Saturday, November 2, 2013

A Bang and/or a Whimper

Another PBR season has come to a close, and boy, as you can probably imagine, do I have something to say about it.  But before we get into any banging or whimpering, let's start off with a hearty congratulations to J.B. Mauney, who staged what was, if not the most amazing comeback "in sports history" (seriously, Craig, histrionic much?), certainly an extremely impressive run.  He's a very talented rider and it all finally came together for him this year.  And also congratulations to Joao Ricardo Vieira for a stunning debut year that netted him the Rookie of the Year award, and of course to the very deserving Bushwacker for Bull of the Year and Jeff Robinson for Stock Contractor of the Year.

But-- and you knew there was going to be a but-- I have some real issues with the way the Finals played out and the aftermath.  While it couldn't have been clearer that the PBR would love J.B. Mauney winning this 20th anniversary year (or any year), the issues had little to do with him.  He was doing his job, which was riding bulls.  Whether you agree with the scoring at the event or not (and I'm not sure each of J.B. Mauney's rides was truly 88.75 or better), he doesn't control the scoring, and in the end, it probably didn't matter. (I will leave the analysis of Silvano Alves' turned down re-rides to someone better at math than I.)  Where the true problem comes in is the extremely ugly undertone to much of the commentary surrounding the Finals and many fan reactions, and it all makes me very uncomfortable.

It doesn't help that the PBR feels the need to put country flags next to the names in the rankings on the TV broadcast -- a sea of Brazilian flags with a lonely American flag here and there, a buoy of hope is what the commentators seem to imply.  But why? This isn't the Olympics; it's man versus bull, not country versus country.  But you wouldn't know it from some of the commentary, which went on about the possibility of draping the American flag over the winner and fed all sorts of 'us versus them' fantasies.  It also doesn't help that the commentators tend to say "the Brazilian" this and "the Brazilian that," as if that is the first name of all the Brazilians in the PBR.  And there was even a moment where they were saying something about how the crowd was on their feet, screaming for J.B. Mauney, but silent for Silvano Alves.  If that is indeed true, how tacky, but did it need to be said, and with such breathless wonder?

But most of all, what bothered me was the fan comments.  It's as if  all the machismo of the "American Cowboy Way," all the hopes and dreams of some commentators and many American fans, was placed upon J.B. Mauney, and his winning would validate all the repressed (well, and expressed) white male angst that a cautious guy from Brazil who plays the odds came up here and trounced the competition twice in a row.  Throughout the run up to the Finals and after the conclusion, Twitter, Facebook, and I'm sure elsewhere blew up with people going on and on about how J.B. is a "true cowboy" who takes on the best bulls, unlike that coward Silvano, and no Brazilians ever choose the tough bulls, and all that other crap we've heard before, but now with a note of hysteric triumph that their guy won, and won their way.  The right way.  The American way.

Let's ignore Valdiron  de Oliviera choosing Bushwacker in ABQ, and Joao Ricardo Vieira seeming pretty adamant he can ride anything, Guilherme Marchi's hot streak, and any other inconvenient facts here and and focus on the sentiment -- that even though the PBR has set up a game with a variety of ways to play it, and Silvano's way worked twice in a row and almost worked a third, the only legit way to win is apparently to win the way some American fans want you to win.  Not to mention, be an American.

I'm not even going to get into some of the blatantly racist things I have seen on the internet, because I don't see any value in giving those people any of my time.  But this creeping ugliness is really disturbing.  No one has to like Silvano Alves (although hopefully people can acknowledge that he was a class act about his loss).  No one has to like his strategy (and to be honest, I was baffled by it sometimes).  Everyone is free to prefer whatever riders they want.  I'd agree that if all of the PBR was full of riders with Silvano's strategy, it wouldn't be very exciting.  

But people shouldn't feel free to say that a two time world champion, who has ridden many a tough bull over his career and stayed on bulls in amazingly sticky ways, is a coward and/or not a true cowboy, merely because he plays the game his own way and is from another country.  That sickens me, especially when it's clear that for many, this is based in a really horrible place, and it further disgusts me that in an attempt to ramp up the excitement, the PBR has tacitly encouraged this kind of 'us versus them' mentality.

So here's hoping for a new season that is about the best cowboys versus the best bulls, no matter the country of origin of either, and for balanced commentary that doesn't fan any flames.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Where's My Shovel?

We’re cleaning up the Stockyard, friends and neighbors, preparatory to the big end-of-the-season shindig we call the PBR World Finals, and Lordy! is there ever a lot to do! We must admit, the Montana Barn Cat and I, that we have been sorely distracted this season, what with trying to keep our work and living situations from getting completely out of whack and tossing us summarily off the teeter-totter. 

Keeping up with all this crap has pretty much convinced us that the notion of multitasking is bullshit, pure and simple. You can’t keep your eye on two balls at once—you have to toggle back and forth, and sometimes you lose track of one and get smacked in the face for your inattentiveness. That’s life.

Yet we have to confess that more than our standard obligations that have us out of sorts. No, one problem that has seriously weighed on us has been our inability to lose ourselves completely in the beauties of bull riding every weekend. Since we are anxious to be fair in our approach to all things, we are perfectly happy to lay ALL the blame for that sorry state of affairs on the altar of the Powers That Be at PBR HQ in Pueblo, CO.

Ever since the Big Versus Debacle, when NBC kicked the PBR and all its issue to the curb, the boys in Pueblo have been trying and failing to get decent TV coverage for what they bill as one of the “fastest growing sports in the world.” After some initial floundering around, in January 2012, the outfit signed on with CBS Sports Network to broadcast the next several seasons.

In a press release issued at the time, PBR President and COO Sean Gleason stated that "CBS Sports Network is an ideal network partner for PBR. Our fans wanted more live programming, consistent timeslots and continued enhancements in how the events are presented on television.  CBS Sports Network is an aggressive, growing sports network that allows PBR to deliver against all of those objectives." 

Well, guess what, friends and neighbors? The hallmark of this arrangement has been NO consistent timeslots for the broadcasts. We poor fans are lucky if we get to see one night of an event out of three, two at the most, and they are ALWAYS televised at some unpredictable hour of some unpredictable day. 

To compensate for the lack of broadcasts, the brainiacs at PBR HQ came up with the brilliant idea of airing the live events on the Internet via the so-called Live Event Center, which obliged those truly dedicated to the cause to either watch on their computers or figure out how to stream the signal to their TV sets. 

This hamfisted approach had an immediate effect—people who for years had turned on Versus every Saturday and Sunday at roughly the same time, give or take an hour on occasion, were suddenly scrambling to figure out if, and then when, bull riding would be broadcast. This confusion still has not sorted itself out. I literally cannot tell you how many fans have written to me over the past two years, moaning and complaining about this sad situation. And I have to admit I’m right there with them.

After all, I’m the woman who owned up to her addiction to bull riding in the second summer that this blog was up. I had no problem admitting then that I had a problem, and I wish to God that I had no problem admitting that I have a problem now. But the fact is, the current state of affairs has very nearly cured me of my irresistible urge to watch bulls jump every Saturday and Sunday nights. 

The good news is that the execs at PBR HQ have pretty much single-handedly discovered a cure for addiction. If all sources of alcohol (including that found in Lysol, hair spray, and mouthwash) suddenly vanished from the face of the earth, alcoholism would follow suit pretty much immediately. Alcoholics would either dry out, find a new addiction, or wither up and die, but alcoholism would be a thing of the past.

I wish I could consider this progress on behalf of humanity, but I really can’t. If I could fix one thing about the PBR—and believe me, there’s a hell of a lot that needs fixing—I would nail down a stable television schedule that would put bull riding back on the tube at least two nights of every weekend, on the same network, at roughly the same time. That would go a long way toward reviving the flagging interest that many fans tell me they are feeling. 

And it would also put more butts in the seats at the live events. I am virtually certain that most people who go to the events got interested in the sport because they’d seen it on TV first. Did any of you actually manage to see the broadcast of the Cooper Tires Invitational last weekend? Did you happen to notice the zillions of empty seats? How fast can a sport be growing if there’s nobody there to see it? I’m pretty sure that everyone in that audience didn't just decide to go buy beer at the same exact moment. 

I'm also just pretty damned sure that the dudes at CBS Sports aren't nearly as enthused about bull riding as they were in late 2011. When a sport ranks so low on the totem pole that it gets bumped off the air by beach volleyball, you know things have gotten serious. No doubt the comparative importance of the sponsors plays a role in such programming decisions. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that Nike has hell's own drag with a sports network compared to Bad Boy Mowers.

There's a lot of talk of late about throwing every single member of the U.S. House of Representatives out into the street and starting over from scratch with some responsible people who might take their obligations to the country seriously. Well, somebody in Pueblo better be scrambling to fix this mess with the broadcast schedule. We fans can't vote anybody at PBR HQ out of office, but we can damned sure quit following the sport altogether. Shortly after we do that, nobody will be working for the PBRnobody. 

That would be one way to start cleaning up this mess. As we denizens of the Stockyard know, sometimes putting things in order means you have to shovel out a big pile of shit.

Monday, September 16, 2013

S. Goes to Oakland, Part II

And here it is, the conclusion of S.'s adventures in Oakland.

Saturday started off more auspiciously than Friday, thankfully.  There were actually two whole concession stands open!  (There is only a tinge of sarcasm in that statement.  As a vegetarian, having the pizza stand open was an improvement in choice over the “cheeseburger with no burger” I ended up with on Friday).  This boded well for the attendance.

Guilherme Marchi
The crowd was still intimate enough that we were able to hit the sponsor booths without it being too insane. I have to admit that I was ridiculously keen to do this, because Guilherme Marchi was at the Monster Energy Drink booth, and while I don’t drink energy drinks, I have somehow missed meeting Guilherme Marchi other than in a drive-by at the rail, and I didn't want to let this opportunity pass. Besides being a great bull rider and appearing to be humble and kind, he certainly has a million watt smile.  (They don't call him "Hollywood" for nothing.)  I'm happy he's making a charge up the standings late in the season, and I managed not to turn into a giant idiot while talking to him, so there is that, too.

I had previously been somewhat surprised to see that Silvano Alves was doing a signing at the Wrangler booth.  I get the impression he doesn't do them often, but I could be incorrect on that, as I don't attend that many events.  I recall getting a picture with him at the 2010 finals, and while he was very polite, he seemed really bewildered as to why anyone would want to talk to him or get a picture with him.  I suspect his improving English has helped him feel more comfortable meeting fans in America, because he seemed quite relaxed here. 
Silvano Alves

After meeting these two, we ended up being herded by Chad Berger.  It was pretty funny—he was verbally prodding us down the line and forcefully (but with good nature) shoving Cooper Tires promo materials at us.  I was with some people who have been to an event or two but aren't die-hards who would recognize a stock contractor at a glance, but when I explained who he was, they exclaimed, “I was wondering what the deal was. Now it makes sense!”  We got a good laugh out of it.

Having cruised the few other booths to be found and entering contests (I'll let you know if I win a welding machine, because that could be interesting, and/or terrifying) and buying RRF raffle tickets, we met up with another quite amusing fan in one of the club access bars, and then headed into the event.  As the concession booths had indicated, attendance was indeed much improved, which was a relief.  I’m not sure this will help Oakland make it on the schedule ever again, but it really helps the atmosphere of an event.

Another one down
What didn't help the event at all was the really small amount of rides.  There were only 13 rides on Friday and a measly 8 on Saturday.  The crowd tends to lose momentum when cowboy after cowboy gets turfed, and many weren't even interesting buck offs or because the bulls were outstanding; the cowboys just seemed tired and dispirited, and certainly were riding (or not, mostly) that way. 

There were a number of on-the-edge of re-ride bulls that ended up not becoming re-rides.  I’m not sure if this was a batch of judges who aren't big on re-rides or what, but a number of cowboys got dinged in points that way, including, surprisingly, J.B. Mauney.  I was convinced that if he stuck on, he’d get an upper 80s score and be in the championship round, but his bull under-performed and with only one 70-something score counting toward the event, Muaney was done for the weekend.  The whole thing seemed a bit odd, but I guess every bull rider has moments that go his way and moments that don't, and hopefully it evens out in the end.

Flint and the Contra Costa FD shirt
Anyway, so it fell to Flint and the in-arena announcers to try to keep the crowd positive through the long stretches of chute preparation, and the very short stretches of chutes cracking and cowboys hitting the dirt in seconds.  I’m not sure Flint twerking was exactly what we needed, though.  I do appreciate Flint’s dancing, generally, but I’m not terribly interested in seeing anyone twerking, let alone Flint.

There was a nice moment, however, with the guy who later ended up being the Fan of the Night.  First he got the t-shirt that Flint had gotten covered in dirt, atmosphere and bull snot.  He was such a good sport about it that he took off his shirt to put the dirty one on immediately, and gave his shirt to Flint, who wore it for a bit.  The original shirt?  It was for the Contra Costa Fire Department, as the guy is a firefighter.  I really hope he had a good weekend and enjoyed his belt buckle and snotty shirt, because he would go home and presumably nearly immediately end up embroiled in the Morgan fire that spread over much of Mount Diablo and threatened the outer areas of the Contra Costa city, Clayton, for several days.  (The fire is thankfully now contained.)

Joao Ricardo Vieira and Smackdown
We were also subjected to a film reel of the "Sexiest Cowboy" photoshoot.  While the problems I have with this “contest” are myriad (Who chose the finalists?  Based upon what? Why only Americans and Brendon Clark?  Just a few to start), the photoshoot looked hilariously cheesy.  Pensive cowboys leaning against weathered wood or with rusty cargo train cars in the distance; how innovative.  And then the guys, with varying levels of self-consciousness, declaring things like, "I am the sexiest cowboy alive."  Yeah.  I can't wait to see how this all turns out.

Anyway, we laboriously  made our way toward the championship round, and again, the cowboys continued the downward trend.  Joao Ricardo Vieira started well on Smackdown and gave us some short-lived excitement, but Smackdown showed he still has it and won the contest of wills this time.

Silvano Alves with the win
I was terrified that we were going to have the first unveiling of the “sudden death” rule that Craig Hummer mentioned a few events ago but we have yet to see; I can't find anything about it on the PBR site but from memory, apparently if no one rides in the championship round, the top three have to get on another bull and whoever rides first, wins?  I don’t get it and it sounds questionable, really.  Are the stock contractors bringing extra short go caliber bulls or are they the short go re-ride bulls, and is there a new draft?  Do they go in order from top guy to third guy?  What happens if those three don't ride during the sudden death round?  Do they  have to go again? Will the PBR ever stop launching random and ill-explained rule changes in the middle of the season?  (PdV - Probably not.)  Thankfully, Silvano Alves gritted his way through an inelegant, yet 8 second ride, which avoided the first sudden death scenario and clinched the win.

I get the feeling that the PBR doesn't find Silvano very dynamic and they'd like someone else to have a turn holding the giant trophy aloft, but anyone in the top 10 is going to have to get through Silvano's slow and deliberate strategy that is backed by his very high-level of skill.  No matter what happens, I hope the ride percentages for everyone increases over what we saw in Oakland, because that was depressing. 

Please let me know if you have any questions about anything at the event.  

So there it is.  Thanks to S. for sharing her observations.  Sadly, her hopes for the riding percentages didn't come true in Springfield, but we've got a few events to go before the Finals.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

S. Goes to Oakland - Part I - Friday

While the regular writers for the blog are slacking on their blogging duties, S. has come through to tide us over with her tale of attending the Oakland event last weekend. 

Fabiano Vieira
For some reason, the last time the PBR was in town, about four years ago, I didn't go to Oakland.   The location is ridiculously convenient for me in comparison to California’s other three events, so how could I resist this time?  Unfortunately, a Friday evening is not so convenient, especially when the event is at the Oracle Arena, and there is an A’s game taking place at the larger Coliseum right next door.

Apparently I was not alone in thinking this way. Either because of the urban area or perhaps the weekday evening and/or the economy, things were pretty sad on Friday.  They only had one concession stand open, and the cowboys doing meet and greets at sponsor booths were practically twiddling their thumbs.  The plus side of this was that there weren't really any lines or any rushing, so I was able to tell Fabiano Vieira that I was happy he was back and wish him good luck, and it's the most relaxed I've ever seen the guy with fans.  I was also able to thank Chad Berger for  his breast cancer awareness charity work and shake his hand.

J.B. Mauney gets the flame intro
The pretty sad attendance numbers certainly became entirely clear when we entered the arena.  I know people would rather see the championship night if they can only go one day, but the amount of empty seats in all levels was truly pathetic.  Although I will say, the crowd was very engaged and enthusiastic-- even Flint said something about the crowd making up for being small by having great volume.

Speaking of Flint and the entertainment in general, the Best Dressed Fan was a little girl who seemed to find him rather alarming.  During a break between the flights, they trotted out something even worse than the Stud of the Night, which I didn't even think could be possible.  It's the Kiss 8 Second Kiss Cam, where Gene Simmons et al. yell about how people should kiss for 8 seconds, and then the audience in general is forced to watch people in the crowd slurp on each other for 8 seconds, with varying degrees of cringeworthiness.  And then apparently the videos go online for people to vote on or something?  I hope the people kissing give permission prior to this occurring.  I have no desire to see any of the videos again, so I won’t be looking.  Also fairly horrifying was the video from the  “Sexiest Cowboy” photoshoot.  More on that in my next post.
The most enjoyable thing about this event is that the bulls were by in large decent.  I had been a little worried about this since there had been some articles about this being the last chance for some lesser-known West Coast bulls to prove themselves before the finals, and I have not had good luck with events full of lesser-known West Coast bulls.  Chad Berger and Cindy Rosser brought some pretty good ones, so that helped.  There were a few re-rides, but not an inordinate amount, for which I was extremely grateful.

A couple of the bulls were pretty squirrelly, though.  Multiple bulls refused to leave the arena without lots of prompting, reveling in a victory lap or five.  Several had to be roped.  One even ended up falling down and rolling around by the side of the exit gate while being pulled by the pickup man and his horse, who was already behind the chute area.  Eventually Julio Moreno dropped his side of the rope, since it was just banging the downed bull into the chutes and gate, and somehow this led to Shorty holding the other end of the rope and hauling on it—I have no idea how he thought that was going to end well.  Thankfully the bull seemed to tire of the game at this point and ambled out, apparently no worse for wear after his adventure.

One somewhat amusing sidebar: my seat was next to the aisle to PBR Party Barn.  The bad part of this is that there were drunken people sloshing along the aisle to and from the Party Barn all night.  The entertaining part was watching some of the cowboys who were done for the evening getting beers.  There were a few repeat customers among them; I won't name them but let's just say that none of them were from Brazil.  Another amusing sidebar: one of the in-arena announcers (I think it was Clint Adkins) said something like, “He needed that ride so he can afford diapers,” after Brendon Clark rode.  And then he said, “Wait, was I supposed to say that?" as I thought, what the heck, is Brendon Clark having a kid; we didn't know that, did we?!  No, no, we didn't.  The event was being broadcast on the Live Event Center and the radio, and immediately after this bombshell, Alli Clark's phone (she was sitting near the announcers) started to blow up with calls from friends who didn't know.  Sorry, Alli.  Everyone knows now.  The moral of the story?  Don’t tell the guys with microphones anything you don't want the whole world to know.
The face of disappointment

Thankfully it appeared that no one got too banged up at this event, although Fabiano Vieira was looking very pained after his high-step away from his bull.  I wish this guy could get a healthy season, because he’s clearly very talented.  In other cowboy news, Renato Nunes was apparently “too tired” for his usual backflip, but not too tired for a giant cheeky grin at his compatriots behind the chute.  I was really happy to see Emilio Resende and Valdiron de Oliveira start to get back into the groove, and wished Edevaldo Ferreira would have done the same. 

J.B. Mauney unexpectedly launched off his “gimme” bull earlier in the evening, so there was a lot of anticipation about his ride on the bonus bull, Stanley FatMax.  Since J.B. Mauney seems to thrive on riding the “unrideable” bulls, I wasn't surprised that he ended up riding, and it was a good, gritty ride.  I also shouldn't have been surprised that they trotted J.B. out on the shark cage to close out the event, although the ride didn't count toward the event standings.  I like J.B. in the abstract, as he is a dynamic rider, but it's very wearying the way the PBR gets so in a froth whenever he does anything (and even when he doesn't).  I'm sure Stormy Wing, who won the night, wouldn't have minded giving an interview, but oh well.

Following the event was on-the-dirt signing, which someone apparently forgot to tell the security guards about, as a fan club representative had to come over and force them to let us onto the dirt.  After that it was the usual crazy swirl of cowboys, missing some while you’re talking to others.  I was happy to catch Joao Ricardo Vieira, though, because he has a certain impish quality I enjoy and he has certainly impressed in his debut year.  While I think Silvano Alves will be very tough to catch, it would be pretty exciting if Joao could manage to win Rookie of the Year and the World Title in one year.  But if it’s either of them, history will be made and I’ll be happy.
Joao Ricardo Vieira
After this we fled quickly, trying to get out before the A’s fans flooded the area.  Alas, ball four was called as we were walking by the arena, and we ended up in the midst of them, although we met some hilarious new bullriding fans on the train whose husbands had been at the ball game while they watched bullriding, so all was not lost.

Tune in later for Saturday!  Hope this was at least marginally entertaining.

I will try to get part two up over weekend.  Or at least before too many events have passed...

Friday, June 21, 2013

We've come a long way, or have we?

I honestly did have plans to rant about the idiocy of the PBR drawing back guys based on standings (including a guy who got disqualified in his earlier attempt) for the Last Cowboy Standing, but life distracted me and the rage faded, especially as none of the drawback guys actually won. But if there's one thing we know about the PBR, it's that it will invariably find ways to bumble and thus irritate.

So here we are in the depths of the break, and the depths of fluff articles on the website--a time when you would think the PBR would have fewer opportunities to annoy. Let's be clear, I don't have a problem with fluff content when there isn't much to cover. However, I do have a problem with this, in an otherwise nice article about Chase Outlaw riding (and winning) to honor a family friend.
"I was glad I was able to do that for him after all he's done for me," said an outwardly emotional Outlaw. "I held my word for him . . . and knowing that I wasn't being a little weak-hearted girl. I actually beared-down and rode and got it done for him. This win right here will be one of the most memorable ones I've had in my life."   
Let me take a breath here.  No, that's not helping.

PBR, seriously, you published web articles in the near past about how bad the early PBR cowboys were at PR and how Justin McBride needed media training after a gigantic error (insert your own observations about the success of any such efforts), implying that you have come so far . . . and then you put out this little gem?

The things wrong with this quote are numerous, and I'm not just talking about the grammar. So let's start with Outlaw. Now, he was emotional, and I'm sorry for his loss. However, do none of these chuckleheads who keep saying this kind of stuff have mothers? Sisters? Girlfriends? Wives? An aunt? Any women in their lives who perhaps don't appreciate the implication that they are weak and lesser? Would it have been that hard to say that he was happy he wasn't "weak-hearted," and left girls out of it?

There's lots more I could say about that, believe me, but I don't want to dogpile on Chase Outlaw when he's just the latest in a long line to utter something similar. Let's move on to this quote being included at all. Assuming that ellipses mean the same thing to Keith Ryan Cartwright as they do to me, there was some sort of statement between "I held my word for him" and "and knowing I wasn't being a weak-hearted girl." So not only did Chase Outlaw make this utterance, but some series of writers and editors decided to edit out something else but opted to leave the "weak-hearted girl" part in and publish it for the world to see. So now not only do we have this statement, but the PBR has also doubled down on it, despite previous protestations about how far the organization has come.  Of course, this is the organization whose CEO talked about "marketing to buckle bunnies" and seemed bemused when women found that objectionable, so the cluelessness may be endemic.

Now, I know I'm probably going to be told that I'm taking it too seriously and I'm too PC, etc., etc., etc.  Believe me, I have heard that before. I will be told that the cowboys just don't know any better, and it's just the way they were raised, they don't really mean it that way. You can tell me all those things, but that doesn't mean that Chase Outlaw, or any cowboy, making demeaning comments about women is okay and should pass without comment, or that the PBR deciding to publish such comments is acceptable.  

If the PBR wants to be taken seriously as a sport, it might start by treating women, who Jim Haworth himself says are more than half their audience, as something other than weak and lesser. Because women can very easily take their dollars, which spend just as "strongly" as any man's, somewhere else. Somewhere where we aren't giving money to an organization that publishes articles like the one quoted.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Vegas in My Rear-view Mirror

Oooh, don’t look now, because I think Pearl is really steamed. Yes, I have been taking surreptitious peeks at her for the past few days, and the woman is definitely pissed. She’s sitting over there, eyes twitching, fingers tapping, and I can tell she’s about to blow. Pretty soon, she’s going to slam both hands down on her desk, and it will be Katy bar the door. So I better get my licks in while I can, and then steady the soapbox while she climbs up on it.

Here we are, at the beginning of the Cowboy Christmas break, with the Last Cowboy Standing behind us. It has not been the greatest of seasons for the devoted fan, not by a long shot. The broadcast schedule has been an endless merry-go-round of confusion, the Pure PBR was a bad idea that has gotten progressively sillier, several riders have very nearly gotten their guts stomped out, and our good friend Chicken on a Chain is making his usual astute observations about the LCS. (Take a look, please, at the May 11 entry.) And to top it all off, now we learn that Justin McBride is going to Africa to hunt LEOPARDS.

LEOPARDS?????  I’ve never been McBride’s biggest fan, and this just about tears it for me. Clearly he has too much time and money on his hands and it apparently hasn’t occurred to him to spend either doing something besides shooting the shit out of something. Honestly—LEOPARDS????? Who in hell shoots a LEOPARD????? Oh, right, the same glassbowls who shoot elephants and rhinos. McBride, you and I are through. I will not have any truck with trophy hunters.

Having said all that, though, I have rarely been happier watching the PBR than I was during the third round of the Last Cowboy Standing, when the rankest of the rank were in the house and the boys all hit the dirt. Of course, everyone was anticipating seeing Asteroid and Bushwhacker go head to head, and they did not (they never) disappoint, but apparently those other five bulls did not get the memo that those two are the only ones in contention for Bull of the Year. As Ty Murray says when words seem to fail him, those bulls bucked.

I loved watching all seven of them, but I particularly loved I’m a Gangster Too, who is the spittin’ image of his daddy, and David’s Dream, who came flying out of the chute, sensed instantly that Silvano Alves was leaning too far to the right, took a hard turn to the left and dumped him in the dirt, and then raced for the outgate, snorting and slinging snot. He hit the brakes just before he slammed into the back of the pen, tossing his head and telling us in no uncertain terms that he was the wrong bull to mess with last Sunday. Yes, Mr. Dream, yessir, I understand you perfectly. Turns out bovine is my fourth language.

I will leave it to my colleague to address the issues that have her so stirred up, but one that I have to confess really bothers me is the way the bulls’ damned names keep changing. I could have sworn I had seen I’m a Gangster Too before, and guess what! I had! Only then, his name was Teflon Tom! And who is New Holland Powerstar? The bull formerly known as Quiet Riot! 

If this keeps up, I’m going to petition Cody Lambert to smack some name tags on the bulls’ asses before they leave the chute: My Name Was _______, and Now It’s _______! What's Your Sign?

Now I must go prepare the soapbox for my friend and colleague, the lovely and talented Pearl de Vere. Stand by for further observations!

Friday, March 29, 2013

A victim of circumstance?

Well, another season of PBR is well underway, and as we all know, that means another season of figuring out what the heck the rules are at any given moment. While I will probably never be reconciled to the rules suddenly changing at least once a season, let alone the PBR's norm of one large change and multiple small modifications per season (whatever happened to the new slap rules, anyway?), I was willing to give the new cut and points scheme a chance. 

Anyone who has followed this sport any amount of time is used to The Powers That Be trimming the field by now, so the evolution to what essentially boils down to a cut every week should not be a surprise. The previous qualifying system, involving money earned for some things and points for others, certainly wasn't the most intuitive; streamlining that was a great idea, in theory. And it has always bothered me that established Built Ford Tough Series cowboys could go regularly to Touring Pro Division events, which are nominally about finding new talent, so I'm on board with whatever makes it less likely for the BFTS regulars to spend too much time at the TPD events. With TPD points worth a quarter of BFTS points, anyone doing decently in the BFTS is probably not going to see value in risking injury by slumming it in the TPD. 

But, as we also know, sometimes the obvious solution turns out to cause more issues than anticipated.  We’re seeing it play out right now.  Getting hot at the top of the season has always had benefits, but the advantages seem to have been exaggerated with the new system.  A guy can get invited to the BFTS thanks to a TPD win, get hot at precisely the right time and score well at one BFTS event, and then linger at the upper level for quite some time while doing very little. 

Coming up by making enough at the TPD events has never been easy, but now a high profile guy like Austin Meier or Valdiron de Oliveira can get injured or cold at precisely the wrong time and with no ceremony whatsoever, be quickly punted down to scrabbling for quarters of points. And we know Austin Meier can ride—even when cut, he was seeded in the Iron Cowboy by virtue of last season's standings and managed to win that grueling event. Valdiron de Oliveira is coming off back surgery and is rusty, but he was the world number one or two for most of last season and is pain free for the first time in yearsthere's no telling what he can do when the rust is knocked off.   But Meier and presumably de Oliveira will be driving from one Podunk TPD to another, getting one-fourth the points a few cowboys raised from the TPD, who will remain nameless, do by occasionally riding a BFTS long go bull. 

Now, I have every faith that Valdiron de Oliveira and Austin Meier will be back eventually. In fact, dominating some TPD bulls and gaining confidence might be just what they need.   And it's not that there is a perfect system, although the PBR clearly hasn't discovered anything close as of yet.  It's certainly not just that I don't want to see the "best cowboys" the PBR has to offer and am just clinging to familiar old guard cowboys, although I’m sure there is some element of that. 

No, where I'm coming from is this: it sounds great that we will always be seeing the best cowboys each week, but with this new system, the "best" seems to have been redefined in a way that makes it very easy for the mighty to fall and face a hard climb back, while the, er, less mighty might just get lucky at the right time and fill a spot long past their expiration date. Watching guys I admire claw and scratch at the bottom while malingerers hang on at the BFTS level is not my idea of a good time.  

It remains to be seen how this will play out for the remainder of the season, of course. Only time will tell, assuming the rules don’t change all around again in short order.   And I'm not a betting person, but I'm pretty sure I would have a safe bet on my hands if I said they will.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Fresno, Part II

And now, the conclusion of S.'s adventures in Fresno, the lucky gal!

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!
I guess you can't pinch him

Because there’s really not much else we wanted to do in Clovis/Fresno, it was off to early entry to the Savemart. I guess because Bear Pascoe is a local success story and part of Team Weatherby, they opened the doors at 12:15 so people could meet him if they so desired. I honestly care very little about football, so instead we took the opportunity to enter a few contests and buy some raffle tickets from the Rider Relief Fund, which I always try to support.

Mike Lee hangs up
Upon entering the arena and the show starting up, we noticed that Flint had decided not to test destiny another day and had forgone the four-leaf clover shirt on St. Patrick’s Day. Instead, he had swapped out his customary red makeup for green, which even he said was sort of weird and creepy. The bullfighters also had green under their eyes, which mostly made them look like they had healing black eyes. 

Our seats were decent, so we had a good view of things such as Mike Lee helicoptering around in a bad hang-up, and Jory Markiss polling the crowd to see whether he should hit the challenge button (yes, he should, and yes he did, and yes he got the score, so we didn’t all have to chip in as Flint suggested). 

Jory Markiss gets
the crowd involved
Unfortunately, there were some drunken yahoos behind us. Since I had purchased fan club seats, I assume they were also part of the fan club, and that’s depressing. They were making all sorts of annoying comments, but when they got into the racism, they nearly got a lap full of Jamba Juice. Luckily I avoided wasting that five dollars as well as being ejected, as halfway through section two, I noticed a woman with a PBR lanyard coming towards us, and then she said, “Are you ready to go to your chute seats?”

Are we ready to go to our chute seats?! Are you kidding me? She didn’t need to ask twice—my friend had won chute seats from the RRF! We shot out of our seats and followed along, past security, where she explained to us what we could and couldn’t do (can wander anywhere up in the area as long as we don’t trip or bother anyone; can’t wander off without an employee, etc.). I only really absorbed about a third of what was said. 

View from the chutes:
Luke Snyder on Woody
We clambered up the incredibly steep metal stairs and suddenly we were walking behind J.W. Hart and Craig Hummer and their television feed. We were told that our seats were in the second row, but if there was a chance to move forward, they would let us know.  Bear Pascoe was watching the action, waiting to be interviewed for the broadcast, and then the woman was saying, “Have you met Bear?” What? And then my hand was being engulfed and crushed in the extremely firm handshake of a giant football player with piercing blue eyes, a Superbowl ring, and a cowboy hat.

Highway 12 gets ready to take on J.B. Mauney.
At this point, I was totally overwhelmed. In a good way, but still, out of all the people in the arena and all the people who entered the raffle, my friend’s one ticket had won and we were standing above the bucking chutes and talking to a 6’5” football player. Below us and to the side, we could see the crowded mass of cowboys behind the chutes, bulls in their chutes, the judges, the stock contractors, and the gatemen; right next to us were J.W. Hart and Craig Hummer talking into their headsets as they watched their screens, and behind us were the bull pens. Anytime there was downtime, I went back to watch the amazingly intricate procedure of shuttling the bulls from one pen to another, some bulls being able to be penned with a buddy and others pawing and snorting at their fellows in other pens. And there is so much noise and controlled chaos at the chutes, with cowboys calling for their friends to “pull,” judges yelling for guys to hurry up, bulls letting out exasperated bellows, and gates and pens clanking. Sometimes a cowboy would decide to bypass the crowd directly behind the chutes and would clank his way up and across right behind us.
HIGH Steaks and friends

Perhaps the most amazing thing was when they would crack the gate and a bull would power out of the chute—the whole floor would shake, there was bull snot and dirt and other things flying (at one point, I barely dodged a flying chunk of bull patty—more atmosphere than desired!), and just seeing how massive and muscular the bulls are as their hind hooves are kicking up toward you….I don’t even know how to describe it.  I know this is what David Neal is trying to bring to everyone, but having experienced this firsthand, PurePBR has nothing on it.
Controlled chaos at the chutes

I will also say that while I have huge issues with the PBR’s lack of transparency in judging, I have a much greater sympathy for the judges after having had this experience. (And this is not just because I ran into a judge in my hotel lobby and he seemed a decent sort.) On TV, the camera is just focusing on the ride at hand or nearly at hand, but standing above the action, you can see the whole crew surging back and forth from chute to chute, trying to keep things going. I don’t know if the replay judge is watching every ride on his screen or not, but the other judges have 8 seconds to register whether they think there is a problem, and formulate their scoring for bull, and possibly, rider. There’s already another guy queued up, so unless the judges see something, they are not going to hold up the show just to check things out. I think we television viewers forget, having access to each ride in slow motion shown repeatedly from multiple angles while it is beaten into us by the commentators if anything might have happened, that this is not what the judges are seeing and hearing.

Shorty is happy that Frank
is the Go To Guy
There was one incredibly insignificant downside to this amazing chute experience: I will say that I started to lose track of exactly what was going on, unless the cowboys had distinctive hats or helmets or the bulls had markings that were obvious. You can’t see the big screen without turning away from the chutes, and I sure wasn’t going to do that, or waste any moment of this experience looking at a day sheet. Once the bulls covered some ground and were out in the arena, it was a bit easier.

Joao Ricardo Vieira picks
Asteroid in the draft.
Next to us, there was a very nice lady who had let us slide up front, although she’d paid for the seat to celebrate her birthday. She was very vocal and very funny, giving us some insider information she’d picked up over time, and yelling out her encouragement to the cowboys and the bulls. It’s always a kick to meet interesting fans, that’s for sure.

I really didn’t want the event to end, but soon enough the guys were going up on the shark cage and choosing their bulls for the short go. Joao Ricardo Vieira had the most amazing smirk on his face when he chose Asteroid, and the crowd let out this amazing sound when he did.

Shorty was here
Unfortunately, we were right above Emilio Resende’s wreck on Detailer. The television crew tends to keep a respectful distance while sports medicine goes to work, and when sitting in the stands, you can’t really see what’s going on, thankfully.  However, we could see everything, and I honestly thought I was going to cry. From the way he hit the ground to the way his head rebounded when the bull’s hoof hit him to the way the first medic leaped out to stabilize his neck while the bull was still in the arena, it was incredibly scary. Not to mention when Shorty Gorham got tossed into the fence, although he bounced up as if nothing had happened. Guilherme Marchi looked so stricken, and that didn’t help at all. When Resende wobbled up to his knees and then, with support, staggered to his feet and Marchi gently put his hat back on, I couldn’t help but let out a whoop. (Even if I was thinking, please wear a helmet!)
Joao Ricardo Vieira puts his
bull rope on Asteroid

I went to the back to watch Asteroid being loaded up, and he seems like a stubborn little guy. He just didn’t want to put his rear leg in the loading chute no matter what, although finally he allowed that to happen. Vieira came over to tie his rope on, and then just spent some time standing by and communing with the bull. It was kind of an interesting scene, as the cowboy and the bull surveyed the competition.

You’ve all seen the results of the final round—the cowboys were blanked.  But let me tell you, there was a lot of yelling, some of it from me, when it looked like Vieira was going to make the whistle on Asteroid. I know it took Asteroid an atypical couple of jumps to get into his usual form, but that is one compact little bucking machine. Oftentimes the big guns don’t make it to NorCal events, so seeing him buck in person from the chutes was incredible, not to mention David’s Dream, Palm Springs, Jack Daniel’s After Party, Shepherd Hills Trapper…it was pretty close to a who’s who of bulls and I sure wasn’t complaining, even if I wish somebody had ridden. As much as I like Silvano Alves, it’s kind of anticlimactic when a guy wins without riding in the final round, let alone no one riding in the final round.
Silvano Alves gets ready on
Jack Daniel's After Party

Things were unfortunately coming to a close. We asked our friendly fan club person if it was okay if we talked to the commentators when they were done recording their wrap-up, and she said, “Of course!” So we listened while Hart, Hummer and Shorty Gorham recorded their part, and then Hart and Hummer did another bit (I assume for their weekend in review), and then I was talking to J.W. Hart and Craig Hummer. Unreal! I have to say that Craig Hummer seems like an incredibly nice guy, and he seemed excited to talk to us. J.W. Hart seems just like he does on TV, actually. They both were gracious and polite, and I enjoyed having the chance to meet them (even if I might have secretly hoped Ty Murray was a commentator instead).
Fresno's 2013 champ

The nice PBR lady asked us if we wanted to go down on the dirt, as others of the people in the chute seats already had, but since we had just done that the night before and had a four hour drive in St. Patrick’s Day traffic, we decided to bypass it. So she walked us down the steep stairs and past the bull pens to the elevators, thanked us for coming and hugged us. Really, thank you, RRF and PBR! I still kind of can’t believe any of that happened—I was hyped up for hours afterward and now I’m afraid I’m totally spoiled for live events. It was totally worth it, though!

Still can't believe this happened
So there it is, folks!  Sorry this is so long and possibly incoherent. I was entirely overwhelmed and amazed by the chute seat experience, and I devoutly hope each of you will be able to experience it (or, experience it again).

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Return of (and to) Fresno - Part I

Sorry for being such a laggard on the posting front -- blogging and having a day job don't always go together. Fortunately, S. is here with her Fresno tales and photos to keep us entertained!

Much to my joy, Fresno returned to the BFTS schedule this year, and so of course, did I! Fresno is a somewhat weird destination to get excited about, I realize. And then things did not start off auspiciously as I ended up driving rather than taking the train (Amtrack decided at the last minute that a bus bridge would be a great idea for half my trip -- I disagreed), but in the end, Fresno not only met, but exceeded expectations.
Darryl Worley sings
the national anthem

So, into the Prius (I got some really weird looks from guys in big trucks; I guess you don't see many Priuses with PBR stickers) we went. After numerous stops for coffee in such thrilling destinations as Tracy, Ceres and Chowchilla, we arrived in good time to pick up tickets for the Saturday night event at the Savemart. With Posse early entry, we made our way inside and entered various contests. Not much else was going on, although I had a little chat with Ty Pozzobon at the Wilco Gopher Bait booth; he seemed very interested in my drawings, and also seems like a very nice, polite fellow. We also found Austin Meier at the Wrangler booth, and had a somewhat hilarious encounter with Team Weatherby at the Rider Relief Fund table. On Saturday, Team Weatherby consisted of Chad Mendes (a MMA fighter), Darryl Worley (a country singer) and Brendon Clark. I somehow ended up having Chad Mendes sign something for me even though both he and I clearly knew that I don’t know or care about MMA fighting, but he was a good sport. I also don’t know much about Darryl Worley, although his rendition of the anthem was quite good and he easily avoided all the off-key wailing of many of the attempts heard via the Live Event Center thus far.

PBR Party Barn baffles
Anyway, having not been to a live event this season until now, I found a few things… interesting. Firstly, while I like fireworks, I miss the flaming bull heads. Secondly, there is now something called the PBR Party Barn, which is across the arena from the chutes and behind the in-arena announcers. As best I can tell, it’s a place you can go to get totally trashed on PBR beer while you stand in cattle fencing, packed in like cattle, and barely see the event? Apparently some people go for that.

Monster Energy girls
do the shimmy
And then there were the dreaded Monster Energy girls. Not content to lurk bustily behind Clint Adkins and Brandon Bates, they also opened the show with two of them shimmying on the shark cage. What the heck? It was just so sad that Monster/the PBR thinks this is a good idea, and I felt kind of sorry for these two women pathetically dancing in their skimpy outfits. I don't drink energy drinks, but Monster is definitely on this woman's list to avoid after these kinds of displays.

We were also subjected to Uncle Kracker, whoever he is, talking and singing to us via video about how nobody is sad on a Saturday night. As if I didn’t already know it, between yelling R. Lee Ermey, Uncle Kracker and the Monster girls, I am pretty sure that whatever the PBR thinks their target audience is, I’m clearly not it. I'm also not the hugest fan of the new Gary Allan theme song, but obviously the PBR is not consulting me on these things.

The luck of the Rasmussen
Flint was wearing the dreaded four-leaf clover outfit that he had only worn one other time—the time he got clotheslined in the pick-up man's attempt to get a bull out of the arena. There was a long bit with Clint Adkins about it—they of course showed the infamous video again, and they’re so very right, it never grows old. There were actually a couple of times where it was in danger of happening again, but I guess those who learn from history are not doomed to repeat it. In other Flint news, much of the audience was too young to know the words to “Sweet Caroline,” so that whole part of the schtick was depressing.

For the first round, the bulls were fairly strong, which I was pleased to see. There were only two re-rides offered and one taken. I was sort of taken aback by all the talk of Silvano Alves having slapped his bull when I looked online, as I didn't suspect it during his ride, and don’t remember seeing any concern about it or any talk from the in-arena commentators, either. I have some reflections on judging that I’ll bring up later, since I got a whole new perspective on Sunday, but it’s interesting to me how differently things play out live versus on television. I was also impressed that he scored so highly, being used to the usual 80-82 point scores he is given, although in the end the night narrowly went to Kody Lostroh.
Trust me, Shane Proctor
has awesome boots

The one part of the evening I could have really liked to have not happened was Agnaldo Cardozo’s wreck. With the way his head snapped back, I was certain he had a spinal cord injury. I think the guy who jumped down to stabilize Cardozo’s neck while the bull was still in the arena thought the same. Thankfully, Julio Moreno was able to get the bull out without further incident, and then it was the stressful silence of an arena full of people holding their breath and praying. Having a guy lying in the dirt with blood coming out of his mouth, then get strapped into a backboard, is just so horrible, and seeing Guilherme Marchi, who is usually stoic, look so upset and run out of the arena with his comatose friend just made it even worse. This definitely put a damper on the evening, especially since we didn't hear until the next day that Cardozo “just” had facial fractures and a concussion. While everyone who knows anything about the sport knows that a catastrophic injury is a possibility, potentially seeing it in person is an experience I would never like to repeat. I do hope after this and his broken nose at the Iron Cowboy, Cardozo will consider a helmet.

Emilio Resende,
meticulous cowboy
Although after the awful accident we were pretty somber, Posse had set up an on-the-dirt signing after the event. Unfortunately, first we were told the wrong information about how to get onto the dirt by the fan club, then entirely different wrong information over the airwaves by Brandon and Clint, followed by variations on a theme by two different Savemart employees. We did finally make it, though, and I enjoyed a fairly long and animated conversation with Cody Nance about Super Duty/Hustler (“We’re buddies! I love that bull!”) as I admired his pink paisley shirt and camo neckerchief combo. I also told Shane Proctor that I liked his boots, which seemed to amuse him (he does have some of the most daring fashion sense of the current crop of BFTS cowboys).

Edevaldo Ferreira
and his great glasses
The highlight, though, was meeting some of the new Brazilian riders. While almost all of the riders are pleasant, I really enjoy how much the Brazilian riders seem to value the fans, and the newer guys, who must be a bit bewildered and frustrated by being unable to communicate clearly, are still there and putting out so much effort to interact and get to everyone. Personal favorites this time around were Emilio Resende, who wanted to be very sure he had signed everything to everybody’s satisfaction, and Edevaldo Ferreira, who made sure my picture with him was “beautiful” before he moved on down the line. I do feel a little badly for Silvano Alves, who seems to find the idea that people want to talk to him sort of embarrassing, but his English has improved a great deal and hopefully this will help him feel more comfortable.

We ended up having a nice chat with some great ladies while we waited for the hotel shuttle. I bring this up because I would nearly throw my $5 Jamba Juice on some racist drunk jerks behind me on Sunday, so I'm happy to report that there are sane and sensible fans out there to be met, too. That’s pretty much it for Saturday. Stay tuned for Sunday, which may have spoiled me for live PBR events forever!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More Adventures in Delusion

Friends and neighbors, I regret to state that yesterday I attempted to publish yet another brilliant post on this inestimable blog, only to be thwarted by technical difficulties. Alas and alack, by the time I managed to sort all that out, I had lost my enthusiasm for my subject and had to comfort myself by making a lovely dinner for the Montana Barn Cat and watching a bunch of trash TV.

But never fear! I am back, because while I was moping around over the weekend, sadly commiserating with the Barn Cat because the bulk of the PBR event in Kansas City was not broadcast (I adamantly refuse to grant that the LEC is a legitimate broadcast), I was suddenly struck down by a revelation. I know why the Powers That Be at the PBR have neglected to book air time for several of the BFTS events this year! It’s because they want to give me plenty of time to POST MY SNARKY OPINIONS here on Turn Him Out!

You can be certain I will not let them down, fellow travellers! In the course of the season, there is so much shit flying through the air around here that we have to hustle like ninety to comment on the occurrences at the events, and thus we only occasionally have the time to contemplate the bigger, more philosophical picture. So this is the perfect opportunity for me to sound off about something that’s been bothering me for as long as I’ve watched this sport. Since Montana Barn Cat and I have now clocked well over a decade of parking ourselves in front of the tube to watch the bulls and the boys, you can see that this has been festering for a long damned time.

And here, ridiculous anti-climax, it is: When a cowboy (let’s face it, almost always an American cowboy) is getting ready in the chute, why in hell do the commentators insist on saying, “[Fill in the blank] can ride any bull here.”

Now, in St. Louis two weeks ago, it’s true that on the first night, 20 cowboys managed to make the whistle. But all that tells me is that the pussy pen was in the house that night, because come the short round on Sunday, NOBODY managed to stick for eight seconds.

But here’s my point: If we look at the stats, we are forced to acknowledge the undeniable fact that of the top 10 riders (as of the end of the Kansas City event), only THREE are riding more than 50% of the time. Shane Proctor, who is riding the best at the moment, has a riding percentage of 58.33, which means he is making the whistle a little less than two-thirds of the time. (The other way to look at it is that he’s riding just over half the time, but since I like Shane Proctor, I reserve the right to spin that stat to my own satisfaction.)

Put another way, that means Proctor gets tossed off about every other bull he tries to ride. And that means that the remaining seven riders in the top 10 are riding LESS than half the time.

So this is the way it goes, weekend after weekend: Commentator A: “This guy can ride any bull here all day long.” The gate opens, a few seconds click off the clock, and SPLAT! Bull fighters rush in, (we hope) the cowboy scrambles up and dashes for the fence. Repeat as necessary, up to 31 or 32 times a night.

Now, nobody knows better than I do that a rider can get on a hot streak, and then it will seem like no bull on the planet can throw him off. But just remember this: In 2008, when Guilherme Marchi won the world championship, his riding percentage was 74.75 for the entire year. That means he rode roughly three out of every four bulls he straddled. I had never seen anything like that, and I will not be surprised if I never do again.

So drastic as it would be, how about we change our approach and start talking about how HARD it is to ride bulls. How about we forego the bullshit propaganda about man conquering animal and accept the fact that even the best riders get thrown off—a lot. How about we celebrate when somebody manages to ride, because it's not a common occurrence.

The riders farther down the rankings, frankly, are hardly worth watchingIf it were up to me, I’d cut the field to the top 20, not because I get tired of seeing the bulls buck—never!—and not because I get tired of seeing riders go SPLAT!, but because I get tired of hearing that “This bull should be right in [fill in the blank’s] wheelhouse,” followed by SPLAT! If I never again heard what a wonderful rider Stormy Wing is just before he SPLATS into the fence, I would count myself a fortunate woman.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

She's Baaaaaccccckkkkk!

Ladies and gentlemen, it was touch and go there for a bit, but in the end, the Divine Shannon succumbed to the allure of the PBR in Anaheim. She has sent us this stellar report about the experience. Enjoy!

I Wish I Could Quit You
Well, PBR fans, after the disenchantment and less time and desire to keep up with and watch the odd programming schedule, I went to Anaheim to visit a couple of friends who came into town for the event for lunch. I was absolutely not going to the event. Until I did. Then, I wasn’t going to go to night two. And then I did. And I was certainly NOT going to the final day. Of course, that sentiment lasted just a few short hours. There’s something about PBR fans and the live events that just sucks me in and now, I have a renewed interest in the sport that I fell in love with six years ago. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to gripe and groan on occasion (maybe even in this blog!), but I think I’m going to do a better job of keeping up. So, without further ado, here’s how my weekend went.

Rider Observances and Experiences
It was a shock to see Austin out after he did so well last year and so fun to see Ben dance again!

After years of not catching one glimpse of a bull fighter, I got to meet Shorty and Jesse and get their autographs. I also had the pleasure of meeting Michael Gaffney and had a good laugh when he told the others in his group, “I need to sign an autograph. There are actually people out there who remember me!” The next night, I had the extreme pleasure of meeting the very nice and very handsome Gary Leffew! We also got assistance from Cody Lambert, who helped me get onto the dirt when an uninformed security guard was insisting that I wasn’t allowed down there.

It was nice to catch a glimpse of Beau Hill, Harve Stewart, and Wiley Peterson in spite of the fact that they aren’t at the BFTS level of riding right now.

Shane Proctor was riding high by night three, of course, and it was sweet to see him blow kisses to Jesse after each ride.

Gee, I wonder who’s supposed to win the world title this year? Could it be JB, the resident PBR bad boy? A fact that was quite evident when the DJ played “Bad to the Bone” before each of his rides? JB may have sustained a fracture in his leg on night one and was seen between events on crutches. That boy was in PAIN. I was close enough to the chutes on the third night (seven seats in, four rows back!) to see him grimacing when no one was watching.

Watching Aaron Roy with his little girl was so sweet. He looks like such a good dad, having her sitting on his lap during autograph signing and then letting her straddle his luggage as he pulled it to the car. Actually, the one thing that hit me on the last night while watching the guys sign, was that no matter what you think about them, they all do very well with the little ones.

The Rides

This is the first time I’ve been very impressed with the Anaheim bull line-up. Sure, there were some duds, but for the most part, it was a good few rounds. Especially the short go! I don’t recall the last time an Anaheim event had so few short go rides!

One note I made on my day sheet: “Luke’s ride (night 3) was so pretty! He was ON!”, then beside his score of 85.75 “But what do I know?” Which brings me to Edevaldo Ferreira on Mr. Feiger (who we learned was a little brother of Bushwacker). Again on night three, when we were only four rows back, he was slammed into the railing, hard, right in front us and a judge, fell off, but didn’t get a reride. That really should be a reride option.

Kody, in a juvenile act of anger, threw his hat at the bull who dared buck him off. I know, it’s not a face mask like Kasey’s was all those years ago, but the look on his face was pure pissed off. Poor boy. However, Jesse’s save was quite awe inspiring!

Speaking of bull fighters: Frank Newsome continued to be a magnet for every angry bull that entered the arena for all three nights.

It’s Who You Know

I’ve been lucky enough to meet some wonderful fans who also tend to travel to all of the CA events and even the surrounding ones. So, needless to say, my ears were burning with gossip. Obviously, I can’t share much of it with you, but I will fill you in on some McKennon news. He and Mesa have broken up. Apparently, his head injury has affected him greatly—his speech is still off and there was the unfortunate gun incident (I have no further information on his case)—and while he’s riding bulls at local rodeos, Dr. Tandy still won’t clear him to try the PBR yet. I can’t presume what it was that broke up him and Mesa, but I will assume that the difficulties stemming from such a severe injury had a little bit to do with it. It all saddens me because he ranked up there with one of the nicest riders I’ve ever met. I wish him well.

Thanks to the nice woman I met, who considers herself kind of a team mom, I entered the ranks of fans who’ve assisted riders. We gave Sean Willingham a ride to the event on Saturday and had a lovely conversation with him about his wife, my sobriety, and the movie Top Gun. When we got there, there was this cute exchange: My friend, who got into VIP parking for free, “Thanks! It’s always nice to be able to take advantage of a bull rider!” Sean replied, “Thank you! We love being taken advantage of!” On Sunday, I was 10 minutes too late to be in the car with Jesse Burns, Ty Pozzabon, and Douglas Duncan!

One of her “boys” whom she’s taken under her wing whenever he’s in CA is Jory Markiss. We met him in the parking lot when we were on the way to the car and he stopped to chat. While there, I found out that he’s doing his best to market himself and one thing he’s doing is working on a deal to be the cover model for a bull-riding-based romance novel written by a lovely woman that I met at the event. Close up, he seemed to fit the mold. And when he changed his shirt in front of us, I can say that he definitely fit the mold (although, some tanning will be necessary). He’s a good kid, but also has a bit of a bad boy attitude about him and I pray that he can find a good agent who is going to steer him in the right direction.


Well, for the most part, Flint was Flint. I got to see the generations of dances again, with the addition of Gangnam Style. I’m still impressed with his Michael Jackson dance and his improv, though. He and the PBR staff are choosing more girls, I’ve noticed, from best dressed to the bow and arrow bit during intermission. That’s nice. Also, after the heated exchange on one of the social media outlets, I found it a bit ironic that I was the one he had to acknowledge, even though he didn’t know who I was. (Same goes for Shorty, who I found very nice, in spite of our vehement differences.)

Random Things

I’m still amused at the number of men who want their pictures taken with the riders. I can only imagine what goes through their mind when a guy asks them to pose with them. I’m sure they are appreciative of all of their fans, but I have to wonder if the autograph seeking and picture posing is something they’d prefer to do with women only.

The opening video sequence has been redone with fewer wrecks. It’s really enjoyable now.
I can’t get over how hard the dirt gets!!

I’m disheartened by how few guys were out on the concourse for signatures and how few came out afterward each night. I wonder if that will be eventually phased out. It seems like the farther they go in the BFTS, the less likely they are to come out. 

Which brings me to: When the announcer says, “Who wants to meet all of the bull riders after the event? Sign up at the Ariat Boot booth for a chance to win a pair of boots and a free pass to get onto the dirt, etc., etc.” Yeah, right. I won those boots, had a hard enough time getting down there (that’s when Cody came to the rescue), and I’m guessing less than half the riders were there. But I get a new pair of Ariats!! I never win anything and I’m so excited to go shopping asap.

This is just one little thing, but I found is so charming: Evevaldo Ferriera was out and when he signed my boot, he was very meticulous, writing slowly, an E and an F in a way that would be readable, but still somewhat fancy. I’m sure I even heard him mumbling “E…F” under his breath while he was signing. There’s something about almost all of the Brazilian riders that makes me feel special, that makes them seem special.

In the end, I’m glad I went. I have a renewed interest now and, in spite of my love for the Brazilian Riders, Shane Proctor is on my list of American riders that I like, so I’m pleased with how the event turned out. I wish him well this season and will do my best to keep up for the rest of the year.