SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you want to watch the event on CBS and be surprised.
Heavy rain on Thursday night made everyone nervous about Times Square being a sea of mud for the Final Five Showdown, but the weather was cooperative—just cool, grey, and windy.
Times Square was packed with tourists, fans, and curiosity seekers, some of whom knew everything about the riders, some who thought there was going to be a bullfight, and others who just like to be part of a crowd—plus very loud animal cruelty protestors—all of whom couldn’t see squat, because the ring (a very small one) wasn’t elevated enough, and any view for the hoi polloi was blocked by thick railings and hordes of people wearing “Media” and “All Access” passes (plus their friends), and various unidentified Special People. They were the only ones allowed close enough to see the riding. The Extra-special People sitting inside the glass building overlooking the scene also saw the real thing, stayed warm…and probably had an open bar.
Not exactly what I had in mind when I committed to standing in the street for three hours. I could’ve waited until Sunday and watched it in the comfort of my living room. But then I wouldn’t have had the bonus round (explanation later).
Nevertheless, the event was exciting, especially the upset: I’m pretty sure everyone expected Austin Meier to win, not to lose by a DQ.
Renato Nunes was conspicuously absent from the lineup. Everyone I spoke with was hoping he wasn’t depressed; we miss him! Those present: Alves (replacing Renato), Briscoe, de Oliveira, Lee, Meier, Mauney, McConnel, Palermo, Proctor, and Wimberly. Ty Murray, Justin McKee, and Craig Hummer were on Yap duty, and now Mckee is saying “Silvanyo” instead of “Silvano.” The Bummer is catching. And he’s still saying “Noonez” instead of “Nunyez.”
Before the event got underway, we were subjected to dancers in cowboy gear (because, you know, cowgirls always run around in denim hotpants in October)—more of the tacky cheesecake s**t that the PBR thinks is essential to bull riding.
Then came another long delay while we saw a video montage illustrating the cowboys taking Manhattan, appearing at various tourist destinations, with footage incorporated from last year’s Invasion of the Bulls, and two shockingly tasteless vignettes: a photo of Manhattan dated 2001, and a clip of a cowboy riding the Merrill Lynch bull sculpture near the Stock Exchange—practically the symbol of Wall Street’s destruction on 9/11. Edit, please.
After that came the usual Let Us Pray routine, which is SO inappropriate. Foisting Christianity on the general audience is utterly offensive. Cowboy Church before an event is fine for those who choose to go, but mandatory prayer before an athletic event? A big turnoff for those not of that persuasion. And besides, just how does that religiosity square with the Jack Daniels “girls” and the dancers in little teeny denim shorts that just barely cover the essentials?
It seems the PBR is (finally) catching onto the fact that rock & roll fans are its next audience, which I’m never tired of repeating to anyone over there who’ll listen. They hired red-headed rocker Travis Clark (www.whoistravisclark.com), lead singer for We the Kings (www.wethekingsmusic.com), to belt out the Star Spangled Banner, and as bad a piece of music as that song is, he nailed it, full-throttle. Like I’ve been saying since last year, “Bull Riders Are The New Rock Stars.”
The bulls were also rock stars. Bandolero bucked off Silvano, which made me not a happy camper. Hank took care of Shane Proctor by ducking and then slamming him in the back after he flew off. In his interview later, Shane said the bull hit him so hard, he broke his chin strap loose: “With the cold weather, my teeth were chattering before, and they’re damn sure chattering now.” (And of course, the interviewer made the kajillionth mention of his brother-in-law.)
After those two rides, we had to watch some faux Leah news commentator giving a hyped-up take on the weather (and where the hell is Leah, anyway? We need her!), then a looong video montage of some rides and lots of wrecks. This unfortunate obsession the PBR has with the mistaken idea that people watch bull riding to see wrecks is going to cost them new fans. Some morons like to see wrecks—probably the same people who rubberneck at traffic accidents. Most people want to see rides—take a survey!
Travis Briscoe surprised everyone with his strong return: in spite of all the the will-he-won’t-he-ride medical drama, he won the event with 87 points on Skyhawk Cut A Rug. Coming in second at 85.50 was J.B. Mauney on Flying J Saddles, a bull who previously had only 5 outs and was ridden by Beau Hill.
McKennon Wimberly didn’t stay on Little Mr. T. He later donned a headset and joined Craig Hummer, doing some commenting on his ride, and sounding more toned down; maybe he realized that his new mouthy persona wasn’t living up to his riding. Unrelated question: anybody know if it’s really true that Mohammed Ali once came to see him ride?
Palermo didn’t score on Despicable Me, but the bull’s name caused amusement among the non-PBR watchers behind me. And I hate to sound like The Bummer trying to be clever, but Ryan McConnel got Hypnotized.
Camera faux pas: catching Mike Lee hawkin’ a big ol’ loogey. I still don’t understand the green hat, but he did ride Chicken Lickin for 84.50. Valdiron de Oliveira got the same score on Bird Creek. After that we were bludgeoned with a pseudo rock-rap song mentioning the riders by name, with ugly lyrics like “your eyes will be bleeding,” accompanied by more footage of wrecks that had everyone around me wincing, even people who’d seen them before. Besides the fact that the volume was so excruciating, people on 155th Street probably heard it, this focus on wrecks is just plain twisted. And The Bummer uses the phrase “cowboy justice”—like, a cowboy making a ride is revenge for being tossed?
Everyone mourns the riders who die, but they love watching other riders get close to it? If one of these guys got killed by a bull, would the PBR be running that video in their “Worst Wrecks” poll on the website? Do people actually enjoy seeing unconscious boys in their early 20s, guys with bones sticking out, blood running down their faces, limping or being carried out on a stretcher? Wouldn’t that be considered hating the riders? How is someone a fan if they love watching cowboys get hurt?
Now, about bulls getting hurt: you and I know this rarely happens, but the animal cruelty protestors at the event didn’t. The PBR has a statement on animal welfare—why don’t they distribute handouts at events? Near me in the crowd was Lourdes Perez, a young woman who was introduced to the sport of bull riding by her boyfriend and loves bulls; she asked, “Why don’t they put out a PSA about animal cruelty?” Brilliant idea, Lourdes! I’ll pass that on to the PBR.
More filler (I’m telling you, being present at a made-for-TV event is about two minutes’ worth of riding and two hours’ worth of crap): the same interview with various riders about Uncle Buck: Austin calling him “a rider’s worst nightmare,” J.B. saying, “I don’t like him…he’s dirty.” In fact, there was so much commercial time that a young guy new to the sport asked me, “Are they doing any actual riding out here?”
Seeing J.B. in a Rangers jersey was a little unsettling, I have to say. One thing we don’t need is any more New Yorkers. (I‘m allowed to say that, because I am one.) Hilarious candid moment, which I hope is in the CBS broadcast: after his ride, the same lame Leah-substitute asked some unnecessary question while his back was turned; J.B. was more concerned with retrieving his hat. Once he had it, he turned around and asked, “What?” She had to repeat the question. So much more fun than the canned responses!
The shocker which ended the event on a downturn was Meier handling El Presidente well up until 7.4, when as far as I could see, he bucked off; but some people, including Austin, thought he held onto the rope until 8 seconds, and scored. I knew he shouldn’t get a score, but the judges reviewed the video a couple of times and determined that he’d touched the bull with his elbow as he hung off the side. In his post-ride interview, Austin was angry. I sympathize with how he felt, but it would’ve been wrong to score him. I guess these judges were trying to be conscientious.
I’ve never seen an event end in silence, but that did it. There was no fanfare for Travis, and J.B. didn’t look happy about Austin’s fate, even though it put him less than 250 points behind Meier.
My bonus round: after the event, I stopped on 42nd St. near the Times Square subway station to make a call, and who should walk by but Ty Murray. Well, you know I couldn’t pass up that photo op–even though the wind made a hideous mess of my hair.
Even more photos will be posted soon!