A buzzing introduction to the world of professional bull riding, from New Orleans Times-Picayune sportswriter Peter.
If you’re not one of bull-riding’s millions of fans, here are the finer points of trying to stay atop a whirling ton of animal flesh. The rider must remain on the bull for eight seconds, never touching it with his free hand, or dropping his rope. (Women have yet to break into this muy macho profession.) He can ride underneath as long as he doesn’t touch the ground, though he won’t win any points for artistry. Judges award points for the rider’s (and the bull’s) performance. After a half-dozen rides or so, the man with the most points wins. The author describes the origins of modern bull riding, rooted in liquor, gambling and bragging rights. He depicts the riders’ nocturnal rituals and outlines the sport’s financial incentives: The top rider gets a $1 million bonus, while others are guaranteed not one cent. He focuses on the 2004 season, a hotly contested series populated by a number of very different individuals, each smartly profiled. That season featured a square-off between the Professional Bull Riders’ president, an enormously popular ex-champ looking out for the riders’ interests, and the PBR’s CEO, whose eye was always focused on the bottom line. The competition was almost halted by a boycott—a sure indication that bull-riding has entered the big time. There were uncounted injuries, some serious, most of them ignored, and the season saw the flicker of a movement to ensure that the bulls weren’t mistreated by the riders, who occasionally used devious and injurious tactics to weaken the animals. All that action keeps the writing spirited throughout.
A portrait of a sport boasting tremendous ferocity and mayhem that may soon give NASCAR a run for the money.