Big-high air steep jump, gnarly twist, wicked flip-tail whip, punishing stomp performance.
The danger for the cowboy is clear. He’s riding 1,800+ pounds of pure muscle, a bull bred to be as “rank” as can be, a breed to kill cowboys - like Panda Trax tries here...
Bull Riding is the NHL’s playoffs – in ferocity and aggression.
So the Calgary Stampede 2015, the pinnacle of rodeo, at its Wildcard Saturday and Showdown Sunday, will flaunt cowboys so hardened they chew cement and spit out gravel, and will feature bulls so vicious – they’re more malicious than marital first spouses. And unlike marital first spouses the bull cowboys ride are picked not willingly/drunkenly, but willy-nilly, via random draw.
Bull Riding is great, sometimes for the cowboy, usually for the bulls - but always for the Calgary Stampede fans
While fans feed on treats like the long sausage – just under two feet, or Big Bubba’s Bad BBQ Skillets, or thick, rich, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough on a Stick, we know the bulls will feed on high-protein grain and high quality hay, primed for their one and only, at most, eight second show, daily. (Our cowboys are chewing on that cement we talked about)
Actually, for the cowboy, the Stampede’s bull riding competition is heaven and hell.
Heaven, because, in lasting into the weekend, the cowboy’s done darn good; and hell, because, in lasting into the weekend, with the Professional Bull Riders tour starting on January 2nd, by the time the last two days for “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth” roll around in early July, the cowboy’s stoked - but smoked - mentally and physically - nursing and hiding awful aches and gruesome pains.
The best bull rider at the 2014 Calgary Stampede, winning $100,000 on a beast-bull branded “Mr. Buddy” was Scott Schiffner. He lives up the road in Strathmore, Alberta - a place by the way, that hosts a Running of the Bulls event in its own rodeo show.
But Bull riding, no matter where it’s held, is a unique sport. Why?
1) Nobody trash talks the foe. Ok, the bull may snort, but doesn’t speak, and the rider won’t trash talk the bull because firstly, he has nothing but respect for this bovine athlete, and secondly because bulls have, literally, thick skins - skins seven times as thick as humans.
2) Non combatants in the sport are huge to the sport. They help determine life or death of one of the combatants. These are the standby, always at the ready, “Bullfighters.” They save cowboy riders from dismemberment and death by distracting the bull, getting right in its face, so it doesn’t gore, hook, or otherwise kick the s--t, out of that tough-as-nails dismounted cowboy writhing in the dirt.
3) Bull Riding’s drama starts even before it starts. Most bull leg injuries come in the chute. For the cowboy, a leg can be mushed, mashed – smashed - by the bull as it squeezes to a side of the chute. (Basically, cowboy injuries are everyday common, but in every way excruciatingly exotic. Knees are shattered, livers are lacerated, and discs herniated. Concussions, torn ACL's, broken bodies – they’re all here.)
4) Deaths aren't rare. Deaths bury pros and, alas, teens.
5) Bull Riding weirdly reveres its heroes as epitomized by the
“Ring of Honor: Unfinished Business."
It is a PPV event featuring legends coming out of retirement for that one last ride. If a cowboy is 50 years old, and still wants to ride, he’s nuts. Why not just emulate Elvis Presley with a twist, instead of taking the ride-risk of getting twisted on a twisted bull going "down in the well" where the bull spins, with the rider’s body getting sucked into a violent vortex?
Not a place you want to be.
Hopefully (but unlikely) given the ages of the participants, maybe they’ll get lucky, get paired with a "muley" – that is, a bull with no horns.
6) Bull Riding cares more for the animal than man, the bulls more than cowboys. Both are precious athletes but the transporting, feeding, resting, doctoring, and day-to-day care - for wear and tear - for bulls is administered strictly and carefully - for the cowboys, loosely, if casually. If a bull, unbeknownst to itself, needs acupuncture, or chiro, he gets it. If a cowboy, unbeknownst to himself, doesn’t know he should wear a helmet, the non-rules let him get away with it...
But, in one way, Bull Riding is bureaucratically and blindly like other sports.
A) It has stupid stipulations and kooky criterion. For example, many think that cowboy-riding percentages should be considered, along with high scoring rides, as to how cowboys are ranked. (The current system rewards the latter, not the former.) Therefore, Silvano Alves, who has in 2015, a percentage-ride rank of 66.07 – a top-flight mark, thanks to his eight second rides - is not a top cowboy, not having enough high-score rides. He’s ranked seventh!
(Alves is Brazilian and that country, known for soccer and samba, absolutely rocks in this sport - holding five of the top ten spots in Professional Bull Riders (PBR) rankings.)
But, ultimately, those that admire or abhor the uniqueness or ugliness of this sport can’t get away from facts. Cowboys know, feel, and live - the dangers intrinsically inherent in this colossal-collision contest. They must love what they do.
Right, or wrong, no BS there.