I hope everyone who is a fan got the thrill of watching or attending the finals in Vegas. I was there this year and it did not disappoint. It was a fight to the finish by the top three.
One of the huge moments was the bull landing on top of J.B. Mauney, which caused a number of health issues besides the separated shoulder. Watching him try to get up onstage to pick his bull in the draft was painful. He couldn’t move his free arm and he could barely walk. It was difficult to see him try so hard, with so much pain, and be unable to turn in the rides to make his dream of the Gold Buckle come true.
On Friday, Dustin Elliott was denied a re-ride after his bull hung a foot in the chute. It was obvious this caused him to fall off, but he was denied for a technicality. I spoke with Dustin on Saturday, and he was still equally upset, as were the 16,000 fans there. He told us that it technically didn’t warrant a re-ride, but he had spoken to Clete, who said the rules were going to be changed, as the intent was to protect the riders from this sort of foul.
On a more humorous note, on Friday night there was a draw for the next day’s rides, and some of the riders brought their children up to the stage to pull their bull’s numbers out of the PBR World Championship Trophy. Cody Lambert couldn’t resist the temptation when Chris Shivers went up onstage with his young son─ he asked Chris which one was going to lift the other up to pull the number. Everyone got a great laugh and Chris was very good about the height joke.
The riders were all very good-natured, willing to be available to their devoted fans, take pictures, sign autographs, etc. It is one of the very fun things about the PBR and what separates it from most other professional sports.
Also, it was exciting to see some of the retired greats return to help out and greet fans, like Adriano Moraes, Tater Porter, and Justin McBride did. Justin even performed at the intermission one night, and did a great job.
Having recently had surgery on his free arm and wearing a cast, Skeeter Kingsolver rode through his pain. He gave it all he had in the finals, and while not very successful, he was still there. When he and Austin were late for the Meet and Greet on Saturday morning, it was rumored that Skeeter had just turned 21 and Austin (a close friend of Skeeter’s) took him out on the town to celebrate. Maybe a little too much celebration? Still, the Meet and Greet started at 8 a.m., and that was early for everyone─ much less someone who rode bulls the night before and needed to ride again.
A very tense moment for all was when Robson Palermo rode on Saturday night and won the round, but landed hard on his head when he dismounted, and was removed from the arena on a backboard and taken to the local hospital. It seemed likely that his neck might be broken or that he had some other very serious injury, but at the draft that night, he called Clete from the hospital and requested Priceless for the following round if he could ride. He not only returned the next day, but also rode in both the Long Go and the Short Go, and got a 91.5 in the Short Go. Now, that’s grit! Everyone was happy to see him back, healthy and riding at the top of his game. If he was in baseball or football, he would be out for a year or so. Not Robson─ or most of the PBR riders. They exemplify toughness and grit!
Kasey Hayes was riding through the pain of a broken wrist that made even signing autographs difficult, but he still rode─ or at least tried. Fan favorite Ben Jones was stomped pretty good, causing a number of injuries that took their toll on his body, including having his ear sutured after being kicked in the face when he was getting bucked off. He was very sore and had trouble getting around, but was pleasant enough to get his picture taken at the Meet and Greet. BTW, after a wreck on his bull, Ned Cross’s nose doesn’t look that good anymore. Maybe it’s time to start wearing helmets????
We were entertained at the draft on Saturday night by Colby Yates singing one of his songs. He did a great job and is a terrific entertainer as well as musician and singer. That’s in addition to being a very nice person and a great bull rider.
Finally, a quick Flint moment. (No, I am not a huge Flint fan, but every night he has at least one good comment.) On Saturday he talked about owning a gym in Montana, and that the girl gymnasts, including his daughters, were so delicate and crisp in their performance–until they dismounted, and then they grabbed their leotards out of their butts. He challenged the riders, offering $20 to whoever would delicately tug their “leotards” out of their butts after their rides. Dustin Elliott rose to the occasion and gave a polite tug after his ride (although I doubt Flint ever paid up). Flint actually said to a few of the riders, “You probably aren’t going to make any money this weekend anyway─ take the $20.” The whole arena applauded.
Not happy to end it there, Flint offered a similar challenge on Sunday, saying that instead of slamming your helmet or kicking the fence after getting bucked, as it was Sunday, maybe instead you could relax and demonstrate your cool by dancing—and of course he demonstrated for all. So after getting bucked off for his final time in Vegas, having ridden only one, Travis Sellers danced across the arena and the crowd went wild! He obviously was happy to be at the finals, and though disappointed not to have performed better, made the most of the event and showed the crowd his humorous side. It was one of the great moments of the event, gave some levity, and showed appreciation to the crowd.
I think Austin Meier’s DQ in Times Square really angered him and took some of the wind out of his sails, as J.B. then was less than 200 points behind Austin. As well as J.B. was riding, it looked like he was going to knock Meier out, but Austin just couldn’t put his rides together in Vegas, and wasn’t able to hold on. It was a shame to watch him just slip away. On Saturday night he finally got one “rode.” It was a poor ride, as he was way out of shape for most of it, hanging on the side, much worse than when J.B. rode Code Blue in Madison Square Garden. Meier was out of whack for 5 or 6 seconds, but with enormous drive and true cowboy grit, he hung on. It was a must-have to keep Renato from running away with the event, but not riding one on Sunday kept Austin out of the Short Go. After the ride he told everyone he would “drag to death” before he would starve to death.
It also has been poor form on the part of a number of retired riders who continuously stated publicly that Austin does not have the talent of other top riders, but he does have great drive and a strong work ethic. I think that has upset Austin, and while he says it makes him work even harder, I think it took a mental toll on him and contributed to his poor riding performance at the Thomas and Mack Center. It’s a shame, and those comments are just wrong. Austin is a very talented bull rider, and his work ethic and grit and determination are second to none. He was done wrong by Justin McBride, J.W. Hart and Ty Murray. That’s a shame.
The real surprise obviously was Renato coming into the finals with a renewed energy and drive and determination, coming from about 1600 points behind to win the finals and the World Championship, something done only by Mike Lee in 2004. It would have been nice to see Renato ride all his bulls, but in the Short Go, Major Payne bucked him off─ though not before Renato had won the whole shooting match. He was impressive, and as always, very humble.
Obviously, skipping the Times Square event and going back to Brazil got his head back together and focused, and it was a strategy that paid off big-time. The crowning touch was after Sunday’s Long Go, when Renato knew he had won the world and likely the finals. He climbed the fence, threw his hat into the stands for a very lucky fan, and did his trademark back-flip. BUT─ just like Mike Lee last year─ he should have looked first. He jumped right in the way of the bull he’d just ridden, that was circling the arena. Fortunately he was just missed by the bull, but it was close and scary to watch; it could have had tragic results. It was bad enough that Major Payne kicked him in the head in the Short Go! Renato was ecstatic to win, but kept rubbing his head in pain. Great job, Renato!
That’s a brief overview of some highlights . I hope those who couldn’t be there enjoyed it on TV, and that this gives a few insights into what I enjoy so much. It was a tough event for some, but they are always gracious and strong enough to ride through the pain.