A quick word to whomever opined: “There’s no such thing as a sure thing.”
That’s a swing and a miss.
Having come to grips with the stark realization I have more yesterdays than tomorrows in the time I will be around, I have been crossing things off my personal bucket list. Whether it be concerts, sporting events, books to be consumed or getting healthy for the last few laps, there are a few more bullets in my gun.
With a load of gratitude and self-satisfaction, another list entry bit the dust a week ago in Duluth at the Infinite Energy Arena.
Cowboy hat perched firmly on my head, Justin Roper ostrich boots on my feet, I got to watch the Professional Bull Riders Duluth Open.
Cheech showed his versatility as someone who has probably spent less than five minutes on a horse, earned a new moniker, “Buckshot” Bob Milano. The flu bug and a family illness had me stuck with four tickets until Buckshot, who assuredly had nothing near PBR on his particular bucket list, humored me.
I looked for a worn out tape of Chris Ledoux, followed the manure smell and wound up in the dirt-filled arena.
Forever fascinated by watching what is billed as “America’s fastest growing sport,” on television, it was an amazing experience.
The PBR folks do things right and not just because there is an amazing array of cool stuff at the swag stands. The way it appeared to me, there were three important elements: Respect, reverence and organized mayhem.
An ROTC unit and a traditional singing of the national anthem was followed by a prayer. Then, it was time to sit back and tip my Stetson to these fearless competitors.
Robert Earl Keen, a Texas musician quite familiar with the sport, once wrote “riding a bull is like going down the freeway at 70 miles per hour and chuckin’ the steering wheel out the window.” I’d say more like 90 mph.
My former belief was NASCAR is the most dangerous sport around. Not anymore.
These bull riders, most not weighing north of 140 pounds, fearlessly get on the back of an ornery, twisting, turning, snorting, drooling beast that wants to do something akin to flicking a fly off its back.
The bulls weigh as much as 2,200 pounds and appear to be quite contrary and nasty. Most reminded me of Rosie O’Donnell, although it’s a safe bet the bulls are a lot smarter. And probably more attractive.
No clue how scores are determined but I’m certain that staying on board for eight seconds must feel like a year. One cowboy got thrown 10 feet in the air, landed flat on his back.
You’re probably thinking he left the arena on a stretcher. Nope, he ambled to his feet and walked away. His reward was no money but probably still has a souvenir bruise today as he prepares to ride in New Mexico at the next tour stop.
In the final round, where the top 15 riders were trying to win the event, it was a lopsided 13-2 win for the bulls. Of the 13 cowboys, along with the aerial mishap, two got stomped, two more got butted and everyone had to be scared out of their wits.
Amazingly, getting flung off a bull’s back is only part of the dilemma. Being slammed into the dirt, maybe knocked senseless, these guys have to figure out how to skedaddle to safety.
No longer called rodeo clowns, the cowboys owe their lives to “bullfighters” who spend the afternoon getting chased by a behemoth. Not content to wave their arms as a distraction, these guys have no qualms about getting up close and personal.
The event winner pocketed $37,085 for the weekend. Oh yeah, he got a buckle that was slightly smaller than a WWE championship belt.
In retrospect, eating a steak is as close as I want to be to these animals. I’m grateful to get this off my bucket list. And I’d go again.
But here’s another sure thing: I’d have as much a chance of surviving a ride as I would have surviving a power bomb.
Mike Tasos’ column is published every other Sunday. He wants to organize celebrity bull riding and would love for Rosie, Nancy Pelosi, his brother-in-law and Alec Baldwin to saddle up. Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. He is also on Facebook.