Bull Riding Rises in the Pecking Order of Favorite Sports
~ Amy Lignor
There are tough, fierce sports in this world, and then there are TOUGH, FIERCE sports. Although everything from extreme snowboarding to the Ultimate Fighting Champion fall in the category of dangerous; real danger comes from a sport involving both Man and Beast.
It is not just for cowboys, by the way – although the Stetson does make the competitor far more believable. It is also not a sport for wimps of any kind. Simply put, in most sports if you take your eye off the ball the other team scores…but you don’t find yourself in peril. When it comes to bull riding, if you take your eyes off the reins, you will be on the dirt with the huge shadow of a really angry, bucking beast hovering above you.
Bull riding is not a sport that gets the advertising and buzz that, say, football receives each and every year, but bull riding and its competitors, as well as events, are coming into the spotlight. These are men and women who compete in one of the roughest, toughest ‘wars’ on dirt, and there have, unfortunately, been times where the Beast has won.
The Professional Bull Riders, Inc. is one organization that most definitely supports and brings to light the bull riding realm. This is not the traditional rodeo scene that others think see in their minds when bull riding is mentioned. A rodeo actually consists of many categories and events. Based on the skills and talents required of cowboys long ago to deal with horses as well as other livestock, the rodeo was born. Events range from roping to steer wrestling to bronco riding, barrel racing…with the event of bull riding thrown in as well.
However, bull riding had become the most popular sporting event within the rodeo frame, which is why organizations broke away so that the favorite event could have its very own place in the sun. Since that occurred, bull rider earnings have skyrocketed, and media attention has been coming about bigtime. Not up to NFL standards…yet, but that Man vs. Beast contest is not done expanding by a long shot.
When it comes to the basics – this is the sport where the cowboy sits atop a more than upset bull weighing in at over 2,000 pounds, while the
cowboy’s weight is usually less than 10% of that. One hand. That’s all you have to raise in the air, with the other strapped onto the bull. And the only goal is to see if one can ride that killer for eight seconds. Doesn’t seem that long to most…but try doing it on top of a bull.
More than 1,200 bull riders come from Mexico, Canada, Australia – you name it – to compete in annual events; more than 300 take place, leading to a World Championship held in Las Vegas.
And, yes, there is even a Bull Riding Hall of Fame, which dedicates itself to inducting legendary individuals, organizations and even the greatest bulls themselves that have made a huge impact on the history of the sport.
Bull riding offers legacies; it is a sport that offers legends, and football should definitely watch out, seeing as that this sport has actually bypassed others that used to be higher up on the list of what fans love to watch. Perhaps it’s the adrenaline rush. Extreme in its own way, bull riding offers that combination of risk and entertainment. Live attendance to the events have grown in number, and audiences are tuning into these events on television to cheer for Man, or watch the agony of defeat as the Beast takes over.
Grueling in every sense of the word, bull riding is definitely part of the American culture – the deep-seeded history of the cowboy roaming the range and dealing with the harshness of animal and Mother Nature every day of their lives.
There are also many amateur organizations, as well as ones that support the breeders of these legendary bulls. Competitions and events are held cross-country, calling more and more young men and women to forget the shoulder pads and instead buy that Stetson and work to achieve that 8-second glory.
This is also, in the end, a sport that very much cares about its competitors. The riders treat each other like family, as if they are part of a team out there on the range, watching out for one another. This story comes about from that brotherhood. A memorial event was held in New Mexico this weekend in honor of two young men, Jesse Andrus and Mike Hillman (April 2010). These were two teens who had the passion and heart for bull riding; they were part of the future of the sport…and will be forever missed.