This past Sunday, a couple of the Usual Suspects and I were surfing the channels at the Post during a timeout in a Jets game, and we came upon ESPN’s coverage of a bull riding competition. It struck me that, as compared to the well-padded behemoths on the football field, the almost uniformly slight men whose job it is to ride 1,800 pounds worth of pissed-off bull, made the guys squabbling over the pigskin look like pansies.
Christ only knows what motivates these men to try to remain for eight seconds astride a twisting, turning, leaping bull, complete with a set of menacing horns. I’m quite sure that, with the possible exception of a handful of bull riders, the lure is not the mega-money that professional football players typically earn.
Here’s what’s involved. The bull rider climbs onto a bull in the chute, and effectively lashes one hand to a rope that is tied around the bull. The rider finds himself in the curious position of hoping that the bull will be particularly nasty on that day, as points are given by the judges based on the performance of the rider and the bull. Once the rider has effectively tethered himself to the bull, the chute is opened and the rider’s job is to somehow complete a one-handed, eight second ride. (The rider’s free hand must remain free for the duration of the ride.)
If the rider is extremely lucky and skilled, he will be able to hop off the raging animal after eight seconds and land on his feet. If he is less lucky, he will be tossed from the bull but will not land on any body part the breaking of which will render him unable to walk, or worse. If he is even less lucky, he will be tossed from the bull and perhaps stomped or gored, or both by an animal that is damned near the size of a Volkswagen.
Of course, the most unlucky riders are those who are thrown from the bull, but whose hand remains tied to the animal. These poor bastards are dragged around like rag dolls until they work themselves loose, only then to risk being trampled or gored to death. It is said that, for bull riders, it is not a question of if you will become injured, but rather when you will be injured and how badly you will be hurt in what has been called “The World’s Most Dangerous Sport.”
These guys are some tough sons of bitches. If they can do this for a living, I cannot imagine what would frighten them. I want these guys on my side in a barroom brawl.
Oh, and a word or two about the “rodeo clowns.” Those of you who have been coming here for a while know that I farookin’ hate clowns. However, my clown animus doesn’t extend to rodeo clowns, as they are not the screw-around-with-your-tie type clowns. Rather, these guys are on what can only be described as a suicide mission. It is their job to purposely attract the attention of an already pissed-off bull so as to draw the bull’s attention away from the recently thrown rider, who sometimes is lying in a lifeless heap in the dirt. These guys may even be tougher (or crazier) than the bull riders themselves.
There are lots of things that I would like to try in my lifetime, but bull-riding is definitely NOT one of them.