Having spent the first 10 minutes in the “Party Area,” we decided to ignore our instincts and take a closer look at the livestock. Traversing the barrier that divided VIP from P, we anonymously made our way up to the bullpen, where we stood over the riders as they mounted their massive animals, some the size of small trucks. We were shoulder to hip with Silvano Alves, the reigning PBR tour champion. His eccentric preparation regimen had him alternating between jokes with the staff and spiteful slapping of his chest and arms. It was hard to discern between self-encouragement and flagellation. We decided on both. Ensuring we were out of arm’s reach of Mr. Alves we focused on the sport. Dakota Beck, one of the younger riders at 20 years old, took his turn. A couple of seconds in, he was bucked off his bull—as he fell, a vagrant horn speared him in the side of the face. The crowd cheered, the riders were quiet and Mr. Beck remained on the floor for quite sometime.
The riders watched, numb and spooked by the brutal inevitability of harm their sport always guarantees.
Afterward, we approached Mr. Beck, who spoke in a low voice with his hand covering the side of his mouth. “Yeah, I was knocked out and I don’t remember anything from it. You put your life at risk but we love doing it,” he said.
“I’m just going to go home, get some rest and come back tomorrow. I got a little headache.”
As is to be expected at an event that has recently partnered with the beer of the same name (Pabst Blue Ribbon, Professional Bull Riders. Get it?), copious amounts of drinking is a major time consumer both in and outside the bullpen.
Chatting to rider Douglas Duncan about how “a lot of riders go out hung over on the Sunday,” a young, red-haired girl in all pink sports clothes approached. Mr. Duncan appeared flattered and accepted her request to sign her hat. He shook her hand but the bull-riding fan wanted more from her hero. She wanted a hug. He obliged before backing away and humbly mumbling, “Um, thank you for enjoying our sport.” -Henry Krempels