Time for a pet peeve. Everyone’s entitled to a pet peeve, or two, and it’s time to air one of mine and be a voice for those who have no voice. On whose behalf do I write today? I write on behalf of the bucking bull.
Sit down at your friendly local cowboy bar and start talking PBR. Take note of the names that get tossed around with the pretzels and beer. You’ll hear names from the top of today’s standings like Guilherme Marchi, J.B. Mauney, Valdiron, Silvano, and Robson. You’ll hear about the big money earners like Mike Lee, Luke Snyder, and Renato Nunes. You’ll never get out of Idaho without hearing about Wiley Petersen. (Then you’ll hear a lot more about Wiley Petersen.) Folk will talk about the legends of the sport like Ty Murray, Tuff Hedeman, Troy Dunn, Chris Shivers, Ross Coleman and Justin By-God McBride. Now that’s a list of riders right there. You could make an entire week of documentaries with just that roster.
But they’d have been nothing without a good bull under them. That critter that balances his time between looking forlorn and angry, and annoyed and heroic, is more than just a piece of their success. Just because we relate best to the two-legged athletes in the spotlight doesn’t mean they’re truly the stars of the show, because the bull is the key to make the rider look amazing, or downright … well … human.
Look, I get it. It’s easier to say “Shane Proctor” than it is to say “Shepherd’s Hills Tested”, but wait — it’s Shepherd’s Hills Tested that drove the scores of so many riders into the dirt, making any covered score that much more impressive! In fact, the 1500-lb. dynamo didn’t let any rider cover him in 2011 or 2012, and maintains a buckoff rate of almost 92 percent, keeping all the points for himself and nothing better than dusty Wranglers and sore behinds for the riders. That’s dominance, and he’s not even the top ranked bull on the circuit! He’s fourth, and the top-ranked animal athlete is Julio Moreno’s Bushwacker, who is sending over 96 percent of his riders to early turf in less than half the required ride time. (Don’t count on seeing a score on him — no one’s covered him yet this year.) His daddy, Reindeer Dippin’ must be pretty proud, assuming he can read the articles about his boy in the New York Times, ESPN the Magazine, or on Fox Sports.
Oh, and Reindeer Dippin’ was no slouch in his day, either! He’s right up there with Chicken On A Chain and Bones and Big Bucks, and so many other great bulls who have dominated grown men whose careers ride on their ability to stay atop these animals for less time than it takes for Peyton Manning to do an audible. That’s all they need is eight mere seconds, but these highly talented and exceptionally tough bulls who are born and bred for one thing, and they do it better than anyone.
In 2011, the PBR made a huge step in establishing the Brand Of Honor in which they recognize the best bulls in their history with their own sort of Hall of Fame (or is it a Chute of Fame?) recognizing their achievements. Currently, three bulls have their place in this circle — Red Wolf, Dillinger, and Little Yellow Jacket. I expect Bodacious and Mossy Oak Mudslinger to join them soon, but it’s the right start, and well-deserved for the three in there. (You may argue, but you will never convince me that Bodacious and Little Yellow Jacket were not the best bulls ever. Their styles were different, but they were the best. Period.)
It’s easy to overlook the bulls from our seats. Even though they’re the biggest thing on the floor, once they’re done, they get no theme song, no confetti, and no flashy, hat-throwing celebration. They just do their thing and head back for the comforts of a straw-lined pen. Take the time to appreciate them next time, though, and tip your hat to a hooved athlete that’s besting a pro. And if you’re in that cowboy bar and the topic rolls around again, proudly announce your favorite bull, with a hearty toast. Whoever that bull is, he hasn’t gotten the recognition he deserves.