For review of Thackerville, OK event, see the hind end of this post.
Hold onto your hiney, folks─ it’s bull riding season again. Time for more Nitwitticisms, Reasons to Dump Erin Coscarelli (unless she’s already dumped, which would be beyond my wildest dreams— and a lot of other peoples’ too), Verbull Abuse, Highlights, Lowlights, Mixed Blessings, Eeks! and Yikes!, Crazy 8s, Quotable Quotes, Fashion Alerts, Bulls Behaving Madly, Clock/Buzzer Crap, and Krazy Kowboy Verb Tenses.
As we head into the second half of the BFTS, in that strange time warp of a one-day delay in broadcasting the events, two major themes have been floating through my head, and I’d like to hear from readers about them (in rational terms, please).
#1 WHEN IS A SPORT NOT A SPORT?
Last August I had some communication with Tom Jolly, Sports Editor of The New York Times about why the paper doesn’t cover bull riding the way it covers other sports, considering that it’s the fastest growing sport in America, has major sponsors, is generating income from several revenue streams, and is an international sport.
Jolly: “…we’ve actually done a few bullriding stories in the recent past.”
I researched the paper’s archives and summarized what kinds of stories they’ve run in the past that touched on bull riding, and in which sections those appeared:
Stories on rodeo (the Times lumps it and bull riding together), sponsorship, riding technique, retiring riders, bull selection, cowboy style, and other tangential topics ran in sections including Travel, Advertising & Media, Magazine, New York and Region, Times Topics, News, Style, Garden, Home & Garden, Obituaries, Arts, Movies, and sometimes the Sports or Other Sports sections. What was published included features, photos, bull riding movie and TV reviews, one-sentence mentions in travel stories, short pieces, and letters. 21 of 34 stories were less than 1,000 words.
Here’s the list of feature stories related to bull riding:
2002: Ty Murray retiring
2006: Bulls; Religion in bull riding
2007: Bull selection process; Sponsorship; Riding Technique, focusing on Adriano Moraes
2009: Helmets vs. hats debate; Luke Snyder outside the ring
2010: Bryan Guthrie’s drug death. (A PRCA rider, not a PBR member.)
None of the stories were reported the way sports are reported. Sports coverage means recaps of games, scores, and other factual information, on a regular basis, throughout the entire season. For bull riding, that means covering the PBR’s two touring circuits (and maybe other professional circuits as well), events, scores, rider standings, bull stats, earnings, the injured list, and highlights.
Jolly: “I feel like we’ve touched on these elements a few times – if not directly, at least in the course of the stories you mention.”
His conclusion: “Below is a roundup (no pun intended) of stories that have involved bull-riding or rodeo (which is how the Times categorizes it all). I realize we haven’t done a story as straight-ahead as you’re describing, but I don’t get a sense that there have been enough new developments to warrant us doing another piece along these lines.” http://topics.nytimes.com/topics/reference/timestopics/subjects/r/rodeos/index.html?offset=10&s=newest
Note the use of the terms “stories” and “a story”─ a clear indication that bull riding isn’t considered a full-time, ongoing, professional sport, but a specialty act.
I pointed out the latest new development at the time: PBR prize money passing the $100 million mark and growing.
This leads me to the natural question, why? Why is bull riding not covered on a regular basis in the media the way baseball, basketball, hockey, and football are? If it’s strictly a matter of how much money the sport generates, then case closed. For now.
Maybe there are other reasons, too. Maybe the-powers-that-be don’t consider bull riding a legitimate sport because of its anomalies (some of which I like, some I don’t). It’s a hybrid: part sport and part show.
- No other sport continually changes the format of games (events), how they’re scored, how many times players (riders or bulls) are used, whether riders pick their bulls, etc.
- No other sport allows athletes to compete in both the minor and major leagues at the same time. Once you get sent down to the minors, you have to earn your way back to the majors. Touring Pro Division riders can’t ride in the Built Ford Tough Series unless they earn their way in, but BFTS guys can ride in TPD events any time. That’s blatantly unfair to TPD riders; BFTS regulars pick up extra money and points, widening the gap between themselves and the TPD newbies as well as the guys who got bumped down and are trying to work their way back to the BFTS. Top riders use TPD events for practice, but they’re horning in on (no pun intended) the purses that the newer guys need much more than they do.
- In other sports, Oldtimers Day, All-Star games, exhibition games and the like don’t count toward standings. Bull riding creates new events, and the scores and earnings from those events count toward the standings: e.g., Iron Cowboy, Last Man Standing, the World Finals (which mysteriously didn’t happen this year; were we afraid the boys from Brazil might take that title?).
- Venues shift from year to year. The Worcester Invitational at the DCU Center in Worcester is no more. The Mohegan Sun event has moved to the XL Center in Hartford. Chicago and Indianapolis were added to the schedule. Can you imagine if baseball skipped Shea Stadium one year? Or the Lakers suddenly wanted to have a game in Yankee Stadium?
- Broadcasts are aired a day after the events, and any other sport can cut into the PBR’s Versus channel airtime (even a hockey post-show wrap-up) or knock it off the air altogether (like the nine thousand bicycle races every year).
- Other athletes aren’t plastered with logos. We all know the PBR wants to emulate NASCAR (and in the process, ignoring demographics outside the fan base that follows both NASCAR and bull riding). Other athletes can have all the endorsement deals and TV commercials they want, but they don’t wear them on the field.
- No other sport has mostly anonymous judges.
- Is it because bull riding is an individual, not a team sport, though clearly some commentators think there are two teams? The U.S. vs. Brazil match has not reoccurred, so it appears that there won’t be any official team competition. But other non-team sports get plenty of coverage: tennis, surfing, skateboarding. Golf? I’m with Rosie O’Donnell: “That’s not a sport. It’s men in ugly pants, walking.” But it’s covered in every media, and except for college teams, it’s played by individuals.
- Is it because the sport involves animals, therefore it’s assumed that bull riding is animal abuse? On the subject of bulls, why isn’t Bucking Bull of the Year determined by season-long performance, rather than a bull’s score in the Finals? A bull can have a bad day, just like a rider can. Renato Nunes had bad weeks and won the World Championship because of his total season performance. And why should rider and fan votes determine which bulls are considered? Why don’t scores and earnings alone determine that? Bucking Bull of the Year shouldn’t be a popularity contest. If, as the PBR says, the bulls are athletes, they should be judged by season-long results.
- Fuzzy rules and regulations and blatant violations on camera. Hockey is the only sport where deliberate violations are constantly overlooked. In other sports if an umpire or referee makes a stupid call, people boo or maybe throw things, but the calls aren’t part of a clear, ongoing pattern of discrimination or sabotage. (Although there have been some disgraceful displays of nationalism at the Olympics.) Only in bull riding do judges completely ignore and even abet rule breaking, and score against certain riders and for others, based on the rider’s nationality and position in the standings─ despite what viewers and commentators see with their own eyes. And when a rider challenged one such violation, he was publicly condemned for exercising that right, though his challenge benefits the entire sport.
If these quirks were addressed, maybe bull riding would get more respect as a sport, rather than a spectacle.
#3 PETITION TO REINSTATE JUSTIN MCKEE
The second petition from this blog to reinstate Justin McKee as a commentator was sent to all PBR executives and Board members for whom contact information was available. There were twice as many signatures as on the first petition. This time not one person replied.
Maybe they’ve all been on vacation for the past two months. Maybe all the email addresses were wrong. Maybe the PBR has a big surprise in store for us and we’ll see Justin back in the booth this weekend (HA!). Or maybe the PBR just doesn’t give a rat’s ass what the paying customers want. We’ll never know, will we? If only they’d talk to us. As in, a two-way conversation, not a statement on their website.
Wonder if the cowboys know about this? Maybe it’s time for us to take a different tack. Maybe we ought to let them know how the fans are being ignored. Their fans. Quite a few readers of this blog and other bull riding blogs have email addresses and other contact information for the riders. Maybe we need to start contacting them.
Even better, I wonder what the sponsors would say if they knew how the paying customers were being dissed? And what the paying customers want?
I’m just sayin’…
OKLAHOMA – DAY 1
Missed the first hour because of a social thing, and was shocked when I tuned in and all hell had broken loose:
- The top 5 didn’t include Silvano Alves, Valdiron de Oliveira, Guilherme Marchi, or Robson Palermo. Ryan Dirteater was in 3rd place. (I’m happy for him; I was worrying about his condition before the break.)
- First thing I saw was J.B. Mauney getting bucked off Skeeter, a fairly flat spinner. Not the way I wanted to start the fun.
- Robson on Geronimo, who didn’t live up to his namesake, turning in a boring flat spinning job for 71.5 and a re-ride.
- Silvano (NOT SILVANYO, Craig!!) being yelled at in the chute, “Let’s go, Silvano!” (Some things never change).
- Craig Hummer sounding surprisingly normal, except for the inevitable comment about a bull getting someone off (in this case, Mike Lee). Somebody needs to have a word with the Bummer and explain what that expression means.
- Leah Garcia on interview duty!
- The Blue Emu commercial with J.B. and Shane. Just hilarious─ what a great idea!
- Yay for Shorty yelling “Keep hustling! Keep hustling!” while Silvano rode Bahada, who is fast becoming fearsome.
Absence did not make the heart grow fonder of that “theme song.” It grates on me more every time I hear it. Can’t the PBR hold a contest to come up with a new one that captures the spirit of bull riding, instead of talking about someone “getting off on the pain”? Or ask Delbert McClinton to write one??
And they still insist on using that ignoramus-sounding voiceover guy: “This is bull riding—this is the PBR!”
I’M JUST SAYIN’…
The camera positioning wasn’t great. We got pore-piercing shots of wet, fuzzy muzzles (I’m talking about the bulls, not Mustache May), but what about up-close slo-mo that really shows a bull’s moves and all the flying slobber? Bull Stock Media’s photos on the PBR website are much better, though reproduction quality on the site stinks─ not BSM’s fault.
Without the Live Event Center feed on the PBR website, with BSM’s posts, it’s almost impossible to reconstruct the previous night’s action, because whoever is supposed to fill in the “Results” part of the website must’ve fallen asleep in the middle of the job. Who rode what is still a mystery in half the cases.
Did I hear right: Silvano is riding at 64.5%, tied with Valdiron? That’s what it says in the standings on the PBR website, but in another place it says Alves overtook him. I thought they were fixing the website.
Contrary to popular belief about his riding preference, Marchi easily rode Over the Edge away from his hand. His time in Brazil was well-spent. But 86.75 was a grudging score; shoulda been an 87─ but then he would’ve passed Cody Nance for the lead. This score kept them tied.
What a mess Hee Bee Jee Bee’s chute exit was! Kudos to Pete Farley for staying on.
Stormy Wing should’ve but didn’t stick on Gringo Honeymoon. He was one unhappy camper, his face smeared with “atmosphere” for extra added aggravation.
Palermo, riding in spite of an infected leg and hurt shoulder, was turning in another textbook performance on re-ride bull More Bucks, and then WTF? I groaned at the 7.13 slap. The bull’s unusual timing threw him.
I thought the break had mellowed Hummer, or he’d been successfully medicated, because for a few minutes he was behaving like a genuine sports commentator, but noooo…it was just the heat and humidity taking some of the flap out of him. He soon showed his true colors, starting with “my friend,” and struggling to make clever word plays on bulls’ names. He accidentally pronounced “Silvano” correctly once, then reverted to the wrong pronunciation. Comparing notes on the Road to Vegas betting ring, he said, “I feel like this is the ‘Beat Up on Craig’ segment of the show.” Oh, if only…
- Several sluggish bulls; obviously the oppressive heat affected everyone, two- and four-legged. (Then Delco swirled Luke Snyder off his back in a never-before-seen rotator-blade involuntary dismount.)
- Dirteater’s bull Movin’ On did a huge reverse jump I’ve never seen; I’m sure Ryan hopes he never does again.
- Speckled Ivory is a tornado. Ty’s right—that bull’s from Hawaii; the heat didn’t affect him at all. Other bulls looked like they were on Thorazine compared to him.
- Springtime is an impressive black bull who flipped up his back end so high, Paolo Lima had almost no choice but to go earthward over his head.
- Him purty: Too Sexy, a sleek, black patent leather bull.
CAN I QUOTE YOU ON THAT?
- Ty, commenting on Cody Nance’s ride on Top Notch: “Looks like he could’ve ate a sandwich up there.”
- J.W. Hart and Shorty Gorham’s wrap-up segment prompted Hummer to compare Shorty’s state of disarray with J Dub’s pulled-together look: “Not a bead of sweat on that guy.” Said Ty: “Yeah, one of ‘em was workin’ tonight!”
By the end of the night, Dirteater was in 2nd place behind Jordan Hupp; Alves, Marchi, and Lima were in the middle of the pack, Pete Farley was a surprise #6, Nance climbing up at #7, Ryan McConnel (#8) not where he should be, Douglas Duncan at #9, and Jarrod Craig (who?) at #10, making Austin Meier superfluous. OMG!
OKLAHOMA – DAY 2
I LIKE IT!
- Opening the broadcast with the top two riders and top bull. Bushwacker did what a star would: tilted his head down at the lens with the “I’m intense” stare. (As an actress who’s seen my share of headshots, I know what I’m talking about.)
- Ty’s play-by-play visuals comparing Valdiron (unsuccessful) and Alves (successful) in the same positions last night, and what a difference it makes when you’ve got your eyes on the ground instead of your bull.
- Lookin’ good, Shane! Even with broken ribs, Proctor scored 86 on Rod’s Pet, a good debut bull.
- Kody Lostroh looking like his old self on El Patron. “He coulda rode this bull all day long and all day tomorrow, too,” said Ty. The judges thought so, too: 88.25.
- Dirteater added to his recent successes with 84.75 on Wake Up Call. Right again, Ty: Ryan’s injuries would’ve ended many a career, but he loves bull riding. When he rode Stubby for 87.50 I really hoped he didn’t slap that bull. It looked very close, but I have a soft spot for the kid, so I’m glad for his score─ the best result of his season.
- Alves + Perfect Poison= great dance partners! Silvano’s ridden him 3 times and has the top scores; this time, 88.25.
- Every person in the arena yelled “WOW!” when Motown Magic exploded into the air—serious liftoff, spectacular bucking. Chris Shivers has the top two scores on him, but couldn’t hang on. My mouth was still open when the ads came on.
NOT LIKIN’ IT
- “J.B., always quick in the chutes”—Hummer, is that always a good thing? (Or is that a dig at other guys?) J.B. was out of position on I’m So Fly (ridden 1 out of 17 outs), same reason he was bucked off last night. Maybe taking more time to start in position would be a good idea. Ty is so right: “This just isn’t looking like J.B.”
- Little Smoke got de Oliveira out of position, ending his reign as World #1. Ty characterized his mistake (looking for a landing place) as “quittin’ the ship too early. There are no mulligans; you have to make every single one count.”
CAN I QUOTE YOU ON THAT?
- “It’s the real filthy kinda dirt.”– Shorty explaining that loose dirt made last night’s bulls sluggish: they couldn’t get a grip.
- “Valdiron has to feel the heat of Silvano knockin’ on the door.” ─Ty Murray, mixing his metaphors.
Paolo Lima’s ride on Line Backer (85). The view from the overhead cam showed his repeated beautiful re-positioning.
After Palermo’s great 88.25 ride on Mad Max, he took a bad shot to the face, then flew off; Max lowered his head, butted him in the ass and flipped him into the air by the seat of his pants. Landing on his injured shoulder ended his weekend.
CRINGE! That smarmy girlie voice lead-in to the ads. Thank god they kept Denis Leary’s voice for the Ford truck ads.
- “The guys that do this sport understand the dangers of it better than anyone.”—Ya think, Ty? I love ya, but DUH. Please don’t contract a case of Hummerblather. One’s bad enough; a double dose will be fatal.
- Marchi took care of Maverick beautifully (86). Hummer’s comment, “When Marchi’s on a roll like this, very few bulls can get him off.” I can’t even begin… Somebody get Patricia Marchi on the phone!
- “If Valdiron wants to be #1, he has to ride; it’s as simple as that.” – Craig, you’re the one who’s simple.
- Douglas Duncan got himself a booboo before a clone threw him. “Slim Chance played the percentages there…” I wish The Bummer would knock off those labored attempts at smart remarks. They ain’t.
- Déjà vu: “Guess who’s helping out Silvano Alves? His great friend Valdiron de Oliveira.” You know who blathered this.
GOD, Craig! How can you stand right next to Ty and hear him say “Silvano,” but persist in saying “Silvanyo”? Are ya deef?
I’M JUST SAYIN’…
- Fabiano Vieira scored 86.75 on Lil Red Kat. Uh, how was that ride better than Marchi’s, on a tougher bull?
- Why are breeders allowed to name a bull the same name as another, unrelated one? (Perfect Poison, Gun Powder & Lead/RMEF Gunpowder & Lead) It’s confusing, and results in reflected glory-by-association. Are race horses allowed to have the same name as another? Aren’t they registered?
- Jarrod Craig’s wild trip on Jaws got a re-ride—why? Because the bull hit the fence hard, though the ride continued. “Sometimes I think they get a re-ride for everything,” said Ty. I’m puzzled about re-rides, too. A bull can stumble to the ground, but if his motion continues, no re-ride. A bull hips himself on the chute; sometimes it’s a re-ride, sometimes not. And I wonder if a Brazilian would get a re-ride under the same circumstances─ especially if he was in the lead.
- Jordan Hupp had it easy. Outa Da Blue looked like a practice bull; Ty was right: “This is a cute, nice little bull…he’s just like a little bucking machine.” 86.25? for what? So Jordan could be placed ahead of Alves and Marchi, obviously.
- Douglas Duncan picked Bushwacker; Jarrod got Perfect Poison. Somebody clear this up: if those two bulls are the best and would give spectacular scores, why did all the other guys pass them up? Playing it safe?
- Jordan Hupp rode his four bulls, scoring 89.75 on After Party. Explain to me how a bull doing the same thing in the same direction for the whole ride rates a better score than one who changes it up and is harder to ride. Wait, I remember: Jordan’s American. And right now the Season Standings are: Alves, de Oliveira, Robson, Marchi…then everybody else.
- According to the booth, Marchi is one of two people who’ve ridden Perfect Poison. The PBR website says in 2010 Mike Lee, Cody Nance, and McKennon Wimberly rode him. A case of mistaken identity? On whose part, commentator or PBR?
- Very feisty Mail Man’s bizarre lowdown scramble out of the chute showed Cord McCoy who’s boss, then he shot the bullfighters the “You wanna piece o’ me?” look before being roped and forced to leave.
- Speckled Ivory continues to be outrageous: giant leaps, giant bucking, flying dynamite. “Coming from Hawaii, he’s probably wondering what he’s doing in Thackerville, Oklahoma in this heat,” Ty said, showing signs of The Bummer’s disease of imagining that bulls think like people. (Anthropomorphizing but I don’t think Craig could pronounce it.)
- Early Bird, Stormy Wing’s bull (ha ha, Cody) was more like a whirly bird. Stormy got into a scary hangup, but was still so pissed at not staying on for 8 that he was screaming on his way out the gate.
- Bushwacker’s buckoff streak continues: make it 20. He never does the same thing twice, and his rear end operates independently of the rest of him. Douglas Duncan went flying—with hang time.
- I’ve always thought Hank doesn’t get as much credit as he deserves, and Ty thinks the same. 13 straight buckoffs, been ridden 8 times out of 30, and made short work of Ryan McConnel and almost of Jesse Byrne.
- Maybe we need to watch High Steaks, too. He blew up out of the chute and gave Pete Farley an instant buckoff as his left horn knocked off Farley’s helmet. As Ty said, that bull couldn’t have bucked any harder.
- Jarrod Craig on Perfect Poison (which one?) tried his heart out, but slapped at 3.17, and didn’t quite make the buzzer.
- Marchi picked I’m A Gangster, whose fake, hesitation, and change of direction threw him. Wish I understood Portuguese so I could know what Guilherme yelled afterward.
- Asteroid launched Silvano into outer space, an unbelievable sight. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Alves look mad before.
I think Colby Yates was off debut bull (non-RMEF) Gun Powder & Lead before 8, but there’s always that crazy gap between reality and the buzzer.
SURPRAHZ, SURPRAHZ, SURPRAHZ
The Ford Invasion segment was the usual painful 7th grade school play, the Yates-Snyder “repartee” couldn’t be stiffer, I was about to gag when finally it got funny. After a half dozen repetitions of the same annoying question about the EcoBoost engine, the response was, “Quit askin’!”
THE CONTINUING ADVENTURES OF BEN JONES
The secret is out: Ben uses Brazilian rosin. Apparently he doesn’t carry his own, so he borrows. “Whatever they’re usin’, I’m gonna grab,” says Ben. “I think they call that moochin’,” says Ty. Cut to the chute: Ben’s bull Whitey forgot to go to work, then stumbled out; Ben was given a re-ride. He picked Back Door Man, but that was not to be. He made the shockingly sensible move of declining the re-ride because of his groin injury. He’s savin’ it up for next weekend.