JACKSONVILLE - The Professional Bull Riders came back to Jacksonville for the 2021 series, Unleash the Beast and the name was perfect for this sport. Before tonight’s event, the best I saw for Bull …
JACKSONVILLE - The Professional Bull Riders came back to Jacksonville for the 2021 series, Unleash the Beast and the name was perfect for this sport. Before tonight’s event, the best I saw for Bull Riding was the High School Rodeo at the Clay County Fairgrounds in the Cattleman’s Arena. Comparing the two is, well, like comparing a high school football game to the Jaguars. They are the same sport, but on two completely different levels. So yes, this, as the phrase goes, was indeed my first rodeo.
The first 10 minutes of the event were eye-popping if not daunting as my media location, thanks to Clay Today Sports Editor Randy Lefko, who was two seats away, was a mere 10-15 feet away from one of the six gates that opened to release the high-velocity animals.
The opening ceremony started with a firework blast not 20 feet from us so shockwave one occurred.
The first bull that competed; from the aforementioned first gate, whirled around after disposing of his ride and hind-foot kicked the “protective” fence in front of me that was maybe an inch in diameter with a foot between each rung of the fence. Six inches up or down from the bull kick and my face would be concave. Shock two over. Let’s rodeo. Rodeo, in America, is simple. Amp up a 1500 pound, strap on a guy or gal with one hand only on the saddle, lock in spurs as tight as the thighs can go and let ‘er rip. The animals are just as much the athletes on the dirt. Last eight seconds, you win.
Much like being on the sideline of an NFL game; Lefko has bestowed that honor on me as well, you never appreciated the intensity, the physical skill and the tenacity of professional athletes until it is in your face. The first time the Jaguars ran past me during introductions at the game that I got to stand at the 30 on the field and photograph Mercedes Lewis go by me have I ever been that close to massive athleticism. The bulls were massive, but the riders were equally athletic to their task.
The riders were not these muscle bound, huge athletes. Most were 5-6” or so, 150-160 pounds, and must be made out of rubber, chock full of “cowboy” muscle. The way the bulls could jump, shake, buck, and spin, with these men trying to stay on, was amazing. On Sunday, only nine out of 30 made a full ride, with the top 10 in points moving them on to the ride off for their share of $93,000. It is a two day show that used points from both days to get the riders into the ride-off event where they had the chance to win more purse money, but more important, get an automatic entry to the season finale in Las Vegas.
Cooper Davis, a 27 year old from Jasper, Texas, ranked number three in the world, walked away with championship buckle for the Jacksonville event, earning $26,009.34. Not bad for a weekend’s work, but surely earning his money the hard way. Marco Eguchi, a 31 year old Brazilian ranked number six in the world, took home second place earning $12,423.59. Palestine, Texas’ Jesse Petri ranked number 22 in the world, came in third. Number one in the world rankings, Kaique Pacheco followed. The 26 year old Brazilian only brought home a $10,994.90 payday for his two days effort.
The paydays seemed a small price to pay to get beat up by an animal, but the crowd was electified in pure appreciation of the skill to do what most of us who have ever rode the mechanical bull at the Clay County Fair know just one percent of the effort.