Wednesday, April 1, 2009

There's a first time for everything...

When the opportunity to go watch PBR (Professional Bull Riding) came up a few weeks ago, I couldn't say no. I've never been before, but I love having new experiences and I knew it was unlikely that I'd be able to do something like this again.

On Friday night, Tara was scheduled to sing the national anthem to kick off the event. We got to meet all the riders before hand and watched them prepare to ride. We talked to the men who worked behind the scenes, the clown, and the announcers. Tara apparently watched bull riding when one of her old TV sets got stuck on the PBR channel, but I knew nothing about this sport before going! All of the cowboys were extremely friendly and didn't mind answering our endless questions about how they got into the sport, how they practice, and what it's like. They all had interesting backgrounds and somewhat similar future dreams (to live on a ranch). They were also very young! Most of them were between 18-22 and were living on their own supporting themselves. They travel around the country every weekend going to different events, living off of sponsor money and what they earn from riding.

I have never seen so much athletic skill in person. At first we weren't sure about what differentiated the "great" from the "good" riders, but it quickly became clear: the world champion cowboys just had more control over the animals and were able to stay on for 8 seconds. They were scored by two judges and the top ten came back to re-compete (Tara and I could understand this, as the top ten comes back to re-compete at Miss Virginia, too).

I was standing on the sidelines getting ready to take pictures of Tara singing when a reporter came up to me and said "By the way, Tara has volunteered you all to sit in the cage." The cage was literally a circular metal cage in the middle of the arena floor where a few select people got to watch. Arguably the best seats in the house, it's also within close range of the bulls. For the entire show, Tara and I sat inside this cage! It was so much fun. We had a great view and a few scary experiences when bulls didn't follow directions and decided to run around our cage while the crew played the "Jaws" theme, but it was really great to get to watch from that angle.

When we came back Saturday, we watched from the sidelines for the first half and were allowed back in the cage for the second half. Unexpectedly, I had more fun than I've had in months! All of the people were extremely friendly and I learned a lot about a sport I had never known much about before.

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