Saturday, January 7, 2017

Buck Off at the Garden (PBR) - January 6, 2017

Happy New Year to my loyal readers. Hope all three of you enjoy 2017! After a terrible start to the year watching the Rexless Bills get thumped by the Jets on New Year's Day, I spent the week searching for an event that might get my mind off the Bills 17-year playoff drought. The usual teams were not compelling, but then I discovered the PBR was at Madison Square Garden. The Professional Bull Riders have been kicking off their season at MSG since 2007, and it has obviously been successful as the tour begins its second decade in New York with a 3-day event.

The Monster Energy Buck off at the Garden is considered one of four majors on the BFTS (Built Ford Tough Series) Tour, which, as you can tell, relies heavily on corporate sponsorship. Tickets ranged from $26 to $200 and were easy to get at the box office. No need to spend more than the minimum here as the action takes place in a small area and a pair of binoculars is all you need to see everything. As you can see, the ring takes up about 3/4 of the ice surface, with a large island in the middle. Photographers and VIPs are able to get inside there, which must be an incredible experience.

The event began around 8:00 with a video featuring Steven Tyler. The 35 riders were introduced as flames ran across the floor, and then the national anthem was sung by a country group that I had never heard of before. After that, it was time for action. Bull riding is quite simple (to understand, not to do): the bulls and riders come out of the chutes at the far end, and the rider must stay on for 8 seconds while keeping one hand in the bull rope and one in the air; if he falls off or touches the bull or himself with that untethered arm, the ride is over. If the rider completes 8 seconds, he gets a score based on the bull's movements (spin, direction change, kick), while the bull receives a score regardless of the rider's success. Some riders wear hockey-type helmets, but most choose to go in with just a cowboy hat to protect them, as they believe that helmets can affect their balance. Injuries are not uncommon, though fortunately none happened on this night.

There are four matadors (rodeo clowns, you can see them in the shot below) who try to attract the bull's attention after the rider is off, eventually getting the bull into the return chute. If the bull goes past the island, there is a guy on horseback who lassoes it and brings it back to the chute. After every four riders, there is a break while they get the next set of bulls ready. During this time, the head matador, who has a wireless microphone, entertains the crowd or runs some contests. T-shirts are tossed, and one lucky attendee is given the "Fan of the Night" belt buckle. It's all very much like other sports, but this one has the most downtime of any of them. With 35 riders and a maximum 8 seconds per ride, there are only 280 possible seconds of action over the two-hour show, so much of the time is spent waiting for something to happen. It makes baseball look like F1.

Each rider gets one shot, unless the bull is considered to not have bucked hard enough, in which case the rider can request a re-ride. At the end, the top seven riders are given points, which are totaled up at the end of the season, with the leader winning the championship. On this night, two riders (Mason Lowe and Jess Lockwood) tied with 87.75 points, earning them 100 points and $5,750 apiece.

For me, this was probably the only time I'll see this event, unless I am in a more suitable environment, i.e. one where fans actually want to watch. Much of the crowd in the cheap seats were just there to say they were there. Hundreds upon hundreds of millennials showed up late, dressed as cowboys despite never having ridden a horse in their life. They didn't bother sitting in their assigned seats (thus ensuring plenty standing around looking blankly at tickets when others showed up), and spent the evening taking selfies, yapping (I couldn't hear the announcer for much of it) and trying to get drunk on crap beer. The actual event was secondary to ensuring that their social circle knew they were there. More and more I notice that fans like this (I call them the "Look at Me! generation") are dominating events and making things intolerable for those who actually want to watch. I certainly didn't pay to hear someone whine about how "My boss is like, the worst boss in like, literally, the whole world". The stereotype going around is "Special Snowflake" and from what I can tell, it isn't inaccurate.

So if you go to an event, here are three steps to make things better for everyone: 1) show up on time, 2) stay in your seat during the action (unless you are invisible), 3) shut up and watch - there are plenty of breaks in the action for you to tell your buddy all about how wonderful you are. If you want a social event, go to a bar or throw a party (if your parents allow it in their basement).


The only rider from Canada was Dakota Buttar, who calls Kindersley, Saskatchewan home. I was probably the only fan who has been there. Buttar completed his ride but his score was not enough to place him in the top 7.

Contrary to popular belief, the strap around the bull's flank is not tied to his testicles, but just behind them and encourages the bull to buck more from its hind legs.

Pabst Blue Ribbon used to sponsor PBR but I guess the connection was too confusing as they are no longer associated with one another from what I could tell.

Santa Claus did not bring me a new camera, so the next year will continue to see crap pictures as above, taken with my phone. Sorry.

Next Up

I'm heading back to California next weekend to complete Club 122 membership renewal with a visit to Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. Check back for a recap after that.




  1. Sean,

    Saw the snowflake nonsense at the 1/11 FLA-NYI game. Too many drunk, stupid and obnoxious 20-somethings in my section. Thought there would be a drunk tank outside the arena, it would have been put to good use.


    1. The problem with arenas with bowl seating is that there is no place for these people to go, so they grab a bunch of seats together and act like they are at a bar. The new arena in Sacramento has an area on the concourse for socializing, as do many baseball stadiums, but for hockey fans like yourself, I'm afraid this could become the norm.