New York City is not the place I imagined I would go to my first Professional Bull Riding (PBR) event. I hadn’t even seen the sport on TV, so I didn’t have any idea what to expect. At all. A friend of mine heard I was in NYC and suggested I check it out. There’s no time like the present to learn about a new sport if you’re like me.
I purchased tickets a few hours before the event actually started, figuring I would pick up a cowboy hat at one of the hundreds of gift shops near Times Square. As I went to purchase a hat, I thought to myself what if no one is really wearing any? We are in one of the most urban areas in the US, so people probably won’t be wearing cowboy hats. After clearing security, I looked up and realized my earlier thoughts were pretty far off base. It didn’t feel like I was in midtown Manhattan; it felt like I was in the middle of cowboy country.
I saw a long line of people waiting for autographs, and after waiting in line, casually struck up a conversation with Chase Outlaw, a professional bull rider after getting his autograph. Getting so close to the athletes is a great way for the fans to feel connected, and something that I will always enjoy.
I made my way to my seat just in time for the introductions, complete with music and fireworks. The one thing that stood out to me what the prayer- while I know most athletes have pregame rituals, they are usually more private. It was the first time that I had seen it played out publicly at a professional sporting event. Minus that prayer, almost everything else seemed like it could fit right in with what we associate with the NFL.
Before you get mad – hear me out. This was my first time seeing this sport live. So, I tried to compare it a sport that I am more familiar with. PBR was hard, because it is very different than most sports. However, the basics to me seemed to most closely match the NFL.
The first rider that came out lasted less than 8 seconds on the bull. Then, there was a break while they set up for the next rider. Exactly how each play works in the NFL.
After the first rider, the judges threw out red flags, which I learned indicated that the bull didn’t receive a high enough score, and the rider wasn’t able to show his abilities completely. This granted him the chance to re-ride and hope fore a more aggressive or wild bull. After every ride, I was looking around to see if any flags had been thrown. Slightly different, but still reminded me of the challenge flag in the NFL.
In PBR, there are many people who have very specific roles to play so the sport can be executed well. There are the usual of bullfighters and riders, but there were also the flank man, the gate man, judges, etc. The only other sport that I know of where players have such specific roles is the NFL. The NFL could take a note from PBR’s barrelman whose primary duty is to entertain the crow during the break between each rider. I know that I’d love to see someone dance during the replay challenges.
Lastly, it is very physical. At one point, a rider what bucked-off of a bull and fell to the ground. He tried to move out of the way, but the bull came down on him. These bulls are not necessarily small things that he was pinned down by. We’re talking about 1500 pounds. What seemed to upset the rider the most however, was that he was bucked-off and didn’t hit the required 8 seconds to obtain a score. Many sports are very physical, but the short bursts of high impacts in PBR also reminded the NFL.
There are a few other similarities, but these three seemed to stand out as the strongest. Despite not knowing anything about PBR beforehand, it turned out to be a diamond in the rough, or in this case, a piece of country in the middle of the big city. You never know where you just find a rodeo near you 😉