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...