Friday, May 4, 2012

It's the End of the World as We Know It

Friends, I write to tell you of a decision that Montana Barn Cat and I, with great sorrow, arrived at perhaps three weeks ago. We had been debating the matter since January, really, when the new PBR season began and it immediately became apparent that bad things were happening with our favorite sport. As each succeeding month arrived, our debates became more urgent, although certainly they were never heated. We were in accord about our disdain for the amateurish way the broadcast schedule were being handled, thoroughly horrified by the fact that Justin McKee is still missing in action from the programs, and incensed by the way the PBR handles serious injuries, which reared its ugly head as soon as the season started at Madison Square Garden and Pistol Robinson crawled out of the arena on two broken legs. I don't have to remind any of you that's pretty much the last we've heard about that child, except for the occasional non-informational update. Finally, one day as we were driving home after work, I looked at the Barn Cat, he looked at me, and we said in unison: "We are not going to the PBR in Billings this year." That's right. For the first time in the five years that we have been back in Montana, we will not making that lovely two-hour drive to Billings in the spring of the year. The sweet ladies at the turnstiles will not see our smiling faces beneath our cowboy hats. We will be tuning in from home instead, assuming we can stand it. We would like to think that we are staying home because we are so high-minded that we cannot stand to support an outfit with managers so inept over the smallest things, like making sure they actually have a broadcast contract in place and that they keep the fans in the loop about the condition of injured riders, but the truth is, it all came down to money. When we go to the PBR in Billings, we go on Friday night and come back on Sunday afternoon. We stay at the host hotel (the Crowne Plaza downtown, except for one year when the Crowne was being remodeled and we were stuck out on the edge of town in some truly grungy dump with peeling wallpaper and dirty ceilings), we visit friends, we eat a couple of nice dinners, and we go to the event on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. We have endured Flint's spiel so many times that I swear either of us could recite it to you verbatim ("We all know that the true, die-hard fans come out on Sunday"). We have seen riders, some of whom we had high hopes for, come and go, and we have seen bulls come and go, and now we are seeing ourselves go, quite possibly from the live events for good. The cold hard facts are that the total expense of two nights at the Crowne in a reasonably nice room plus two good meals plus drinks in the bar after the event on Saturday (and a couple of rounds bought for nice lawyers who were riding their Harleys down from Calgary to Sturgis last year) and the gasoline to get over there and back is still less than the cost of four tickets to the two events. And I am not talking all-access, back-of-the-chutes tickets, either. I'm talking about the tickets in the lower tier of seats in the second section over from the chutes (because the view from the second section is way better than from the first), where you don’t have to look past Flint being creepy to see all the action. Believe me—we can go a lot of places that will cost us less than $1,000 for two days. I have to wonder how people with fewer resources than we have can afford to attend, either. Certainly a person has to make attending a priority, and in this economy, many other things have to take precedence over two nights of entertainment, even if it is the PBR. So when the doors open at the Metra this year, we will be missing in action. We will spend the weekend pulling weeds, doing laundry, and trying to figure out when the hell the event will be broadcast and on which network. Perhaps that's for the best. The truth is that we, like our good friends Jean and William, fell in love with the sport because we saw it on television. Perhaps being compelled to comply with religious practices that we don't agree with and to endure a heapin' helpin' of Republican politics and rampant militarism will fade some from our memories, and we will joyfully pull on our spurs and saddle up for the drive next year. I hope we will. It would be very sad if our enthusiasm for the sport ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.