POSTCARDS: BULLS, THE PBR AND LIFE LESSONS

28th March, 2013

BRIAN NIXON

ASSIST News Service

I have a confession: the strength, mystery, and enigma of bulls fascinate me. I think I may know what you’re wondering: why in the world does a 2,000-pound beast intrigue you?


Well for several reasons: one, like all animals, they are a gift from God, to be respected, cared for, and used, with awe and thanksgiving. Two, the Bible discusses bulls with intrigue. In Deuteronomy 33:17 it reads, “the firstborn bull - he has majesty, and his horns are the horns of a wild ox, and with them he shall gore all people.” Majesty, yes; but goring all people: ouch!

 

POWERFUL: A rider comes off at a bull-riding event. PICTURE: Brad Wolfe/www.istockphoto.com

 

"In the Old Testament the imagery of a bull represents power supplied by God (Isaiah 51:20). In the New Testament, the bull has been likened to the strength of Christ, representing nobility and power (see portions in Revelation)."

In the Old Testament the imagery of a bull represents power supplied by God (Isaiah 51:20). In the New Testament, the bull has been likened to the strength of Christ, representing nobility and power (see portions in Revelation).

Three, bulls have an intriguing cultural history. From the earliest cave paintings and various religious allusions, to the artwork of Pablo Picasso and the novels of Ernest Hemingway; bulls have played in an important cultural role. Even cosmology gives credence to the bull, with the constellation Taurus found in the northern hemisphere.

For my part, bulls began to peak my interest while growing up in New Mexico, attending rodeos and sneaking off while at a friend’s house to watch cowboys train at a small rodeo site by their house in Santa Fe. At various restaurants in New Mexico I’d see posters and paintings of bullfights. Then in High School, while living in California, I read Hemingway with his references to bulls and the culture that surrounds them. And not to mention all the media attention given to the annual bull run in Pamplona, Spain. Bull imagery has surrounded me most of my life.

As an adult, I decided to take my oldest son to a Portuguese festival to run with the bulls in Central California. I wrote about this for an Assist News Article entitled, The Holy Sprit and Bullfights.

So it’s a given that when the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) tour comes through Albuquerque, I gather up my family and attend with great enthusiasm.

The PBR began in 1992 with two-dozen bull-riders gathering in Scottsdale, Arizona. From their humble beginnings, the PBR has grown into a multi-million dollar business, hosting over 300 events worldwide and attracting millions of spectators on TV and in event attendance. In 2008 alone, over 100 million people watched the PBR on television. To say the least, PBR is sport that attracts more people than just me.

Every year the PBR comes to Albuquerque, New Mexico. The cowboy extravaganza that lands in this great state each Spring is named after nine-time winning bull rider, Ty Murray (born 1969). The PBR event is called the Ty Murray Invitational. Mr Murray is one of the founding members of the PBR and is married to pop singer, Jewel.

This year’s Ty Murray Invitational took place between 22nd and 24th March. According to the announcement at the end of the event, the PBR is setting attendance records in 2013. So to say the least, the stadium (The Pit) was packed with people watching the afternoon’s unfolding cowboy drama.

As much as I appreciate the riders - the toughest and maybe craziest athletes in the world - I usually come to watch the bulls. But let me say this: the riders are some of the enduring (in a rough type of way) guys you’d see. During this event, one cowboy was knocked silly by the bull, with the bull falling down on him. This means that the cowboy gets a re-ride, but only if he wants to. Of course he did. He got another bull, only to be thrown off again. Go figure.

For those not familiar with the scoring of a PBR event, both the riders and bulls get points: the riders for their eight seconds (or lack of) on the bull, and the bull for the type of ride they give the cowboy.

According to the PBR website, “A qualified ride is eight seconds. The clock starts when the bull's shoulder or flank breaks the plane of the gate. It ends when the rider's hand comes out of the rope, the rider touches the ground, or the rider's free arm touches the bull (a "slap"). A successful ride will earn a score of 0-100 points. Scores of 90 points or above are considered outstanding.

“The bull always receives a score, even if the rider is bucked off. His score is based on his degree of difficulty. Judges look for drop in the front end, kick in the back, spin, and direction changes (as contrasted with spin, this means changes to movement forward or backward, or left to right).”

Bull riding is truly a sport of man against beast, with a little time and technique thrown in for good measure. It’s a showdown like no other.

This year, the Brazilian, Joao Ricardo Vieira, won the Invitational with a score of 92.25, beating out crowd favorite, American, JB Mauney.

But like I said, the stars of the show - at least for me - are the bulls. I went to watch Bushwacker (96.3 buckoff average), Asteroid (92.89 buckoff average), and Smackdown (84.93 buckof average). These bulls are amazing to watch. Powerful. Intense. And, yes, beautiful, in a commanding way. I was pleased that all three bulls went un-ridden.

Beyond the entertainment of bull riding, the attraction of all things bull runs deeper, creating life lessons and an understanding of what it means to be human. Bulls, be it the fighting in Mexico, the riding in America, the running in Spain, or the various artistic representations, all have a common thread: they embody life and death, the will to survive, beauty, stamina, mystery, and the dominance of a creature so formed that the Biblical writers used it as a symbol of God’s power. It’s no wonder the ancients used these marvelous creatures to epitomize authority and strength.

So next time you see a Bos Taurus (the Latin name for the bull), stop to give God thanks for His amazing creation. And do yourself a favor: if you ever have the chance to attend a PBR event, do so. It’s still one of the only professional sporting events where they pause to pray for the riders and bulls. And even more, you’ll appreciate the power these creatures wield, and the sheer stamina the riders have to endure on top of a 2,000-pound beast, even if only for eight seconds.

It’s a spectacle to behold.

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