April 16, 2007
I did something new last night: I went to see professional bull riding. That is so not like me. I’m not a fan of the sport. If anything, I’m an anti-fan, as I’m uncomfortable with animals made to perform as entertainment. (Yet I am not uncomfortable eating them; go figure.) But when the PBR rolled into town, I got curious. Maybe my assumptions about it were wrong. I didn’t think running was for me, either, but eight months later I’m still at it. When I found out that Mr. Karen’s employer was offering free tickets to the Saturday show, I took it as confirmation that I should go and see for myself.
One thing I saw was lots and lots of clothing in styles not generally worn around here. Where did all these cowboys and cowgirls come from? Detroit is not known for its farms and ranches, but the arena was full of people wearing pointy-toed boots and plaid shirts with snaps and cowboy hats in a wide variety of colors and materials. Do these people travel around the circuit attending shows in city after city? Are my neighbors closet cowpokes, hiding in their houses watching the PBR on television every week? I suppose wearing a cowboy hat to a bull riding event isn’t any different than wearing a football jersey to an NFL game; I’m just surprised so many people had the hats on hand.
During the pre-show, a video hyped the bulls as “animal athletes”, but when one of these competitors was trotted out in front of the crowd as an example, all he seemed to want to do was get back behind the scenes. He wasn’t bucking and charging around and rarin’ to go. Of course he didn’t have a strap cinched up tight near his private parts or have a spurring cowboy on his back yet, either. That came later, after the flag-waving, war-glorifying, God-invoking portion of the program. Okay, so maybe my assumptions were right. The prayer surprised me, though I suppose it shouldn’t have; there are prayers before NASCAR races, after all (or at least there were back in the days when I paid attention to that sport).
My favorite part of the competition portion of the program was the bulls who didn’t trot back to the paddock as soon as they were rider-free. Most retreated when they saw the cowboy with the lasso approach on his horse, but one made a few charges at the horse before taking his leave. I didn’t wish the horse or the cowboy any harm, but it sure was nice to see some action more than a few yards from the chutes.
So having been to my first bull riding competition, I think I’m done. I worry too much about the animals to enjoy the spectacle. True, each bull was ridden at most once that night, but it’s possible for them to get hurt even in the short time they’re on stage–one bull was just coming off the injured list that night per the announcer. The cowboys choose to do the sport, knowing they can get seriously hurt (we saw one guy get his head stepped on by a bull, and I read this morning that the guy who left the arena holding his arm at an odd angle has a separated shoulder and another has a possible leg fracture). The animals don’t choose, and it doesn’t seem right to make them participate. I’m not a veterinarian or any sort of animal expert, so maybe I’m off base here. Maybe these bulls bred to buck like it and get a thrill from tossing off a rider before the horn sounds at eight seconds. Maybe being loaded on a truck and driven hundreds of miles between venues doesn’t stress them. All I know for sure is it bothers me.