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!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Caution: Vulgarity Ahead

Here I am, folks, out in the Montana cold, rolling up hundreds of feet of garland and tiny LED lights that I had swathed over the fences and, truth be told, moping just a bit. No, I don’t have the post-Christmas blues. Fortunately for me, I really do love the holidays, probably because my parents did, and although I do sympathize with folks who find the season difficult because of personal losses or difficult circumstances, I don’t have any patience with people who want to piss on other people’s parades by railing about the “commercialism” and the rat race exhaustion and, of course and most important of all, the “War on Christmas.” If you have a problem about the holidays, I will thank you to keep your damned mouth shut about it. Go sit in the corner and brood upon your own self-righteousness and leave me the hell out of it.

The sad thing is that what I’m moping about isn’t like to get resolved anytime soon. The PBR season starts tonight, and I am finding it hard to work up any enthusiasm. I am more than happy to blame this on my dear friend and partner in crime, Pearl de Vere, because she recently reminded me of a post from way back in 2008 in which I was complaining about—wait for it—a lot of the same shit I’m still complaining about. 

Her observation prompted me to think about all the things that the PBR bosses still need to fix and seem oblivious to, from the very serious issue of making wearing a helmet mandatory to the less worrisome, but genuinely stomach-churning, matter of making Flint quit twerking. (In Pearl’s immortal words, “That shit has to stop.”) Is it really possible that he didn't get the fact that parents all over the country were horrified by Miley Cyrus' little display of bad taste?

Top it all off with the way the last championship was stolen from Silvano Alves, via a few points shaved off each successful ride at a time, and we are facing a disheartening situation. I will be very, very surprised if we don’t see the same thing this year, so as to guarantee that an American wins the title. 

I mean no disrespect to J.B. Mauney, who fought the good fight and gave us some spectacular rides in the process, but I would be lying if I said that I don’t think he got some help from the judges. I doubt that the PBR as a whole is organized enough to orchestrate a conspiracy, but I am also just pretty damned sure that some individual judges decided to take matters into their own hands and make sure Alves didn’t three-peat. (For more on this subject, I invite you to check out Kris diLorenzo's excellent posts on her blog, Bull Riding Marketing.)

All that being said, I don’t mean to suggest that the dudes who run the PBR should be jumping every time I say frog, although that would be nice. But it would also be nice if they would quit acting like anybody who makes a suggestion is the Antichrist and obviously just out to spoil their fun.


Let’s consider for a moment just one issue—making wearing helmets mandatory. Virtually anybody with any sense (which mostly means people over the age of 21 who weren’t born in a barn and who aren’t trying to ride bulls for a living) would agree that bull riders should wear helmets. It is, as Ruby would say, as plain as the nose on your face. But aside from the issue of public opinion, there is an ever-growing body of hard evidence that repeated concussions and even less significant head injuries have serious long-term effects. 

And now there's a formal medical diagnosis for a condition that can be the end result of multiple head injuries: chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Just trot on over there, please, and read about what this condition entails, and then ask yourself if it makes any sense for the PBR to continue to ignore this very serious threat to the health of the riders. How can simple bullheadness and misguided adherence to what they perceive to be the Cowboy Way possibly make more sense than adopting a policy to diminish such a clear and present danger?


Back in August, the National Football League settled a class-action lawsuit with a bunch of its retired players who had suffered multiple concussions and are now living with the consequences. The league shelled out $765 million bucks to help care for these players, and now it looks like that amount won't be nearly enough to take care of everybody. 

Granted, the PBR does not have anything like the number of participants as the NFL, but does it seem at all likely that the PBR could afford anything approaching a settlement that, let's say, set aside a similar amount per rider? I'm sure that the riders sign their lives away for the privilege of riding in the PBR, but there's always the prospect that an athlete might take on an organization that deliberately sidesteps important safety issues. Even if it was impossible for a rider to file a lawsuit, the publicity he would get for raising the issue would not be good for the PBR.

And that’s just one example of the PBR’s hell-bent determination to ignore the thoughtful and well-meant urgings of observers of the sport. We could go on forever, and sometimes it seems like we have, and literally nothing ever changes, and we continue to hear the same bullshit justifications from the organization. 

Honestly, it’s no wonder I’m in a funk. Who do we have to fuck to get some action?