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Professional Bull Riders at Gwinnett Arena November 20-22

willingham tighty whitey WF2009 (Small)

Local cowboy Sean Willingham attempts to ride Simpson & Dennis' Tighty Whitey during the first round of the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals. Photo by Andy Watson.

I knew it was something special when the classiest, best-dressed woman in the newsroom approached and asked, just shy of begging, if she could write something for this blog — about bull riding.

So here it is, rodeo fans, from AJCer Monica Richardson, everything you need to know about the Professional Bull Riders at Gwinnett Arena this weekend:

MonicaRichardson (WinCE)


It’s the most exciting 8 seconds in sports.

Yeh, that’s right, I said it … sports. Bull riding is indeed a SPORT! I added in the italics and capital letters for extreme emphasis on that point to all you nay-sayers.

Hand wrapped, re-wrapped, gloved and anchored tightly into position with a bull rope, the other hand free to whip the air, a rider gets on the bull hoping to avoid eating dirt for 8 seconds…

Those hold-your-breath moments can seem like hours for a rider.

Bull riding is probably the most recognized of all rodeo events. For some, the thrill of the event comes from simply watching cowboys do their thing. For others, treatment of the animals is an honest concern. (The Professional Bull Riders Inc. has, through its 15-year history, taken the position that there are two great athletes in every 8 second ride. The bulls are treated with as much respect as the human athletes who ride them, the PBR says.)

For those of you, like me, who have a passion for the thrill of the event, watching bull riding is as exciting as watching players run up and down a field or court, throwing or bouncing or kicking a ball.

So if bull riding is your thing, saddle up the kids, dig out your cowboy boots from the back of the closet, thread those pant loops with your big, braided silver buckle belt and head to the Gwinnett Arena this weekend.

The PBR is coming to town! For not one, not two, but three action-packed days.

For me, it’s all about the cowboy and his bull but there are other things worth seeing, like the rodeo clowns and barrel men who distract the bull. Whatever drives you there, it’s sure to be good ol’ hee-haw fun. The event attracts a diverse crowd – me, I’m probably not your average bull riding fan. I am a 39-year-old African-American female journalist. OK, I know you either have your mouth hanging open, you’ve raised a brow, or you let out a slight chuckle. But, hey, everybody has their unusual hobby, their secret passion, right? Just nod your head and agree.

I was pretty pumped when I scrolled a calendar listing on and saw that the 2009 Challenger Tour Championships and the elite 2010 Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS) season was kicking off with it’s first stop on Friday at Gwinnett Arena in Duluth. The BFTS tour will be in town through Sunday, combining two premier events into one marquis stop. Over the three-day event, 18,000 people are expected to attend, said Sara Broun, a spokeswoman for Professional Bull Riders Inc.

The top riders in the world, coming straight out of the Built Ford Tough World Finals, are expected to be there, including Summerville, Ga. local Sean Willingham, who just finished 12th in the world. Willingham is the only local cowboy in the event.

My colleagues laugh and make jokes when I talk about bull riding being a sport, but bull riding is no joke; it’s dangerous. Physically, it requires balance, flexibility, coordination and an ability to set aside fear. Bull riders are often quoted saying “it’s not if you get hurt, it’s when” and riders have reported that facing down a bull weighing a couple thousand pounds takes as much mental preparation as it does physical. The average PBR bucking bull weighs in at 1,700-1,800 pounds. PBR bucking bulls very rarely weigh less than 1,200 pounds, but at the high-end, a bull could weigh 2,200 pounds. The bulls, despite some whimsical names such as Show Time, Red Devil, Black Pearl or Nasty Mike, definitely deserve respect.

I could go on and on educating you on the SPORT but I’ll just stop here and give you the event details.

How does it work? Fans will enjoy more than two hours of heart-pounding action, rock & roll music, pyrotechnics, and an up close and personal view of what I would agree is the toughest sport on earth, yeh baby!

The top 40 bull riders in the world who qualified for the 2009 PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals will be joined by the best 15 riders from the Challenger Tour standings who have not yet qualified for the event.

There will be 55 riders, as opposed to the normal 40 at a regular BFTS event, will ride in the first two rounds of competition which will take place on Friday and Saturday night. The top 40 riders on two bulls will move onto Sunday’s third round of competition and then the top 15 riders on three bulls will immediately come back to compete in the Built Ford Tough Championship Round.

In the end, the rider with the highest total score on four bulls will be declared the winner and take home the $200,000 average check.

Want to go? Professional Bull Riders Association. 8 p.m. Nov. 20, 7:50 p.m. Nov. 21, 2 p.m. Nov. 22. $10-$100. Ticket deals available. Gwinnett Arena, Gwinnett Arena, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. 404-249-6400,

  • Wild Bill’s in Duluth will host PBR after parties on Friday and Saturday nights. Then have church PBR style on Sunday with an event hosted by Riding High Ministries. Get more details on all those events at

5 comments Add your comment


November 23rd, 2009
12:11 am

Already posted on the review thread–just want to reiterate that yes indeed, PBR bullriding is a SPORT. Your naysaying colleauges are fools.

[...] week, AJC editor Monica Richardson explained to us why she loves the sport of bull riding. Today, she gives us a look at what happened when she saw it at Gwinnett Arena this weekend: [...]


November 21st, 2009
1:18 pm

Sounds like a bunch of bull to me.

h c

November 21st, 2009
6:54 am

Great article Ms Richardson. Finally someone in Atlanta that pays attention and knows whatt is going on in the bull riding world…….Goos job.


November 20th, 2009
11:37 pm

I once rode a cow for 80 seconds.