Happy New Year, readers! The holidays are over, we’ve moved into a triskaidekaphobe’s nightmare, and the adventures have already begun!
With three whole weeks before my graduate courses start up again, I intend to cram in as much adventuring as possible. So when my good friend Jill announced that she had something special planned for her birthday, I was all ears. In a stroke of utter genius, Jill invited me and a few other notables to join her at Madison Square Garden to observe something we had never before seen: professional bull riding.
Yes, that’s right. A rodeo in midtown Manhattan. And it was a sight to see.
For the unfamiliar–and I’ll go out on a limb and assume that most of you are, when it comes to this topic–the Professional Bull Riding circuit is a multi-million dollar enterprise, traveling the nation, sponsored by organizations and products I’d never heard of and never knew I needed. It features competitors from across the world, risking life and limb for a substantial cash prize. The rules of the competition are simple. A rider sits on the back of a bull. He holds on with just one hand. The bull is loosed from its pen, and the rider must stay on for eight seconds. Should he last that long, he is then scored, presumably on his form and general handling of the animal. I do not believe any points are awarded for the dismount. This is not the Olympic floor routine, after all. More likely, bonus points are given for riders not shitting themselves in terror.
Because while this might sound just like your last time out at Johnny Utah’s, make no mistake: these animals are dangerous. Personally, I vastly underestimated the size of them. These riders were not jockey-sized, and they were dwarfed by their rowdy mounts. Three of them could have comfortably sat across the back of one of these behemoths. And while they settled down quickly and made orderly exits in the direction of the nearest hay bale, these creatures did not enjoy having a person on their backs one bit. Eight seconds might not seem like much, but when you have a metric ton of filet mignon doing its damnedest to turn you into ground chuck, I imagine time stretches on infinitely.
As fascinating as the action in the pen was, I admit that I was really attending to people-watch. I had hoped that the world’s most famous arena would be filled with genuine cowpokes and country gals; but with the exception of the woman seated in front of me whose favored means of conveyance was, I imagine, a Wal-Mart shopping cart scooter, it seemed to be an audience of mostly bewildered urban twentysomethings like myself. Our group was in the spirit of things, wearing assorted patterns of plaid or flannel. There was a rowdy group a few rows above us who came dressed as if they had run right in from the streets of Pamplona. And there was this dude across the aisle, who would later attempt to drink a bear out of the brim of his hat. It didn’t go so well.
The MVP of the night was our MC, a legitimate rodeo clown. He kept the crowd entertained while the bulls were wrangled, with contests, give-aways, and some very impressive dancing. I realized that he likely stays as limber as he is because he was occasionally on the ground with the bulls–and the animals thought his jokes about city livin’ were just as lame as we did.
While the bull riding proved to be just the beginning of a long night of celebrating another year of Jill, it was definitely the highlight. We had barely been in our seats ten minutes before it was unanimously decided that we would have to get tickets for next year. Twelve months should give me enough time to melt down all the gold and silver I have and turn it into a belt buckle that requires its own zip code.