Last 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:
The competition opens like a concert: an explosion of fire and smoke on the dirt makes way for cowboys, who come out to the field for a splashy introduction. The fresh smell of bull fills the arena as they show off after the cowboys. The bull, you see, is the other athlete that takes the field. The bulls are generally named for their personality. At this competition, there’s Fired Up, Slim Chance, Red Ears, Gray Spot, Poker Face and many others.
After the introductions, it’s two hours of nothing but bull-riding.
The event Friday and Saturday night had quite a crowd. Not exactly a sell-out, but it drew people of all ages. Sara Broun, spokeswoman for Professional Bull Riders Inc. said 18,000 people were expected over the three-day event that ends Sunday.
One after the other, the cowboys take to the field hoping to stay on their assigned bull for 8 seconds, or for a re-ride, if the judges call for one.
The cowboys are from one end of the United States to the other, from California to Virginia, mostly from small towns you may have never heard of, such as Cole Camp, Mo. or Galax, Va. Most, of course, are from the cowboy state of Texas. In this competition, several cowboys are from Brazil.
A cowboy can earn up to 100 points for a ride. That’s a perfect – and rare – score. No one quite hit that mark on Friday or Saturday, but riders did make it into the high 80s. On Friday night the top score of 86.75 went to cowboy Ross Coleman of Molalla, Ore., who rode a bull named Ding-a-Ling.
Be sure to the score board closely at these events. There you will learn the average bucking time of the bull and whether the cowboy stands a chance to stay on board for the entire 8 seconds. In one case, a bull bucks off his rider in an average of 4 seconds, 77 percent of the time. A cowboy who can ride that bull is pretty good at the sport.
Don’t expect to see anything more than bull-riding during this competition. That’s what this event is all about: the toughest sport on earth, as it’s known.
Once you take your seat, you’ll enjoy lots of rock and roll and lots of hold-your-breath moments as the cowboys fall, one by one, under a bull weighing a couple thousand pounds. No cowboys were injured seriously Friday or Saturday, but you know the cowboy will wake up sore in the morning.
I, for one, am glad the cowboys came through town. It’s fun for bull-riding rookies, for families just looking for something fun to do, or for the bull-riding expert like the woman behind me who screamed during the entire two-hour competition. If you make it there Sunday, you’ll see the best of the best from the weekend as they compete for a six-figure prize. Those who didn’t make the cut have already dropped off the board.
It will be a competition you’ll be glad you spent time and money on. And don’t forget to hang around till the end — the cowboys will sign your shirt, posters, calendars, hats or whatever you got. Hee-haw!
Want to go? Professional Bull Riders competition. 2 p.m. Nov. 22. $10-$100. Gwinnett Arena, Gwinnett Arena, 6400 Sugarloaf Parkway, Duluth. 404-249-6400, www.ticketmaster.com.