Saturday, February 4, 2012

I Wish I Knew How to Quit You, Sacramento

Our intrepid reporter S. has braved the wilds of Sacramento, and emerged to bring us the following post and photos!

Actually, I did quit Sacramento back in 2010, and with initial trepidation turning quickly into infatuation, transferred my love to Fresno. Let us compare: Sacramento has bad traffic, controversy (the Kasey Hayes helmet incident, the Mauney/Jacoby/scoring fiasco), few fan activities, and incredibly lame bull pens (culminating with the year that Mike Lee probably filled a whole flight by himself with repetitive goes on really poor re-ride bulls); Fresno had Amtrak, pleasant events, lots of fan activities, and good to great bull pens. So it figures that after two years of happiness with Fresno, the PBR, in all their wisdom, drew up the schedule for 2012 and Fresno was not on it, forcing our break-up.

So what to do to get a PBR fix? It was off into the bad traffic crawling slowly toward the Powerbalance Pavilion. Although I would have really loved to have seen the inaugural 15/15 (and Asteroid!), it wasn't to be, for a variety of reasons, so Sunday was the day. After grabbing subs nearby so we could avoid the usual gross nachos, we arrived in good time. I had been hoping against hope that there would be more fan events (or even early entry) than the sad three or four sponsor-affiliated signings listed on the website, but surprise, surprise, there weren’t. I was, however, quite chuffed to see Chad Berger at the Cooper Tires booth with Austin Meier, since this boded well for the bull power at the event. Plus, he cheerfully stuck a Cooper Tires sticker on my hat, because you have to have a sponsor, apparently.

There was then a delightful interlude where we couldn’t get a day sheet for any price. The people at the merchandise booth said that the ushers had them, the ushers said they’d run out. I managed to get two from a nice man at the help desk, but he said not to tell anyone where I got them since he didn’t have very many; I ended up giving one of the copies to the people in front of me, who also didn’t get any when they arrived. I don’t understand this. How do you not have enough day sheets? Don’t they know how many tickets have been sold? Couldn't they print that many and a few more for day-of ticket sales?

Even if they don’t want to risk over-printing a lot of color day sheets, is it really too much to ask to have some black and white photocopies around? I find the day sheets extremely helpful as far as cataloging my photos, not to mention that it is invaluable when the in-arena announcers fail to mention the name of a bull. Why is getting a simple program to go along with your ticket such a fiasco each time?

Speaking of announcer failures, there was a moment with the Wrangler Best-Dressed Fan of the Night that made me roll my eyes. The fan was a little boy (of course), who got the whole “girlfriend” spiel from Flint. Somewhere in here, the kid revealed that he had four cats, all of which were named after bull riders (notably, one was named Skeeter). One of the in-arena announcers busted out with, “Get that boy a dog!” and then they all went on about that for a bit (of course the dog had to be named Flint). Really? What are we talking about here? Were they implying that cats are for girls and dogs are for boys? I know they have to pass the time somehow, but a little thought before speaking into a microphone might be nice.

And, I suppose while we are on the topic of things that annoyed me at the event, the Stanley Stud Finder has not gotten any more tasteful since I saw it first at the World Finals in 2010 (and this is setting aside the fact that Stanley’s definition of a “stud” definitely diverges from mine). The ad with Douglas Duncan, Adriano Moraes, Guilherme Marchi, et al., is somewhat amusing, because it is tongue-in cheek (plus we get a classic Adriano eye roll).

But listen up, geniuses over at Stanley and the PBR: I am a woman. I use tools shocking, I know. I just bought a house that was a foreclosure, and it has lots of deferred maintenance. Out of PBR loyalty (since very few PBR sponsors are aimed at my demographic so I don't have the opportunity very often), unless there was a huge price difference, I have been purchasing Stanley and DeWalt brands, but this Stud Finder nonsense is not encouraging me to continue. Newsflash! Women use screwdrivers, glass scrapers, needle-nosed pliers, and even power drills, and to have the in-arena announcers sound off about how this promotion is for men only, and women “can help” is just condescending. It's not that I don't get the whole "stud finder" gag and why they do it the way they do, but it's really not my favorite.

Maybe I was already touchy, since being obliged to watch the livestream video of events on the live event center if I want to see half the events at all means that I am forced to see all the in-arena interactions; these sometimes are amusing but other times, not so much. The other week, a woman won the “shooting rubber-tipped arrows at plastic buck” contest, and there was all sorts of crowing about how the losing man needed to turn in his hunting card because he got beaten by a girl. Must we go there? I think the plastic bow I used at summer camp when I was 9 was harder to draw than the ones used in this contest, and shooting fake arrows at a plastic buck is hardly an activity that gives men a huge advantage. I might be being especially humorless about all this, but watching the LEC means that I am hearing this stuff all the time and it’s wearing me down—Craig Hummer comes out with some doozies, but usually they aren’t of this nature. At least this time we were spared any comments about Mesa Pate being, dear heavens, A GIRL.

In Sacramento, we were subjected to the plastic buck, but we weren’t subjected to jousting (probably because the arena is so small), so I guess there’s that. Also, being there live meant that we weren’t assaulted with “Get Off on the Pain” or the yelling of R. Lee Ermey as in the past. And hurrah, the cheesy voice-over woman is gone, although the “Warning, warning!” still remains. At least we have the flaming bull heads to console us. The seats were decent and for once, the audience around me was great, except for the lady a few rows down and over who felt the need to whirl a towel above her head whenever Flint did something “funny” or

someone she liked was riding. Which would have been annoying no matter what, but as she was directly in my line of sight to the chutes, that was quite problematic.

Since I’m apparently on a tear, I’ll move on to Flint. Flint actually was pretty toned down (for him) at this event, but there was some really unfortunate interactions with the 90-year-old future Fan of the Night. Grandma Mary had a sign in front of her that said, "Cowboy Butts Make Grandma Nuts." (I think the younger female relatives sitting near her came up with that, since she didn't seem all that interested in any butts, including Flint's). Flint, of course, latched right on to this, and at one point, ended up doing some horrifying lap-dance type thing for the stone-faced Grandma Mary. There are no words. The tribute might have been funky, but we can all aspire to be walking down flights of stairs to sit in the front row for bull riding when we're 90 years old!

Anyway, those quibbles aside, the positive! The National Anthem was sung in an entirely straightforward way, which I always appreciate. The bull pen, with an assist from Chad Berger and Mesa Pate, was much better than any I’ve seen in Sacramento in the past. Will James in particular was quite impressive in person. The new InvinciBull helmets are kind of freaky-looking (especially Colby Yates’ Jason face mask one), but I’m all for anything that makes the guys safer. We were mostly spared injuries, and that always makes any event better.

What didn’t make the event better was how angry Guilherme Marchi was with his weekend's performance. I’ve been following the sport for years, and I’ve rarely seen Guilherme have as poor a weekend as this, or respond so poorly to a buck off. Not that he was out of line, but it was depressing to see him struggling and frustrated. Hopefully he gets his mojo back soon.

What also did not make the event better was the epidemic of chin seaweed, lip scruff and mountain man beards. There’s nothing wrong with facial hair, but a little maintenance goes a long way, guys! And believe me, it looks just as frightening in person as it does on the TV, if not more so.

However, it was delightful to see Ryan Dirteater get back into the groove, and to see Silvano Alves in the short go, despite his “conservative” choices in the past. Only time will tell if Silvano's strategy is the right one, but he seems to think it's the right one for him, and I'm kind of tired of hearing the commentators rag on him for it.

Cord McCoy is also a revelation so far this season—I wasn’t sure he had it in him, but I knew I’d miss that smiling redhead if he was gone, so for many reasons it’s great to see him doing well. Jory Markiss, well, the strutting and skeet shooting are fine when you do amazingly well at one of your first events, but they won’t be so cute after a few events, assuming he can keep it up. It's nice to see some new blood who can run with the pack, though, and we'll see where Markiss goes from here.

Marco Eguche, our champ—how can you not like a cowboy with a cowlick who looks twelve? He seems remarkably self-possessed and since there seems to have been some questionable scoring regarding him in the past, I was more than happy to see him crowned (buckled) our champion.

Since the PBR declined to provide us any fan events, and Ford had managed to sabotage the one picture with Ryan Dirteater I'd managed to get between his many unfortunate injuries, we did stage an impromptu photo session of our own. Ryan was obliging, as always. I hope he has an injury-free year where he can really show what he can do. And as always, it was amusing to see the cowboys try to figure out how to sign stress balls and people's iPhone cases, and deal with the shrieking younger female fans and who knows what the heck else. And, Renato Nunes continues to remember me as the one who gave him the drawing, so that was gratifying.
So, while it certainly wasn't Fresno, I guess I’d have to say that while I still miss Fresno terribly, Sacramento isn’t an entirely horrible ex to get together with for one weekend. And since I've got a house to maintain now and may not be going to the Finals or other events, at least this one had a good bull pen, a decent audience, and gracious cowboys. The PBR can screw up a lot of stuff, but so far, they haven't managed to screw up my overall enjoyment.