Here’s what I saw at Madison Square Garden, from the good seats (photos follow at end):
#1. The secret to unearthing daysheets (Madison Square Garden personnel will always tell you they’ve run out of them): go to the Guest Services Deck on the Concourse and ask for them. The daysheets are free; the program is about $20, as far as I remember. I don’t buy them.
#2. At several vendor booths I visited, there was not one piece of merchandise featuring a Brazilian rider. Not even a Three-Time World Champion Silvano Alves tee shirt.
#3. Some of the nastiest men in the world worked behind the scenes at this event: big white guys with ID cards hung around their necks. Suit or denim, that don’t make no never mind. I was about 8 rows up from the chutes, and walked down to the first row to get photos of the riders sitting around behind the chutes. I also wanted to give a letter to one of the Brazilian riders. I called down to Beefy Guy in Denim, who pretended not to hear or see me—and believe me, I can be loud—no matter how many times I called and waved to get his attention. Rude dude. The expression on his face was the proverbial “the lights are on but nobody’s home.”
A pot-bellied Suit was standing closer to where I was, scowling hellaciously at who knows what. He saw me taking pictures with my phone, and yelled at me to get back to my seat. Excuse me, but if I’m standing at the first row just above chute level, do you think I’m an intruder from the balcony? There’s no way to get there other than buying an expensive seat, which my friend had done. (Now that I think of it, I shoulda said, “Make me!”)
I waved the piece of paper and asked if he could give it to one of the Brazilian riders, who were hanging out near him, shooting the breeze— not prepping for a ride. I used “Please” and all the polite words normal people use; he was literally within tapping distance of the guys— if he reached out his arm, the letter would’ve gone right to them. He just kept shouting angrily at me, as if I were a barnyard animal that got out of the yard. I mean, real gangster material. He was so venomous, if he had a gun he would’ve shot me. I was grateful for the railing between us.
I can’t say for sure whether these were PBR crew or Madison Square Garden crew, but I’m guessing from their cowboy boots that these guys weren’t from the home team.
• Seeing Ben Jones dance twice in one event! He wildly spurred his way to an 86.50 on Sun Dome (gee, do you think that matchup has anything to do with Jones being from sunny Australia?) and, even more impressive, an 89.25 on Pound the Alarm in the Championship Round. When Ben pointed out his biceps during the dance, I think the applause meter hit the same red zone as it does for J.B. Mauney. His best memory of New York: “I rode Voodoo Child here.” Yep— it was a 91-point ride, and I screamed my ass off watching him and one of my favorite bulls.
• Cody Nance losing his chaps after riding Marshall Law. The bull chased Cody and Flint simultaneously up onto the Shark Cage, then challenged each bullfighter, refused to leave the dirt, and had to be roped and dragged. Nance and Rasmussen executed their unison leap like well-rehearsed ballroom dancers, and ended up flat on top of the Cage, in each other’s arms. P.F.F.
• Ryan Dirteater kissing one of his vest logos after unsuccessfully challenging his time on Mr. Bojangles.
• BFTS newbie Kaique Pacheco (who, up close, looks about 12 years old) scoring 87.75 on Rough ‘em Up Tuck.
• Shane Proctor, rolling his shoulders, getting ready to ride Easy Does It, who gave everyone on the dirt a hard time, and Shane an 84.25. The shoulders are working!
• Everybody’s getting their end zone chops together: Joao Ricardo Vieira capped his 89.50 Fire Rock ride with a funny little circular dance move. Subtle, cute— a far cry from the showmanship of Ben Jones and Renato Nunes.
• Lite ‘em Up’s encounter with Flint: The Painted One set up his life-sized cardboard cut-out (largest Selfie ever) on the dirt to taunt the bull, who had just treated L.J. Jenkins to a hard landing. No reaction from Lite ‘em Up. Flint turned the cardboard to face the bull, who pawed the ground and lowered his head as a warning, but didn’t charge. (‘fraid of Flint?) Evidently trying to dispose of the real Flint, Frank Newsom snuck up behind him and moved the cut-out closer to the bull, scaring 3-D Flint, who nearly fled. The cardboard fell, the bull backed up in surprise, then ran after Frank— stepping over, not on, Flat Flint. Lite ‘em Up got big laughs for that move.
• Tanner Byrne rode the unridden (in 20 outs, since 2013) Raven Flyer (96.43% buckoff rate), for an impressive 87.25. I am so liking this guy, especially because he doesn’t have a big ol’ Attitude.
• Once again, J.B. Mauney impressed the New York crowd with his patented Fast Crawl. I know it’s not funny to him, but it’s mighty entertaining for the rest of us. This time he was escaping Johnny Walker Black Jr., whose name I guess is misspelled to avoid trademark infringement lawsuits. 86.75 was the score.
• To Cooper Tires for getting a jump on sponsoring Kaique Pacheco. They’ve already been smart enough to nab Renato Nunes, Fabiano Vieira, and Eduardo Aparecido. I guess they realize South Americans buy tires, too. Kudos to them for not exhibiting prejudice.
• To Gage Gay, because he’s feeling so bad. Right now he looks like he’s on autopilot, like he’s just not feeling it. He defeats himself before he even leaves the chute. That incident at the Finals made a big dent in his confidence. It’s a sophomore slump, kid; you’ll ride your way out of it. It happens to the best of them— ask J.B.
• Silvano Alves’s bull The Rev was so weak that he was offered a re-ride. He turned it down (no surprise there) and accepted the lousy 59.50 points (which for other riders would be 80). It did come back to bite him, but Alves didn’t seem to mind; he thinks long-term. I don’t know if the broadcast showed this on camera, but you should’ve seen the reactions of the people behind the chutes when he came off the dirt. They avoided him like he had leprosy. It was so schoolyard, I was shocked. (I don’t know why I continue to be shocked by the bad behavior of so many PBR guys; I guess it’s because I expect adults to behave like adults.)
Delco, Silvano’s Championship Round bull, must’ve showed up for work drunk. He’s the sure thing for high scores, but this time he got fouled up in the chute, fell down just as the gate opened, banged his head into the fence, stumbled, bumped against the gate… Alves is not a cowboy to give up and jump off a bull’s back in a messy situation; he stuck with the bull and was offered a re-ride or 77.25. At this point, Alves has made 22 consecutive rides, so I’ll give you one guess about his decision. But I’m still asking myself, What the heck was wrong with Delco??
• Fabiano Vieira’s bad day ended with a buckoff courtesy of Western Way, and an awful aftermath: smacked his head against the fence, then the bull stamped on him. Frank the Tank finally was able to throw Fabiano out of the bull’s way. Next stop: Sports Medicine.
• The unmentionable injury J.B. sustained may affect future generations of Mauneys, but I don’t think that’s how it was listed on any injury report.
BEST FASHION ALERT EVER (except for those photos posted to my Facebook page, you naughty BullSisters!)
Shane Proctor was workin’ those rainbow colored chaps and fringes. My phone photos just couldn’t do justice to them in motion. It’s amazing how fast a bull zips by.
I’M JUST SAYIN’…
• All the riders need to cowboy up and get some theme music going. Eventually some of them might get the same Pavlov’s dog reaction as J.B. gets when the crowd hears the first bar of “Bad to the Bone.”
• Once again, the Championship Round started with Brazilian riders in the top 3 or 4 slots, who gradually were pushed down the ladder.
• The crowd booed the 89.75 given to J.B. for his ride on “the flashy Percolator,” as Hummer described the bull. I’m as surprised as you are that the judges didn’t squeak out that extra .25. I guess everyone’s so used to automatic confetti every time J.B. rides, that this was a rude shock, but when I saw the replay, at one point he was out of position. Even more shocking was the fact that the judges didn’t ignore it.
It was a tense moment when Guilherme Marchi’s ride on Kiss Animalize was scrutinized, but he came through with an 86.75, winning the event by 1 point. (Could they spare it??) His stats: 527 rides, 20 event wins, and never before in New York. His interview on the Shark Cage was hilarious. Leah Garcia asked him if he thought he could win the World Championship again. Trying to hold back some giggles, he politely said something about that being the dream for all the riders. How did he feel about winning NYC? “I still have more room for more sponsors on my vest!” She asked if he could beat Silvano. Marchi broke down laughing. “Of course!”
THE BROADCAST VERSION
On the CBSSports Broadcast of the Bucking Battle, there was a hilarious intro: they’ve added sound effects to the videoclip of the bulls: “Rroarr!” Most of the time when I’ve heard bulls bellowing in the chute, they sound more like “Muhh!” Where are those flame-snorting bull heads when we need them?
WILL ROLLETH OVER IN HIS GRAVE
Quoth Craig The Bummer: “J.B. Mauney loves this atmosphere; he hopes to be making a curtain call… but Valdiron de Oliveira is nobody’s understudy… If all the world’s a stage, Silvano Alves is…” Unfortunately that’s the part I couldn’t remember, but I’m sure it was a doozy. The Shakespeare potpourri disintegrated into, “…lets his riding do the talking for him.”
Interview with Chase Outlaw: “You stay on every bull, you’re gonna win the event, 90% of the time.” Um, did they not explain the new point system to him?
Possibly the worst bull score I’ve ever seen was Pitch Perfect’s 31.50. Note to those with reading comprehension problems, lest I be flooded with comments about being wrong because XYZ’s score was even lower, I said “score I’ve ever seen.” I am curious as to what’s the lowest bull score ever given in the PBR, though— does anybody know?
THE WORD FROM ON HIGH
It’s official: Ty Murray measured Nathan Schaper and Tanner Byrne, and the results are: Nathan is 6’2”, Tanner is 6’4”. I’m sure Ty did that just so he could make his joke again that seeing bullriders this tall is like seeing a six-foot gymnast.
AGAIN, I’M JUST SAYIN’…
• “He’s getting pretty picky, if you ask me,” said Ty Murray of Chase Outlaw’s prep time on JoJo. Ty and Shorty Gorham also griped about Sean Willingham taking too long in the chute: “Shorty comes from the same school as me. Preach it, brother!” Of course we all know how they feel about a Brazilian rider taking a while in the chute, but sometimes, another rider is “trying to get everything just right.” So which is it, fellas, and when? Or is it according to who’s doing it?
• Ty keeps talking about PBR being different because it has the rankest bulls in the world. News flash, dude: some of the same bulls buck in the PRCA and CBR. And then there are the ones that Mike White renames for different events.
There were very loud cheers at the announcement of Marchi’s name, and even more when he rode Imagine That for 86.25. Leah asked him, “Which direction did that bull spin?” His gleeful response: “Away from my hand, baby!” We’re all glad to hear that he’s removed that “mental block” Ty Murray keeps harping on.
SMALL PACKAGES (no, it’s not what you’re thinking!)
• Ty calls Clementine, “the little bull that could. No horns, the cute little face, and the big flappy eyelashes…and then he’s got a name like Clementine.” That little bull turfed Valdiron de Oliveira, who’s approximately the same size.
• Jesse Byrne was heroic, repeatedly throwing himself on the bull’s back to free Mike Lee’s hand from his long, scary hang-up on Oklahoma Bell.
The order of finishing was: Marchi, JB, Shane Proctor, Alves, Chase Outlaw. Kaique and Valdiron each earned 100 points. Silvano was still #1 in the world, followed by Reese Cates (how the hell did that happen?), Marchi, and Matt Triplett.
At the end of the event, I waited at the rail as riders signed autographs, and handed Marco Eguche a letter meant for all the Brazilian riders, telling them that they have millions of fans here who see how badly the judges are treating them, and that when the riders speak out, we’re on their side. Translation: We think you’re great— sorry about all the hostile morons here.
Leaving the Garden, audience members are herded like cattle— literally, through a labyrinth of gates— all that’s missing is the electric prod. I was shunted into a hallway that turned out to be the primo exit, and ended up in the middle of a pack of Brazilian World Champions (and tripped over Silvano’s wheelie bag). A photographer’s dream, right? My hands were so frozen, I couldn’t get my friggin’ phone out fast enough to catch everyone. (Seriously, you have no idea how bad the weather was that day: snow, rain, sleet, ice, highways closed, accidents galore— the South Americans must’ve felt like they were in Hell). I felt guilty about keeping Robson Palermo standing in the freezing rain, especially after his shut-out, but I did manage to get a couple of photos.
That’s what I call a nice guy.
(Unfortunately those photos turned out to be pseudo-videos that are stuck in the iCloud and I can’t get them down.)