Queen of Disco, Kings of Bull Riding



You can't say there's nothing to do in Memphis on the weekends.

Last night's options included Donna Summer at the Botanic Gardens and professional bull riding at FedEx Forum.

I opted for the bull riding. So did several thousand more people, which is a pretty good crowd for the second night of a two-night stand in a town not known for bull, at least not in this particular context. The Professional Bull Riders came here mainly due to the efforts of Paul Thompson of Collierville. Bass Pro, soon to be one of our corporate citizens, was one of the sponsors.

Things I learned. Don't call it a rodeo. There is no calf roping, barrel riding, etc. Just a few dozen cowboys and a small herd of bulls.

A nasty bull is called "rank."

Eight seconds is a long ride and scores points. About half the riders last that long. Several are tossed in the first two seconds out of the chute.

Rank bulls are pissed off by the rider and by a rope tied around their stomach — not their gonads, as some believe.

One hand only. Two hands on the bull is an automatic DQ.

About half the riders wear helmets with face masks, the other half wear cowboy hats. All of them wear Kevlar vests. They don't wear cups, however, because they get in the way. Most bull riders are short and weigh less than 150 pounds. They seem pleasantly modest and polite. A typical interview response was "Thank you, glad to be here."

A 12-year-old rider got killed by a bull last year. Not gored, but fatal internal injuries after being raked by a horn.

The three guys who chase the bull away are called bullfighters, not clowns. There is one clown, plus a cowboy on horseback with a lariat.

Bull riders practice on real bulls and mechanical bulls like the one in the movie "Urban Cowboy."

Bull riders have faithful followings. A woman in the crowd who was apparently chosen at random correctly named the rider considered "best dresser" on the tour.

Bulls also have faithful followings. Don't ask me.

There are time issues in bull riding, as in other professional sports. Too much down time between rides.

The best known bull rider is the guy who was on "Dancing With the Stars," Ty Murray.

Also, I am told by my wife that Donna Summer gave an excellent concert but it was really hot.

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