Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cowboy Down

I like rodeo and professional bull-riding, which are two separate things. I admire the hell out of rodeoers, male and female, and I am in awe of the skill and stone courage it takes to get on the back of a bull who's been trained to be mean. Or let's say even meaner than your average bull.

If I'm on a business trip somewhere and there's a rodeo in town, I'll try to make it.

On the other hand ...

There's been a lot of press lately about bull-riding as a great spectator sport, the "new NASCAR," as it's being called. That's wildly exaggerated, but it's true enough that the sport is gaining lots of new fans.

But there's no mention of the physical realities of bull-riding, a sport in which a 30-year-old who's been on the circuit for a dozen years is often over the hill physically.

I like to ride. Horses, not bulls, of course. Like most recreational riders, I tend to frown on a horse that's bucking in any form. If a frisky bucking horse can't be lunged out, stay off it unless you're prepared possibly to get dumped.

Riding in the Southwest and West over the years, I've gotten to know a fair number of cowboys and wranglers, some of whom have been on the bull-riding circuit. The bull riders often share two things in common: Very severe physical injuries and a lack of health insurance.

Every horse rider has been dumped on occasion.

But try it on a raging bull, in a sport where the best of the best are hoping to hang on for 8 seconds. (The bull always wins, no matter what.)

Here is the reality of professional bull-riding. And these guys are the money guys at or near the top of the sport. Behind them are hundreds of itinerant cowboys scrounging gas money to get to the next event, without the dough to do more than stumble into an emergency room hoping for a quick patch-up before heading off into that sunset.


No comments: