word out. I guess we should be grateful that three days after she posted, the PBR added one tiny clause to its description of Farley, and I quote: "Farley, who is recovering from a practice-pen injury in Australia, started off 2011 with back-to-back Touring Pro Division event wins in Denver and Pueblo, Colo., in January, and then picked up a third lower-level win in Winston-Salem, N.C." You can always count on the PBR to not report on stuff that people might actually want to hear about. The organization's handling of the bull-doping mess was pretty much a classic example of its head-in-the-sand approach.

6. We are also starting off without Bushwhacker, who was scheduled to undergo surgery today to repair a fracture in his back right leg. Wait—let me get this straight: Pete Farley was so badly hurt that he was put into a medically induced coma, according to Dustin Elliot, but there's not one word about that on the PBR's website. On the other hand, this bull, whom I absolutely love, got an entire feature to himself. It's certainly not that I don't want to hear about injuries to the animal athletes—it's just that Pete Farley, and for that matter McKennon Wimberley, deserved equal time. Boys, pay attention—if you get hurt riding bulls on the PBR tour, it's pretty much out of sight, out of mind.

After all that, I'm sure some of you are wondering why I'm bothering to tune in next weekend. Surely you know the answer: It's the bulls, stupid. Oh, yes, and the Brazilians, who act like professionals in all seasons.

Bring it on, sez I. Open the damned gate.