Monday, November 10, 2014

The Agony and the Ecstasy

As it came down to the finals, my enthusiasm was flagging, and I was conflicted.  Who to root for to keep me interested?  For Fabiano Vieira, somehow triumphing over his drastically injured shoulder?  Joao Ricardo Vieira, the “wild child” who has given us so many spectacular rides and yet so many befuddling buck offs? Guilherme Marchi, the old guard making a comeback?  Matt Triplett, the enthusiastic young gun?  Or Silvano Alves, our slow and steady back-to-back champ?

Luckily (?) for me, the increasingly obnoxious commentators decided that for me. On Saturday, during the escalating insufferable dude-bro attempt to be like a real sport with a sports talk program, all of the commentators proceeded to do their worst to downplay Silvano Alves and his chances. As the program went on, they became more and more unprofessional, from the usual “not understanding” his strategy and concern-trolling (i.e., backhanded compliments like, “We know he’s better than that”), to one outright saying that he is rooting against Alves. At this point, I was yelling at my television.  What kind of professional sports organization does this?

And then, these lovely individuals couldn’t understand why, when Silvano had just been scored 69 for a ride that was worth at least 79 (did the judges consider that Silvano Alves wasn’t the only one being screwed over by that score? I’m sure the stock contractor was thrilled), that he wouldn’t want to take a re-ride and be judged by the same people?  As he said here:
"Sometimes the judging affects the re-ride situation . . . . The re-ride [bull] may be a bad one, or it might be a good one. I know sometimes they are an 84-point ride, but I also know that sometimes with the re-ride situation and me, the judges may give me a 79 instead of an 80-something. I don’t want the judges to help me. I just want them to be fair."
As far as I can recall, this is the first time Silvano Alves has said something even vaguely critical of the judging, which speaks wonders for his restraint. I, however, am not constrained by being a contractor to the PBR, so let’s continue.

Justin McBride took us to new and interesting territory by musing that perhaps the judges were punishing Alves for not taking re-rides by underscoring him (something that is hardly a new thought to some of us, but not one that we’d expect to be said out loud by an ambassador of the PBR). Cody Lambert blanched and tried to backtrack on that one, and I can only imagine there was some yelling in McBride’s earpiece. You'd like to think it'd be obvious that the job of the judges is to judge the ride they see before them. The judges’ job is not to judge someone’s season-long strategy, their nationality, their personality, or anything other than the ride that just occurred. If they can’t do that, it’s time for new judges and new ways of training them.

On the same note, while it appears to be standard to subtract 10 points for Silvano Alves, the judges were apparently so delighted that J.B. Mauney was coming back to life that they decided each of his rides was worth 10 more points than they would be for anyone else. This is not a slam on J.B. Mauney—he was riding very well and I was impressed with his grit to cheerfully give interviews and to perform at this level with his jaw wired shut.  He’s not a judge, and it’s not his fault if the scoring is insane.

The judging issues were further highlighted by Silvano Alves only being scored 87.25 for being the fourth guy to ride Asteroid. Was it Asteroid’s best out? No.  But numerous guys and bulls teamed up to score above 87.25 at the finals, and for Alves to ride a former bull of the year for a comparatively piddly score just seemed sad and spiteful—he’d already won even before the ride, so attempting to send a message with that score was just bad sportsmanship, if that’s what was happening. And just to make it worse, the other Brazilians were the only ones seen out congratulating Alves when he won (although their celebration was pretty great). Pettiness is not a nice look, boys.

 Realizing they were stuck with Alves as the champ, the delicious commentator mea culpas started coming in, first from McBride (who, it must be said, seemed to think Silvano Alves would win throughout, even if he can’t say the guy’s last name right).
 “You’ve got to put him in the conversation and a lot of people are not going to want to,” McBride said. “People are going to want to put asterisks by his world championships. [They are going to say] ‘he picked his bulls. He did this. He did that.'
“Silvano has won world titles within the rules of the sport of bull riding that were set up for him to compete in. How can you not put him up there with three world championships?"
Of course, he just had to put that asterisk thing in there. Ah, how I remember the days when it was said that Guilherme Marchi wouldn’t have won without the draft, yet somehow it was okay when Kody Lostroh smartly picked bulls that fit him to win his championship. And how it continues with Ty Murray droning on about how Joao Ricardo Vieira isn’t a “whole” cowboy, and people whining that Silvano Alves isn’t doing it how they think it should be done.  Guess what, fellas, your opinion didn't mean diddly in the end.

And here’s Cody Lambert, who begrudgingly got on the “Silvano bandwagon” when he saw the writing on the wall.
“Silvano stuck to his plan—stay on all of them—and there is one guy here that stayed on all of them,” PBR Director of Livestock Cody Lambert said. “You can’t argue with that and he is a World Champion for a third time. 
“You don’t get given World Championships, you have to earn them,” Lambert said. “It was a great feat to ride several of the bulls he rode this week.”
Ty Murray couldn't resist pointing out one more time that this strategy can fail if there is someone consistent and high-scoring who comes along; he seems to forget that it has worked three times out of four, and that other time was pretty darn close.

You can almost hear the glass being chewed by all the commentators in their quotes. And there’s enough glass to go around, with “fans” on Facebook exclaiming that Silvano Alves isn’t a “real” cowboy and he’d never have won without the draft. We’ve been through this two other times before—nobody is stopping any of the other cowboys from using the draft strategically, and it’s hardly Alves’ fault if they don’t, or if they don’t succeed at the level he does. And oh my, what on earth with the fans online saying J.B. Mauney should have been world champ? That wasn’t even mathematically possible! He could have won the finals event, except he fell off one bull while Alves rode them all on his way to winning the event and the title. I guess somehow in their minds, it would be more “fair” to make J.B. Mauney the champ just because he rides the way they like best?

There was also whining that the rules about re-rides should be changed, that they should be mandatory unless there is a doctor’s excuse. Which I’m sure Doc Tandy would just adore—when don’t these guys have some kind of injury? Who would want to be in charge of determining when a guy is actually “hurt enough” to be “allowed” to beg off taking a re-ride? People seem to forget that Silvano Alves went much of his season with a separated shoulder—would that be enough, or are these proposed re-ride rules just somehow going to apply to him always? And I’m sure the people advocating for this rule would really love it until it forced one of their favorites into attempting to ride and getting a big fat zero (or a big fat injury) on the second try.

Regardless, now I doubt Alves is crying into his cash. He’s the second to win the championship three times, and the richest athlete in Western sports history in very short order.  Recall, he is a mere 26 years old, and he’s only been here for about five years. Who’s for championships four, five, six… seven? The PBR better figure out how to embrace Silvano Alves, which would be easy to do (he’s basically the American Dream) if they tried, because he's not going anywhere. But if they insist on fanning the flames of those who resent him, it’s only going to get uglier. I can handle it from the “fans,” but if it keeps seeming to come out of the judging pool and the commentators, this is not going to work for me.

But for a moment, let me bask in the joy of Silvano Alves winning, despite all the commentator bashing, despite the horrid judging, and despite the noisy, nasty fans. And to top it all off, Bushwacker came from behind, after they had more or less written him off, to win his third bull of the year title! Rapture! Although you kind of have to laugh at the PBR declaring Gage Gay the Rookie of the Year on the broadcast, only to find that J.W Harris kept marching through the finals and cashed in on enough bonus points to be the actual Rookie of the Year. Oops.

So, to wrap up, boo to unprofessional dogpiling commentary; inconsistent and suspicious judging; and fans who don’t understand math or how rules work. And yay to Silvano Alves for ignoring the naysayers and coming through; Chad Berger for getting back into the stock contractor groove and being named Stock Contractor of the Year; Bushwacker for triumphing for his finale year; and J.W. Harris, showing us all that guys from other organizations sure can hack it!

It's funny how this finals was a microcosm of all the things we've been railing against for years, and yet, the end result was so wonderfully satisfying.

Now can’t we wait to do it all again?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

S. Goes to Oakland Once Again - Part II

S. has returned to wrap up the tale of her adventure in Oakland!

Usually, a person can feel confident that the championship round night will be a great evening of bullriding, and not having to rush to the arena straight from work, and instead being able to enjoy some Vietnamese food and make our leisurely way, definitely helps. Upon settling into our seats, we noted that the crowd was not giant, but it definitely was better than Friday night's.

I had two newbies in tow, which always makes things more interesting, since I had to be ready to explain the idiosyncrasies of the sport, including some that perhaps I have given up on trying to understand myself. Like why Renato Nunes' hail Mary moves sometimes gain him points and sometimes lose him points, or why the PBR plays so little country music at live events, or why the announcers are so scornful about guys not taking re-rides (I had to limit myself on that on, or there would have been a full-blown rant), or whether everybody is actually named that, or how the hell they come up with the bonus points per round anyway.

My newbies weren't familiar, but we did discover via telephoto lens that Ty Murray was the color commentator (we could see the glint off his glasses across the arena). But mostly I was excited to see that they had some dividers bisecting the arena as the cowboys started marching out for their introductions, and I kind of rudely couldn't wait for them to be done, because I knew what that meant! And yes, out trotted Bushwacker in a spotlight, accompanied by much hyperbole. The bull, just like in Fresno, circled restlessly by the exit gate, probably wondering what on earth this was all about -- he knows his job, and wandering around in the arena isn't it. He certainly is a huge, striking figure.

We also quickly discovered that we were sitting near the family of a guy who had played football with Stormy Wing. They were very, very excited. Not sure how much having a dedicated cheering section may have played into Stormy Wing's mindset, but I guess it could't have hurt. Kody Lostroh managed to put up a very pretty ride despite his hand injury, and Guilherme Marchi got it together to sneak past one, although he wasn't looking as solid and secure as he usually does, unfortunately. And I have to claim a little bit of prescience, because I said to my friends at the event that Valdiron de Oliveira was looking focused and riding like his old self, and Biloxi just totally validated my insight.

Thankfully, there were more rides this evening (and at least one per flight), and that helps keep the energy up. Flint was back to his sing-a-long, although it just was for "Don't Stop Believin'" rather than for an extended set. The Stanley Stud of the night, was, I'm pretty sure, the firefighter who was the Fan of the Night last year, oddly enough. And the Fan of the Night this evening was the most adorable boy. He had longish white-blonde hair, and a hipster ensemble that included a fedora. When Flint gave him the buckle, he excitedly said, "Thank you so much!" There also was a pretty great scene where Silvano Alves bailed off his bull and directly on the shark cage, where Flint said he would "protect" him. I couldn't see what exactly was happening, but Silvano seemed to be doing some good-natured swatting.

But of course there have to be some things for me to grouse about, right? Firstly, I found it agonizing that they keep hyping up J.B. Mauney, complete with all sorts of shouting ("Who's ready to see the reigning world champ, J.B. MAUNEY?!"), and of course "Bad to the Bone" and increasingly desperate speculation about how he could somehow still be in the mix for the title this year. He's obviously banged up and going through a slump right now, so to have all this hoopla every time he's in the chute, followed by him promptly hitting the dirt like ellipses trailing off (sorry, had to play off of Hummer's obsession with exclamation points), can't be helping his psyche at all. It just seems kind of sad and grasping, with the commentators pretending he has a shot this year, I guess because they wish he did.

There also was an overly-long and un-funny gag about kids going home and trying to emulate Flint throwing his hat at bulls by throwing their hats at their dogs.  But then Flint went on and on about how they should throw them at cats instead.  Even the commentators started to back off, mumbling something about how maybe it was going too far.

Outside of that, there were also a couple of nasty scenes, including Neil Holmes trying to stick it to 8 and getting pulled under the bull. It looked like he got his thigh stomped on pretty hard, but when the injury report came back, it was all about a partially severed little finger and ear and a head gash?  Yikes. He got up and was shaking and looking at his hand, but I had no idea. So impressed with this guy's effort and try, but maybe a helmet is in order.

We finished off the long go with a couple of re-rides. Renato Nunes was scored 79.75 on his (sure, he was pretty out of shape at the end, but not sure that low a score was warranted), but did his back-flip. I have to wonder if Western Hauler, who jolted out of the chute and promptly fell on his side to try to squash Billy Robinson, will be seen too much more in the future. It's not the first time this bull has done that, and it's terrifying every time. Thankfully, Billy Robinson seemed relatively unscathed, and even though he didn't ride his re-ride bull, he still made it into the championship round.  

Unfortunately, the championship draft looked a lot differently than it was first presented, because numerous cowboys doctored out (Neil Holmes, Fabiano Vieira, Douglas Duncan, Reese Cates, Ryan Dirteater and Renato Nunes). This meant a couple guys with one relatively low score squeaked in, showing again that you just never know with this sport.

Roy (brother to Bushwacker) was really impressive in the championship round pen. Unfortunately, the real drama of his out was when Josh Faircloth's head connected with Roy's horn, and the cowboy hit the ground with a dull thud. He was out. Roy, we had heard, unlike his brother, was mean. He didn't want to leave the arena, that's for sure. Flint and Jesse Byrne stayed near Josh Faircloth, trying to keep him still (he started coming around and trying to crawl, obviously disoriented), while the other bullfighters got sucked into dealing with Roy. The pick-up man had managed to rope Roy, but couldn't get him out easily without risking Faircloth. So he had the bull off in a far corner of the arena. Unfortunately, Roy somehow got one leg hooked in under the rope, and started hopping around, eventually laying down and rolling around.  

Meanwhile, Frank Newsom and Shorty Gorham were trying take off the flank strap, and were working to get the bull's leg untangled, without becoming injury statistics themselves. When they succeeded with that, Roy took off, still roped, but clearly a bull weighs more than a horse and Roy wasn't making any effort to be cooperative. The pick-up man, with a mighty struggle, managed to steer the bull around the still-prone Faircloth and the Sports Medicine team, and out the exit gate.  Miraculously, Faircloth then got up, looking pretty bewildered, and was escorted out shortly after. It appears neither bull nor cowboy were too much worse for wear, thankfully, but as you can imagine, the television broadcast cut away from some of that pretty quickly.

The championship round was mostly the bulls' day, with Oklahoma Bell, a Pacific Bell son, putting on a nice show; so did Stanley FatMax (and Valdiron de Oliveira was this close to making the 8, too). Billy Robinson got right to the edge of making the confetti to fly with his ride on Cooper Tires Semper Fi, as did Joao Ricardo Vieira with his ride on Cowtown Slinger. The confetti did get some action with the feel-good story continuing for on-the-bubble Jason Malone, who was briefly in the lead. But then Stormy Wing hit a home run for real and won the round and the event with a 90.75 on Mr. Bull. His friends sitting near me went totally nuts, especially when he pointed at them (I think that was evident on the TV broadcast, but I'll send along a photo anyway). While I was excited for what was coming right up, it was kind of sad that the guy barely had a moment to savor his first BFTS win before they were escorting him out to prepare for his match-up with the bonus bull, Bushwacker.

The last time I saw Bushwacker was in Fresno, and I barely saw him buck there, since L.J. Jenkins was off in 1.45 seconds. This time, although the official buckoff was just over 3 seconds with a slap, Stormy Wing was on for a few more seconds than that, and Bushwacker was still bucking like the champ he is. And during those seconds, I had a moment of revelation that for all the BS that sometimes enrages me about this sport, this is why I watch. This is what makes it worth it--it's as simple as a rank bull really bucking and a cowboy really putting out the effort. Now if only the PBR and I can remember that!

So after my moment of clarity, we were off to the final moments of the event, with Stormy Wing getting a real chance to enjoy the spotlight, and Julio Moreno accepting the high-marked bull award for Roy (who, interestingly, would have won it even if Bushwacker's score had counted--the bonus bull score was apparently not part of the event ranking--as he outscored his brother). Looks like Moreno may have another contender.

So, there it is! And, since one of my friends won 4 VIP seats for next season through PBR Passport, I guess you haven't heard the last of me yet. I do have to say that live events really do help bring me back to the essentials of why I love this sport, so I'm definitely glad that NorCal is somehow a schedule hotspot.

Thanks again to S. for sending in her adventures!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

S. Goes to Oakland Once Again - Part I

S. is here once again to save us from the blank space that would be filled with the rantings and ravings of SQ and PdV, if they had not stalled on posting for an embarrassingly long time.  Welcome to the first part of her adventures at the Kawasaki Strong Battle By the Bay in Oakland!

When the schedule came out for the 2014 season, I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to see Oakland on it. I can only imagine the PBR is getting a great deal on the venue, because attendance last year was beyond pathetic, especially on Friday. But who am I to question the schedule of the PBR, particularly when it rewards Northern California?

I wish I could say that the attendance was any better on Friday this year, but it would be a flat-out lie if I did. I'm guessing the PBR's expectations were low, since even the sponsors didn't bother to do much prior to the event, if they bothered to do anything at all.  Rider Relief was there, of course, with a rider doing a signing (Mike Lee) and their contest for a donation (you get a frisbee that you can try to throw into the bed of the Ford truck at a designated time, and maybe win a signed rider vest). Cooper Tire was doing some kind of prize contest, and of course the Fan Club/Passport booth was there, along with some people trying to sell sports tickets and Caterpillar/Bass Pro trying to get people to enter a contest to win a fishing trip with Luke Snyder (I think I totally confused the lady when I blurted out that I don't eat fish). That was pretty much it, besides one merchandise booth, and the ubiquitous PBR Visa people.

After "enjoying" my $9 cheeseburger with no burger from one of the few open places in one of the clubhouses, and meeting up with some friends, it was off to my seat, ready for the festivities. I'm pretty immune to the flaming introduction at this point, but it was apparent that the pick-up man's horse was not, poor thing. At least there wasn't a PBR Party Barn this year, so I didn't have drunken stumbling people threatening to dump beer on me all night long.

Anyway, even though the bull pen was not especially impressive, there were not a lot of rides. Of the rides, many were high 70s/low 80s, some with re-ride options and some without (some bafflingly without). Silvano Alves ended up with a 58.25 and turned down the re-ride – I could hear the PBRLive commentary in my head. Of course, re-rides didn't always help, anyway. Jordan Hupp took his re-ride and scored 2 points less on the second go-round (80.25 to a 78.25 with another re-ride option; he called it a day).

Thankfully there were some decent rides scattered in there. The newest beneficiary of a 3-event exemption based on stellar performance at a recent BFTS event, Neil Holmes, put up another nice one. Fabiano Vieira continues to amaze with his ability to ride with his nearly immovable free arm. Stormy Wing, the commentators' favorite "home-run hitter," managed to hit one this time around, and veteran Billy Robinson hit a triple, then, if we're using that jargon. The feel-good story of the weekend was Jason Malone, who desperately  needed to ride, and did. Still, eleven rides out of 35+ attempts in a long go was somewhat less than impressive. It was obvious that the wear and tear of the season is really playing a role in the ability of the guys to ride and their decisions regarding re-rides.  

There were a few bulls worth watching (Papa Smurf, Comfortably Numb and Wild For the Night were of note), and definitely some squirrelly bulls that didn't want to leave the arena or otherwise provided some entertainment. At one point, the pick-up man’s horse got nearly clotheslined and spooked pretty badly, but the guy kept his seat. Flint unfortunately then made some comment about how that was a better ride than Silvano Alves' low-scored ride.

Everything else was pretty much the way it always is, although they seem to have gotten rid of the Kiss Kam, thankfully, and the Stanley Stud-finder blessedly now only goes through beeping for one doofus in the crowd, so we don't have to sit through three rounds of it. Flint had some new material, which was good, although he couldn't resist some kind of "handout/welfare in California" joke, which went over like a lead balloon. The crowd just went totally silent, and then there was some quiet, ominous rumbling. Not sure Flint really wants to explore the GDP, federal tax dollars paid, and dependency of California in comparison to other states, because I’m pretty sure that wouldn't go anywhere he wants to go. Thankfully he quickly moved on and did some goofy dancing, which is all for the best. Outside of that, I saw Jim Haworth a couple times. The fan of the night was a girl who had been the Little Miss Buckaroo of her town, and wanted to grow up to be a barrel racer (Flint told her to  marry someone rich).

Of course, one of the reasons to go to an event on the first day is that’s when Fan Club member exclusives usually happen. In this case, it was an on-the-dirt signing. Unfortunately, this turned out sort of weird as there’s a ring almost like a cattle chute around the outside of the arena at this venue, so the riders went around that first to sign for the general crowd. The cowboys were then supposed to jump the fence near the chutes and come on the dirt, but not all of them did.  Which is fine. I don't feel the guys are obligated to do anything, and I know the PBR works hard to give fans access to the cowboys at events, and I certainly appreciate it. But it seems like if you are going to have an on-the-dirt exclusive signing, having the fans in the stands getting to see more of the cowboys than the people who have paid to be in the fan club is not how that should work.

Thankfully, the cowboys who did clamber over the fence were gracious. Tanner Byrne complimented my drawing (a general one for everyone to sign) and asked if I really wanted him to sign it, because he didn't want to "ruin it," which was kind of adorable. I had a drawing specifically for Guilherme Marchi to sign, but besides that, I was eager to have the chance to talk to Neil Holmes, the new invitee who is taking the PBR by storm. Having read some features on him, I was intrigued. He has been well-spoken in PBR interviews, and it’s pretty clear to me that the PBR could use a college-educated cowboy who can give more than the usual sound-bite ("just having fun," "riding jump for jump," "one bull at a time," etc.). Not to mention that he's everything that could bring new fans to the sport – definitely not the same old, same old. And now I can confirm that he's also very sweet to fans, even if he told me he didn't think he was cool enough to have fans.

I have struggled with what I want to say about this next part, and I am hoping I’ll figure it out as I write it. I just don’t even know what to say, and as annoyed as I was on behalf of the riders involved, I think it's best to leave it anonymous. I guess I’ll just say that there was some sort of weird incident that led to one of the PBR arena folks pulling aside a few riders and lecturing them in front of all the fan club members who were paying attention. Fans kept coming over who didn't realize what was going on, wanting to talk to those riders, and then the arena security would make them stand back, drawing even more attention to the scene. The riders involved looked so humiliated and angry, and I can't say I blame them.  I'm not entirely clear about the incident that started the scene, but regardless, the "discipline" could have been handled in another way, and certainly in another place!

Anyway, this kind of put a pall on the evening for me. However, I did have my drawing for Guilherme to sign, and he smiled when he saw it, and said, "Yes, I will sign this for you!" Then someone else grabbed him, but I was finally able to give him the extra copy. He then gave me a side hug and a "Bless you!" That definitely took a little of the sting off the weird scene for me.

I actually got dragged briefly to the host hotel by a friend, where various cowboys and PBR crew were hanging out in the lobby, but I had to catch a train out, so I didn't stay long. So, that was the first day. More to come.

Stay tuned for Part II!  

Friday, August 8, 2014

Too Much Bull?

The divine Pearl and I hesitate to interrupt your summer break from bull riding, which we are sure you are spending wisely by lolling around the pool, drink in hand. But we feel compelled to direct your attention to this outstanding article, “Too Much Bull,” by Andrea Appleton, which appeared in SB Nation about a month ago. We encourage you to read the whole thing at your convenience, but the premise of the story is that many bull breeders are sending their not-quite-ready-for-the-PBR level bulls to high school rodeos and other events for kids. The bottom line is that these bulls may not be up to the PBR standard, but they are too hot for kids. Obviously, many parents are justifiably very concerned because a lot of kids are getting hurt, some of them very badly, but almost as importantly, many kids are getting discouraged and dropping out of the sport entirely. 

Cody Custer, who is one of the founders of the PBR, is taking this issue on in a startlingly forthright manner. Check out his Facebook page, Answers for Bull Riders by Cody Custer, for his analysis of this situation and his recommendations for fixing it. In a post on July 11, he notes that at the International Finals Youth Rodeo this year, there were about 140 outs on bulls and only 10 qualified rides. With odds like that, it’s no wonder kids are abandoning the sport of bull ridingthese statistics sound like the ones at the big leagues that are being lamented by commentators and fans, and there’s no way that is a good thing for kids learning the ropes.

As Cody Custer and others note, with all the trumpeting about J.B. Mauney and how much money he’s made, young American kids should be pumped up and flocking to the sport.  However, this is not what’s happening. If the current trend continues, we can foresee a time when there will be even fewer American bull riders on the PBR circuit, which is interesting to consider, given the unmistakable antagonism against foreign riders even at this early point.

We thoroughly agree with Custer that the practice of over-matching bulls with young riders should be changed. The people who can change it are those who run the organizations that stage youth rodeos—they need to be getting bulls (and possibly even steers for the youngest riders) for the events that are appropriately rank for each age level, but are not eliminators.

We would also like to point out that one way to deepen the ranks of young talent is to quit banning half of it from participating, namely, young women. Yes, we’ve ridden this horse before, but it’s not dead yet, and thus we plan to continue beating it.

We have seen some mumblings about how much even PBR stock contractors get paid per out (hint: it’s not a lot), and we can’t imagine that outs at high-school and lower-level kids’ events pay in some spectacular fashion. (There’s probably not a lot of money in breeding fees and advertising for high school rodeo stock, either.) We get that making a living as a stock contractor, especially a stock contractor not in the leagues of, say, a Jeff Robinson, is not an easy proposition—with droughts, high feed costs, and all the rest that goes with it, nobody (well, hardly anybody) is making a fortune. 

But regardless of the struggles of stock contractors, the short-sightedness of taking over-rank bulls to events for kids, and thereby discouraging or even seriously injuring youngsters for a measly pay-out, is obvious. Besides the youth organizations themselves being more stringent about what stock they accept at their rodeos, the only other solution we can see would lie with the successful PBR stock contractors and the PBR itself. If they invest in the future riders of America and the future of the sport by forming some kind of non-profit organization to supply appropriate stock to high school and other events for children, maybe there’s a way out of this mess.

If, on the other hand, those who could help choose to look away, then we anticipate a day when there will be even fewer bull riders from the United States, and we anticipate that day arriving sooner rather than later. If young riders get paired with too-rank bulls too often at the beginning of their careers, they may decide they're not having enough fun to justify the pain and the discouragement. That would be a shame not only for the individual rider, but for the future of professional bull riding as well.

Monday, May 5, 2014

A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama

I would like to invite you all to head over to Bullridingmarketing blog to savor Kris DiLorenzo’s most excellent post about one of the PBR’s more recent blunders, a marketing survey conducted over a period of 30 days with a group of invited participants. The Divine Miz D has a field day with this subject, and I would not want any of you to miss a single salient, laser-guided observation.

There’s no need for me to recount here the details of her observations, but her principal point bears repeating: Despite the PBR’s continuous efforts to force its fans into little boxes (cowboys? cowgirls? SAHMs? heavy-metal fans? extreme fighting fans?), the bottom line is that there is NO typical PBR fan. 

You’d think that finding this out would actually make marketing the sport a lot simpler, because those developing the campaigns could focus on the obvious: It’s the sport that’s the draw, not the so-called culture of the sport, the existence of which is suspect to begin with.

That’s it, folks—the boys versus the bulls. Straight-up competition, one on one, no guts, no glory, no pain, no gain, no balls, no babies. That’s what makes my heart beat faster, that’s why I’m still here despite all the crap that the PBR keeps dishing out, and it baffles me to now end why somebody in Pueblo can’t just grab hold of this one fact and follow it where it leads.

This could be the idea with the potential to finally take the sport into the mainstream: People love to watch the boys and the bulls square off on the dirt. It’s time to just acknowledge it, embrace it, and run with it. All the rest is bullshit that unfortunately is not being produced by bulls. It’s time, as Grandma Lee famously said in her too-brief run on America’s Got Talent several years ago, to cut the crap. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Fresno (Once Again)

S. returned to Fresno, and has kindly agreed to tell us about her adventures this time around.

Flint "protects" Brady Simms on the shark cage
To be honest, I waited a little too long before writing this, so it may be more brief than the usual as details are escaping me by the moment.   I'll be sure to pad with a lot of photos.  Friday is also kind of a blur as I worked a half day before driving the nearly four hours to Fresno through not great traffic, checking into the hotel, and hustling over to the event.

There's nothing very new or exciting about the pre-event festivities, except the fan club now has something called PBR Passport.  You get a card that hooks up to your information, and you get it scanned at the events you attend for the chance to win prizes.  Most of the prizes seemed pretty good too, like VIP tickets to the same event next year, or $500. Unfortunately, I didn't win any of them, but at least they seemed worthwhile.  Also, they've gotten rid of the Bass Pro Shops shooting arrows at the deer practice target or the fishing thing, and now you have to guess the monetary total of the items Luke Synder is putting in his cart at Bass Pro Shops.  Amazingly, someone won this on Friday.

Silvano Alves stands alone...
Anyway, I was keen to go to the Friday event for multiple reasons.  Firstly, the PBR kept going on about testing a new chute clock, and I was very curious to see what that meant.  Secondly, it was to be the first event after ABQ where the invitees J.W. Harris and Guytin Tsosie would be competing with a 5 event invitation.  And finally, and most importantly, it would be my chance to see Bushwacker buck in person  in the 15/15.  So let's run it down:

Chute clock: I was curious but filled with trepidation about the PBR's latest foray into screwing around with the rules.  On the positive side, I think it does really help the guys to have a clear visual cue about where they are with the timing, rather than it totally being the whim of the chute judge, who might be yelling something incoherent.  However, one minute is really not a lot of time, and since the judges have "discretion" to add several more 20 second intervals, it's all just as arbitrary as before.  And while it's hard to make a direct attribution, I feel like there were a lot more nasty wrecks and hangups than I am used to seeing, and one has to wonder how much of that might be due to guys hustling to get out before the minute runs out.  So far, not a fan.  Bulls are unpredictable and both rider and bull safety need to be considered-- at the least, the initial clock time should be increased.
Horrified amusement or amused horror?

J.W. Harris and Guytin Tsosie: J.W. Harris showed he is the real deal to the PBR audience with a pretty little ride on Hot Blooded. Guytin Tsosie unfortunately did not do as well.  I suspect he got overwhelmed and was trying too hard-- he was overriding the bulls.  Thankfully he seems to have figured things out since.

Bushwacker: They actually trotted him out in the introductions, although I don't think he really appreciated it, as he spent the whole time circling around near the chutes, apparently wondering why he was there and just wanting to leave.  I think he knows his job and he knew this wasn't it.  Bushwacker is huge, by the way!  And, although we only got a few seconds of action from him as he dumped L.J. Jenkins, I was very happy to have seen him buck in person.

Kody Lostroh and Valdiron de Oliveira
At the end of the 15/15, there actually were a number of rides, but Silvano Alves was triumphant with a Silvano-of-old style ride on Rango.  He was pumped up after the ride, but it was extremely bizarre the way the PBR had a handler or two trot him up on the shark cage, where he just stood by himself, doffing his hat, until they told him to come down.  I hope that looked better on camera because it was super awkward in person.

The other notable thing about Friday's event was that Brandon Bates wasn't there, so the in-arena announcers were Clint Adkins and Matt West.  I enjoyed West's calm take on things, and his response to Flint's twerking speaks for us all.

Young guns Gage Gay and Matt Triplett
Oh, and since the entrance for the on-the-dirt fan club signing was all the way around the arena from us and we were in row B, we were unable to get on the dirt (well, maybe we could have, but it would have been after most of the cowboys went around). I guess if we'd left before Bushwacker bucked, we could have made it, but I wasn't going to do that.  It's too bad there isn't an easier way for this to play out, but I suppose there's always next time.

On Saturday, we had made plans to meet up with a fun PBR friend and enjoy the day (for some reason, this was an evening event).  After ending up in a gun store because it looked like the hipster coffee place (Clovis, what can you do?) and breakfast, we ambled to Boot Barn, because we had coupons and because there were cowboys there.  I didn't end up buying anything at Boot Barn, but I did get some photos that kind of made up for the inability to capitalize on the on-the-dirt signing the night before.  We got a nice tour of various parts of Fresno with our pal, and ended up chatting with some of the Brazilian riders at the hotel, who were kind enough to pose for a photo -- Emilio Resende seemed especially pleased by this.
Brazilian brigade

The bulls by and large were fairly decent at this event, although many were pretty squirrelly; probably bulls act up at all events but we just don't see it on TV, for obvious time saving reasons. In another not-seen-on-TV-moment, we got to experience the event itself being delayed in order to fit into airing live on CBS Sports Network. The in-arena announcers kept us up to date with overtime shenanigans of whatever we were waiting for, while Flint did his thing. 

Flint discovered that pickup man Julio Moreno's horse really didn't like him, so he spent some time taunting the poor thing.  He's lucky the horse didn't give him a swift kick.  Speaking of Flint, since I no longer pay to see the LEC stream, even though his act has not really changed, it was more bearable.  Also, Matt West gave him some new material by having attended a Miley Cyrus concert by himself.  Good for him.

Flint tempts fate
Not much terribly notable happened at the event overall , although there were a fair amount of rides.  also, Cody Lambert must have yanked Stone Sober from the Championship Round after his performance at the 15/15, since he wasn't there and Hair Trigger was.

I do hope, however, that someone told Tanner Byrne, who was so elated after his ride, the last one in the round, and who clearly thought he won, that the crowd was booing his score and that he hadn't won, not him.  He looked really confused, poor guy.  I'm sure his time will come, even if it ended up being Cody Nance's  victory this time.

Unique artwork transportation provided by...
There was one amusing little story I can tell about Saturday.  I had done a drawing for Robson Palermo, but he didn't come out either night, I assume because he was pretty battered.  I decided to ask Renato Nunes, who I had previously done a drawing for, if he could maybe take it to Robson.  He seemed pretty confused by this request, and more confused by what to do with it as he did his rounds, but he agreed to take it.  His ultimate decision was to put the drawing down the back of his jeans, which was quite an entertaining image.  It may be the only artwork transported by cowboy jeans. 

So, in conclusion, chute clock reception is mixed, Bushwacker is a plus, PBR friends are definitely a positive, and amusing cowboy moments keep us all entertained.  The recipe for another successful trip to Fresno.  Too bad I had to drive back home for four hours right after leaving the event... 

Thanks to S. for sharing her tales of Fresno!  Hopefully I managed to insert her photos in a somewhat organized fashion.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Oversharing, the Beta Version

This is what happens when you get really, really bored: A week or two ago, like a fool, I made the mistake yet again of sauntering over to to see if anything there might amuse me for a few minutes. And naturally the first thing I stumbled over was one of the ongoing series of pablum titled “The Women of the PBR,” this time featuring Dana Lee. Something about the title struck me as odd, so, like a fool, I clicked on the link, and then, as F. Scott Fitzgerald observed, the holocaust was complete.

What that ill-considered click revealed is that apparently Mike Lee is no longer married to his childhood sweetheart Jamie, about whom we learned so much in Fried Twinkies and various posts on the PBR website, including the 2008 announcement that she and Mike had become the parents of twins. Nope, this is a brand-new Mrs. Michael Lee, hailing from, of all places, New York, where she apparently met her husband in a bar during the Madison Square Garden event in 2010.

What a stunning revelation this all is! The mind boggles at its implications! Which end of this tangled rope shall we pull on first?

Well—none of them. Begging the pardon of Kurt Vonnegut, I don’t give a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut whether Mike Lee is married, divorced, remarried, a polygamist with 15 wives and 60 children, or a partner in a line marriage of 10 men and five women. I would not care if we learned that he’s gay and holds hands with other riders behind the chutes, and if that were the case, I most certainly wouldn't give a rat’s ass if he and his friend ran away together in Las Vegas this fall and got hitched at the Tunnel of Love Drive-Through Wedding Chapel in their brand-new Ford F-150 with Ecoboost.

No, what I care about is that clearly, back in the Stone Age, somebody (or several somebodies) at the PBR decided that the riders should be extolled as role models of upright behavior for all the world to see. Mike Lee has come in for more than his justified share of this shit because he is a profoundly religious man, and that is just ambrosia to the dudes at PBR headquarters—they can’t wait to talk about what a fine Christian man he is, along with all that implies.

In all sincerity, I respect the fact that Lee’s faith is central to his character. But in equal sincerity, I shouldn’t know a damned thing about his religious beliefs or a single detail about his personal life. I shouldn’t know the names of his ex-wife, or his children, or his new wife. None of that is relevant to bull riding.

Despite all protests to the contrary, professional bull riding is not a mainstream sport, and this endless nattering about the riders’ personal lives is one of the biggest reasons. You don’t see this shit in other professional sports. Just waltz on over to the National Football League’s website, and you’ll see instantly what I’m talking about. What you’ll find there are factual stories and analysis about the SPORT. That’s the way it should be.

Here's the point: When a sports organization starts incorporating information about the athletes' personal lives into the narrative that drives the sport, that organization is forever after obligated to tell EVERYTHING about their personal lives, including the embarrassing parts that make it clear that doing so just set the athletes up for failure from the beginning. 

And when that organization deliberately leaves out the embarrassing details, that action exposes the flaw at the heart of the narrative. What's even more embarrassing is the fact that the Powers That Be should have been able to look far enough down the road at the beginning to anticipate such potholes—or washed-out bridges, as the case may be.

I wish Mike and Dana Lee all the best. I hope they have a long and loving marriage, but no matter how it works out, I hope to hell never to hear another word about it from the PBR spin machine. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Here we go -- Iron Cowboy Conclusion

Well, I already know who won thanks to Twitter and the PBR website, but I'll pretend to be excited about this anyway.

Third Round
  • J.B.'s "internal music."  Sigh.
  • It's weird to see a bull with a nose ring.
  • Gage Gay has almost Mike Lee-esque form.
  • J.B. Mauney's buckoff was ugly, yikes.
  • At least we are hearing less about guys not wanting the million enough, but I don't have hope that will continue.
  • Gage Gay is pretty canny with his interviews, neatly dodging awkwardness in the questions.
  • These buckoffs onto the chutes are really unfortunate.  Ouch, Robson.
  • Eduardo Aparecido looked good for most of that ride, but Silvano stuck it out, separated shoulder and all.  Sorry to see him making pained faces, but he's working through it.
  • Stormy Wing is lucky. That Stone Sober is something else.
  • Okay, this voiceover lady is better than the sex hotline operator one they had before, but sometimes she sounds super goofy.
Fourth Round
  • "Sweet Caroline," of course.
  • Watch out for Gage Gay, guys.  Kinda wanted Guilherme to move on and make his 500th ride, because he looked good for a bunch of that ride, but oh well.
  • "Two scoops of hoops."  Let that one sink in a bit.
  • David's Dream didn't seem excited about his cameo with J.W. Hart.
Final Round
  • That was a lot of hype for a second and a fraction.  Just goes to show that you can never count out bulls like Asteroid.
  • It's kind of anti-climatic to have the Iron Cowboy champion buck off in a jump and a half; I'm glad this is a one-off event.
  • Bushwacker was putting on a show!
  • Joao didn't look like he was really enjoying the Dr. Pepper someone unceremoniously shoved in his hand.  He looked a lot happier with the giant 50K check.
  • Interview with Gage Gay. And no interview with Joao. Shall I assume from this the translator really is toast?
So ends another Iron Cowboy.  Even if the format is funky, we learned a few things: Gage Gay proved he's definitely worth watching, Silvano proved he can power through the shoulder injury, and Guilherme got this close to his 500th qualified ride.  Not to mention that there are a number of very impressive bulls to keep an eye on for the future.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Iron Cowboy Semi-Live Blogging

Blah, blah, blah, million dollars, J.B. Mauney, blah, blah, hype, blah.

First Round
  • Valdiron squeaks one out.  And hey, an interview.  Amazing!
  • Mike Lee is lucky to have walked away from that one.  That was terrifying.  But how 'bout that Gage Gay?  This kid is fired up.
  • I appreciate Kasey Hayes' shirt, but Ryan Dirteater moves on.
  • Shepherd Hills Trapper has some funky moves, but I have no idea why Billy Robinson fell off when he did. However, Ty Murray's nattering about guys not putting out the effort for the million dollars is going to get old fast.  That's worth betting on, let me tell you.  That and Craig Hummer saying things like, "Pound the Alarm is able to pound Palermo."  Oh, dear.
  • Sean Willingham versus Chase Outlaw highlights one of the issues with this bracket style event -- two guys can ride but one of them is still going home, while some guy in another bracket who didn't ride moves on; hard to feel good about that if you're Sean Willingham.
  • Fabiano Vieira, back to his old form!  Now that's nice to see.  Not so nice to see is Douglas Duncan "dispatched."
  • Man, Matt Triplett, you screwed up my bracket picks!  But hey, your buckoff heralded the return of the long gone, perhaps lamented Telestrator?!
  • Many of the Aussies seem to start spurring even if they don't have a good seat, which doesn't tend turn out well, as in this case for Lachlan Richardson.
Second Round
  • Blah, blah, blah, million dollars, J.B. Mauney, blah, blah, hype, blah, "Bad to the Bone."  Texas Tea wasn't looking so challenging, though; more like Weak Tea.  Valdiron's bull was much more difficult-- yet another issue with the bracket style event.  Sometimes these "equal" bulls aren't so much.  Of course, if Validron had ridden, that would have sucked for J.B., who had the weaker bull.
  • Crap, why is it always Frank?!  Spartacus, indeed.
  • Who is it behind the chutes with the acid-wash tie-dye look shirt?  Stylin'.  Nice to see Renato Nunes helping Gage Gay, who keeps rolling on.
  • A well-deserved tribute to Kent Cox.
  • Guilherme Marchi marching right towards his 500 qualified rides and maybe a million dollars.  I wouldn't complain.  Hate that he's in the bracket with Robson Palermo, though.  Also hate Ryan Dirteater's freaky buckoff.
  • It confuses me that Cody Nance has a new helmet and vest, but we can always identify him by his weird hanging tavern sign.  Impressive stickiness from Robson Palermo!  
  • It is disconcerting to see Shorty without a hat.  Part of it is the hat tan.
  • Wait, the PBR was picking on Silvano Alves' ride average when he has the second highest of all time?  The yelling at Silvano in the chutes is really uncalled for -- that was quite hostile.  And gee, ya think a screwed up shoulder can affect a guy?  Come on, now.  Good to know the whole booth is psychic and can tell what is or isn't affecting a cowboy.  
  • Fabiano is looking pained but he should be happy with moving on.  But he's out due to injury?  Noooooo.
  • Wow, Joao Ricardo Vieira (1.98 seconds) is moving on because Reese Cates slapped (1.83) and it comes down to fractions of seconds in less than two seconds?!  How unlikely.  
  • Marco Eguchi makes a pretty little ride.  Not sure that was a 90.5 ride for Stormy "Bats for the Fences" Wing, but so it goes.
  • Blah, blah, blah, million dollars, Guilherme Marchi, Gage Gay, dirt, blah, blah, we're not gonna show you the rest until tomorrow.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Revisionist History?

This post brought to you jointly by Pearl de Vere and The Stockyard Queen, in the brief moments available in our current crazy schedules.  Watch out, folks, free-form long-program ranting, perhaps soon to be an Olympic sport!

With J.B. Mauney out (and a whole press release dedicated to it--you'd think after all the time they invested in making him their star, they'd be worried about announcing he'd not be someplace), we had a moment of desperate hope that we could have a break from the PBR's sort of gross need to pick away at Silvano Alves. But no, scroll down to this: "ALVES REMAINING OPTIMISTIC IN SLUMP (2-12-2014)."  In it, we see such proclamations as:
...his pedestrian-like average continues a three-year trend in which he’s gone from 69 percent in 2011 to 60 percent in 2012 followed by 55 percent last year, when he lost out on winning his third consecutive world title on the final day of the season.
What contributes to his declining average, I surely don't know (but certainly expect that hassling in the chutes isn't helping), but I do know that a 55% average is higher than Joao Ricardo Vieira's right now, and he's #2 in the world.  Probably having his every decision analyzed in a poor light and constantly being asked questions that boil down to why he sucks this year isn't too encouraging, either, in addition to articles that question the entirety of a strategy that succeeded two times and nearly a third.

The PBR has apparently forgotten how scattershot the first part of the season is, where someone unlikely will be #1, and someone else will jump up or fall down 10 or more spots based on his performance over one weekend.  Silvano Alves has always played the long game, attempting to steadily accrue the most points by the end of the season--being in the 18th position at the start of the season is somewhat surprising, but the way the PBR has been treating it, you'd think he was 105th, running out of time, and could never possibly recover.  And this is not to mention that the PBR implies in their television commentary that if only Mauney were at the event, he would be dominating, rather than talking about people in front of them who are actually riding.  People such as Silvano Alves.

Particularly distasteful is Ty Murray's ongoing shaming of Alves, implying that Alves is just not trying hard enough and has an attitude problem (calling him "lazy," even). Ty would do well to remember that Alves is the FIRST back-to-back PBR world champion. I don't recall Ty banging on Kody Lostroh the season after he won, or chewing on Justin McBride's ass when he slumped after winning his first gold buckle in 2005. As a matter of fact, what mostly happened was the commentators became apologists for the champ, opining that the PBR had a "long season" and that champions inevitably experienced a let-down, or took time off to actually get nagging injuries dealt with, after finally achieving the pinnacle of the sport the previous season.  Of course, in our case, the previous season was only over six or seven weeks prior, which is hardly enough time for the guys to get their holiday ya-yas out and settle down to business as usual again.   And then there's the small fact that the new point system encourages cowboys to hit the TPDs, meaning they rarely get a break of any kind, even if those of us not paying CBS a gajillion dollars for the LEC aren't seeing it.

But, let's forget about all that, because the champion returns "in true Mauney fashion" this weekend! Thanks, PBR, for putting my mind at ease.  I'm now hoping we can get press releases for each and every event about whether the most important cowboy in the PBR will be attending, so I'll know whether to watch, and if I'm supposed to feel that all his decisions are mature, rather than sad and misguided like Silvano Alves' apparently are, even when sometimes they are essentially the same decision.

Seriously, PBR, don't frame it like this, and we'll all feel a lot better, Alves and Mauney included, I'd guess.  J.B. Mauney is J.B. Mauney, and he proved himself among the greats last year.  Silvano Alves is our first back-to-back champ and he's more than proved himself. The PBR doesn't have to focus on trying to tear down the history Silvano Alves made in order to make Mauney look better--their seasons will develop as they may, no matter what the commentators say or the PBR writes. While the PBR's ridiculous posturing about both riders may sway some, the history is and will be there to be seen, and in the end, all this crass nitpicking at Alves really does is make the PBR look completely petty and classless, and all this hyper-focus on Mauney does is create a standard no mere mortal can attain, let alone maintain.  Nobody wins, if only the PBR would see it.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mauney Mania

Feel free to imagine this post being read in the booming voice used for Monster Truck Rally ads.  You know, "Sunday!  Sunday!  Sunday!"  It kind of sounds like that in my head.  Only in this case, it would be. "Sunday!  Monday! Mauney! Every day!  All day!"

That's because, as we all know, the PBR crowned J.B. Mauney as its world champion last year, and they are never going to let us forget it.  Let's review the postings on the PBR website as the new season has fired up:

1/3/2014: Mauney Embarks on NYC Media Tour, which begins, "It's been 68 days since J.B. Mauney won his first world title."  The PBR is concerned for us, in case we all had traumatic amnesia events sometime between October and now. Or, December and now, since that's when the PBR had a "Throwback Thursday" that was entitled "Mauney Wins World Title." Silly me, I thought TBT were for things that happened more than one month ago.

Let's not forget that they then tweeted "#TBT: Remember when @JBMauney won his first world title?!"  Gee, PBR, it was so long ago and you never talk about it, so I was in danger of forgetting-- thanks for reminding me!   (I am not going to catalog all their tweets about J.B., because I have other things to do with  my life.) As to the 1/3 article, outside the general gushing, I have nothing against the world champ having a media tour, but I don't remember them being so excited about some of their past champions.

1/3/2014: Q&A with 2013 World Champion J.B. Mauney, which is a transcript of a live Twitter chat with J.B. Mauney.  It's as inane as you are imagining.  Although it did reveal this gem:
Q: @shannonlee13: What is your next goal now that you are the World Champion?

A: @jbmauney: "To win three in a row." #PBRChat
While I'm sure Mauney would love to do that, as any cowboy would, I'm also totally sure it's the PBR's goal, too, so then an American can be the first to back-to-back-to-back threepeat champ. Since Brazilians cornered the first three-time champion (Adriano Moraes) and the first back-to-back champion (Silvano Alves), an American has to get some kind of first, right?

1/3/2014: Vieira and Pozzobon Take Round 1 in New York.  Based upon the title, you might think this article is about Vieira and Pozzobon.  You would be mostly right, but of course it has a giant video in the middle of an interview with J.B. Mauney.  Just like at all the events when someone else was the round leader or did something impressive, but the interview was with Mauney.  It's almost amusing how the PBR doesn't even try to justify it, they just do it.  We should expect it, I guess.

1/5/2014: Mauney's Hot Streak Carries into New Year -- "J.B. Mauney continues to rewrite the PBR record books," it says, glossing over Fabiano Vieira splitting the win quickly in the first paragraph so it can get back to J.B., of course with another video interview. 

1/6/2014: Alves Has Unlikely Weekend in New York, which somehow dedicates quite a few of its paragraphs to J.B. Mauney, including this stunner that gets copy-pasted into all of them:
Mauney has now won or claimed a share of four consecutive regular-season BFTS event wins and five wins all together, including the World Finals, in staging what is the greatest comeback in PBR history. 
Unbiased journalism at its best, folks  -- why wouldn't an article dedicated to dissing Silvano Alves need to add further insult by dedicating much of it to praising J.B.?  At least J.B. himself had the good grace to conclude that this uncharacteristic weekend for Alves isn't one he expects to be repeated.  

1/10/2014: Vieira: 'Every Win Has a Different Taste.'  This article purports to be about Fabiano Vieira, who split the NY win with J.B. Mauney.  But, wait for it, it's actually mostly about J.B. Mauney or what Vieira thinks about Mauney.  And in case we forgot:
Mauney has now won or claimed a share of four consecutive regular-season BFTS event wins and five wins all together, including the World Finals, in staging what is the greatest comeback in PBR history.  
Where have we seen that before?  I'm going to have to stop quoting it because it's in all of them, pretty much.

1/11/2014: Mauney Sets PBR Record for Consecutive Rides -- what else is there to say about this?  Hummer was about to blast off on the power of his own hyperventilating excitement.  But there apparently was more to say in written form.   I can't even bring myself to pull a quote.

1/13/2014: Mauney and Bushwacker Set for Showdown in OKC, which, surprisingly, actually spends a fair amount of time discussing Bushwacker.  Of course, Bushwacker isn't Brazilian and while a champion in his own right, isn't in the same standings as Mauney.

1/14/2014: Mauney Serving as an Inspiration to Outlaw, in which we learn that Mauney is a shining beacon of light for young American cowboys, complete with fawning introduction and interviews with Mauney.  It does raise the question, however, can one be a mentor without knowing it?  How zen.

The flood started to slow down at this point, since Mauney bucked off a bull and so was no longer able to add to the consecutive ride streak, and didn't finish especially well.  Which is to be expected-- no one rides everything all the time.  However, something quite stunning showed up just recently.

1/20/2014: Champions to Collide in OKC 15/15 Bucking Battle, where outside of the standard gushing about Mauney, it features the interesting fact that apparently the 15/15 matches, when based on bull and rider rankings and not randomly assigned, were developed partially to force Silvano Alves into riding bulls he was unlikely to draft (bolding mine):
“He told Roy to tell me the best guy should have to get on the best bull,” Lambert recalled. “He felt like we had the draft and everything and that our No. 1 bull rider, at that time, dodged the toughest bulls.”

Lambert had known Roy – a bull rider, contractor and cutting horse trainer – for a long time, but had only met the elder Carter a few times over the years.

But he liked what he heard.

In fact, so too did the PBR Board of Directors along with the competition committee, they just felt it couldn’t be that way every time there was a 15/15 Bucking Battle.

“You (have) to mix it up a little more for the competition,” said Lambert, who explained the matchups are set like this only the first time each year and that from here on out – the next one will be in Anaheim, Calif. – the current Top 15 riders will be randomly matched with the Top 15 bulls available that weekend.... This particular way of matching riders and bulls illustrates what the 20 founders had in mind when they founded the PBR as an organization that would feature the best bull riders in the world against the best bucking bulls in the world.
This isn't exactly a surprise, but it's extraordinary (and not in a good way) that it was admitted and quoted.  The PBR seems to have been struggling with there being so few rides and fans getting bored (thus the draft) versus people apparently feeling the draft lets cowboys choose the "easy' bulls (a whole 'nother loaded topic), and in the process, utterly failing in controlling the messaging and PR about it (characteristically).

1/22/2014: Mauney vs. Bushwacker Reminiscent of Frost vs. Red Rock.  I'm kind of afraid to touch this one, to be honest, and probably the PBR should have shown a lot more caution themselves.  Let's just say that I think it's best to let "lore" develop on its own as time goes on, rather than to attempt to force it.  And having people who have active roles in PBR events being so partisan is, let's just say, not politic.

1/23/2014: By the Numbers: Mauney Riding Rankest Bulls at Dominant Rate.  I do generally like Slade Long's statistician's take on things, but at this point, I am totally fatigued by the PBR's Mauney media machine, especially when it basically concludes that he is the best there is and ever was and ever shall be.

Anyway, I  may have missed a few (I admit, my eyes started to glaze over after a bit, especially when every fourth word was "Mauney" -- only a slight exaggeration), but I'm sure the point is fairly clear: that's a lot of articles dedicated to J.B. Mauney in the span of a mere couple of weeks, and the mania is bleeding into articles that are nominally about something else.  And this is barely touching the endless commentary on the broadcasts and the numerous interviews with J.B. Mauney (passing over people who actually won rounds or the event, at times), which could have its own dedicated post.  And I am only barely getting into the apparent downplaying of Silvano Alves' accomplishments in order to pump up the legend of J.B. Mauney further, and of course the PBR's weird messaging issues.

But let me be clear on this, also.  I'm not slamming J.B. Mauney; he is a talented rider and he can't help it if the PBR is in love with him and apparently can't stop talking about him for five seconds.  But as much as I tell myself that, the PBR is making it very, very hard for me to like him at this point.  Mauney's not the only bull rider on tour.  He's not the only world champion on tour.  He's a talented guy who made a good attitude adjustment, but there are only so many times we need to hear that he's "having fun" and credits his family for his success, only so many articles we need to read about how super amazing he is or someone else thinks he is-- we get it.

Seriously, PBR, we get it.  We really get it.  You love him.  All must love him or despair.  He's simply the most supercalifragilisticexpialidocious rider there ever was or ever will be.  Are you satisfied?  What else do we have to say to get some variety in coverage?

Final note:  if the PBR isn't worried about causing fan fatigue, maybe they should should chew on this: their deification of Justin McBride likely hastened his departure from the sport.  Living up to the hype becomes stressful; constantly dealing with the media becomes overwhelming.  Think long and hard, PBR, before you hang everything on one guy.  Mauney is your new golden boy, but the longer you put him on your own special pedestal, the more likely it is he'll want to get off.

(In the distance, I can still hear Hummer's voice shouting, "Sunday!  Sunday!  Sunday!  Mauney!  Mauney!  Mauney!")

Friday, January 17, 2014

Remember When . . . ?

Howdy, friends. It’s a balmy 45 degrees here in Big Sky Country, and we are still sending our condolences to our friends who were freezing their asses off thanks to the Polar Vortex. I have to confess that it was refreshing for once to be in the warm part of the country.

And I also have to confess that I literally could not bear to watch the event in Chicago, solely because of that awful limestone dirt they laid down in the arena. I watched maybe a dozen bulls slip and slide and fall, and I turned my attention to the Property Brothers instead. So I had to glean my knowledge of what happened from the PBR website, and we all know what happens when we go there.

One day last week, my good friend Kris DiLorenzo and I were commiserating about the PBR, and for some reason, and pretty much simultaneously, we both remembered that lovely press release that the PBR sent out in September 2010, announcing Dockery Clark had been hired as chief marketing officer. At the time, it was a big deal because as far as anyone outside the PBR knew, the executives had always been men up until that point. That sent me off on a Google search to see if Ms. Clark was still laboring in the PBR’s halls in Pueblo. Well, guess what—the answer is no.

But here’s what’s really interesting. According to her LinkedIn profile, Ms. Clark had worked for Bank of America for 11 years and then for Miller Coors for almost four before she move to the PBR. She was there a mere 11 months before she departed to become—wait for it—the chief of staff for the Democratic National Convention in Charlottesville.

I nearly fell off my barstool when I saw that. She may not be a DEMOCRAT, but I’d say the chances are just pretty damned good that she is.

And oh, Lord, the images this conjures up. I picture a hard-working professional woman, somebody with the track record to prove she could take the PBR to the next level and the chops to know how to do it, trying her darnedest to pull the sport into the mainstream. That, as we all know, is no small objective—the dudes who run the outfit have been aspiring to that for 20 years, and as far as I can tell, they have made no discernible headway. 

So here she is, faced with a Herculean task, and all while she was doubtless having to listen to endless assaults on our president’s character and that of anybody who doesn't think Tea Bagger members aren't in need of huge hits of psychotropic drugs and electroshock therapy.

Can’t you just hear it, boys and girls? Can’t you just imagine the obnoxious, adolescent, sexist, bigoted blather that the good ol’ boys handed out during her tenure? I don't mean such talk would necessarily have been aimed at herI'm talking about the way those guys doubtless talk among themselves just any old time.

You can’t? Well, just tune into any PBR broadcast and listen to JDub for maybe five seconds, and you’ll get at least the watered-down, cleaned-up-for-primetime version. Or you can just go to a live event and listen to Flint for fifteen seconds.

And it also wouldn't surprise me to learn the good ol' boys slandered her while they were all hanging out in the men's room.

It's no wonder she jumped ship. And I would have given a pretty penny to be a fly on the wall when she handed in her resignation and the Powers That Be learned she was going to work forPresident Barak Hussein Obama. A few of those boys might have even fainted dead away and awakened wondering what the world was coming to.

Of course, the national political convention comes but once every four years, so Ms. Clark has since moved on to work for a big marketing firm that is based in Chicago. I hope she sets the world on fire there. That will be one good way to show the PBR Powers That Be that they lost a keeper, somebody who could have made a serious difference to the perception of the sport. 

Godspeed, Dockery Clark. I wish you all the success in the world.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Just an Old-fashioned Love Song

Folks, there is a possibility that we may have a guest post here in a few days, courtesy of one of our long-time readers who was trapped by the polar vortex in NYC and thus got to go to Madison Square Garden this past weekend for the PBR event. If that happy event does come to fruition, you will of course be the first to know.

In the meantime, though, I present a very short list of the bulls who won my heart at MSG. Because as you all know, I'm all about the bulls. And that's why the name of the rider is in parentheses!

Buck Dynasty (Stormy Wing)
Razorbuck (Kody Lostroh)
Candy (Reese Cates)
Boot Daddy (Ben Jones)
Devil of Ramadi' (Jordan Hupp)--although I really can't approve of the bull's name.
RFD HD (Brant Atwood)
Percolator (Emilo Resende)--sorry, Shawk! I know that one broke your heart.
High Steaks (Marco Eguchi)

But my absolute favorite was Ballistic, who unloaded L. J. Jenkins in the third round with a most original bucking style. And it doesn't hurt that he's a beauty. I'm such a sucker for a platinum blonde!