I went to a rodeo for the first time on Saturday night. My wife was out of town - staff retreat for her and the other Enzi staffers on the Eastern Shore - so I had to find a way to piss away a Saturday night.
She's gotten me in the habit of watching PBR on Sunday nights; we watch in hi-def until the hour gets too late and we're forced to retreat to the bedroom. After weeks of watching this, it begins to pique my interest.
So I'm in the office late on Friday - that's what we do, after all - and one of the photographers begins talking about this rodeo event the next day. I figure it's too late to get media credentials, so I go ahead and just buy a ticket.
It would be a stretch to say it's the best $30 I've spent. But certainly among the best $30 I've spent in the past year.
The run-up to the event itself was, pound for pound, better than NASCAR. I happened to sit next to four independent rotating lights that supplied the atmosphere for the pre-game show (so to speak). After they stopped, we were treated to an invocation and the National Anthem; too often, the former in NASCAR seems rushed and drivers are vaguely aware of it. On Saturday, it felt natural, far more so than anything I had felt at a NASCAR race.
Then various people were introduced by the emcee: the bullfighters (who, by the way, earn every freaking bit of their pay), the cowboys, the rodeo clown - a largely cermonial role that banters with the arena announcers - and the in-house color guy, a former PBR champion.
All under the cover of darkness, save for a lone spotlight pointing on these guys.
The event itself was very, very cool. The riders went off in sections, as they called them, and each was fascinating to watch. Often enough, TV doesn't do justice to what you see in person; in this case, TV had done an adequate job preparing me. It's a violent sport, to be sure.
Eight seconds goes by in a flash. I've learned that six minutes really isn't a long time unless you're on a wrestling mat; then it takes forever. The eight seconds in PBR - the difference between a scoring ride and a non-scoring one - is an eternity when you're on the back of a pissed off bull.
In one round, we saw a competitor injured when he was thrown for a loop (figuartively and literally); in an early round, we saw the bullfighters have to get in and push a bull away from a cowboy laying prone on the ground.
Watching these guys go out, time after time, was amazing. In wrestling (the non-professional kind), you have a limited chance of getting hurt; most moves are conducted low to the ground and throws aren't usually seen, even in the college ranks. But these cowboys, damn...
Imagine getting tossed off a 1,200-pound bull when you're five feet in the air.
No, thank you.
In all, it was a great night. I only wish my wife would have been there with me... oh well, she'll be home tomorrow.
At which time I'll relegate her with all my tales of a night at the rodeo.