NEW YORK CITY, N.Y. (January 7, 2011) – The Professional Bull Riders’ 2011 season kicked off in Madison Square Garden on Friday, January 7 with a round that saw half the riders put up qualified scores to kick off their year.
When the round one dust settled, it was Douglas Duncan who took the round, riding not one but two bulls to get there. In flight two, Duncan came out on “Silver Valley” (Cody Ohl). The bull wasn’t up to the task and Duncan was awarded a re-ride to go with his 76-point score.
The ride wasn’t a total loss though, as “Silver Valley” wasn’t in the mood to leave the arena and put on quite a show to the amusement of the crowd.
Duncan made the most of his re-ride option, taking on a bull he later identified as “MySpace” from the Chad Berger pen, for a round winning 89.5 points. The bull would originally have been Paulo Lima’s, as he got the first re-ride option, but Lima turned it down. Duncan said he was glad Lima left the bull for him, as it was a good solid bull that most of the riders would like a shot to ride. It was the first time Duncan had a chance to ride the bull, and was very happy to kick his season off so strongly.
Second in the round was Ned Cross, riding “Chicken Fried” (Dakota Rodeo/C Berger/C Struve) for 87 points. Third was Travis Briscoe, a quarter-point behind Hayes at 86.75 on “Segs the Juice” (Jeff Robinson Bucking Bulls).
(** note that Valdiron de Oliveira rode his bull, “Hou’s Smokin’” [Cody Ohl], but the score was not displayed or announced in the arena, and at press time, the media relations department was unable to provide the score. It could affect the standings as stated in this article, but Duncan was confirmed as round winner)
Pistol Robinson put up 86.25 points on “Red Bull” (Gene Owen Bucking Bulls), to leave him sitting high in the round. Josh Koschel, who was missing from the BFTS tour late last season, made a strong return with 86 points on “Cheerio” (Dakota/Berger/Struve).
Four riders shared the next notch in the standings, at 85.75 points. Dustin Elliott, Kasey Hayes, LJ Jenkins and Mike Lee all showed they were ready to take on the 2011 season, riding “Tighty Whitey” (Buckin B); “Eskimo Joe” (C Berger/Gary Nixon); “Wee Willy” (Teague Bucking Bulls); and “Bad Hat Harry” (Jeff Robinson) respectively.
Rounding out the top ten (see note above) was Kansas kid Skeeter Kingsolver, with 85.25 points on “Pushing Cotton” (Dakota Rodeo/Chad Berger Bucking Bulls).
Cody Campbell rode “Poco Loco” (Buckin B) for 85 points, before a pair of 84.75 pointers made it to the books. SIlvano Alves rode “Uncle Carl” (Chad Berger/Dan Herner); while Ryan Dirteater made his much anticipated return to the BFTS after about 16 months off due to injury, riding “Molalla Jack” (Chad Berger/Ross Coleman).
Jordan Hupp put up the first score of the new season when, on the third bull out in the round, he posted 84.5 points on “Little Napoleon” (Jeff Robinson). Jammed up just behind him, at 84.0 points, was the trio of internationals, with Brazilian Paulo Lima (who declined his re-ride option), Aussie Jason O’Hearn and Canadian Aaron Roy, riding “Sanches” (Jeff Robinson), “White Velvet” (Cody Ohl/Beshear/Hutchins) and “Cut Loose” (Cornwell Bucking Bulls).
Another Cody Ohl bull, “Happy Hour,” left Cody Nance smiling, with 82.5 points. He shared that score with Shane Proctor, who rode “Azusa Street” (Bonwell/Gene Owen) to the 8-second mark, but the clock was stopped at 7.09 seconds. Proctor challenged the call, and although repeated replays of the ride on the arena’s big screen looked like Proctor had slapped the bull once or twice, the replay judge ruled it “inconclusive” and Proctor received a score.
Another no-score that became a score was the always dancing Ben Jones. Jones rode “Slim to None” (Cornwell Bucking Bulls), hanging off the side of the bull to the 8-second mark, and then busting out his trademark dance moves. The arena clock, however, had stopped at 5.44 seconds but it was ruled that Jones made a qualified ride and he received a low but still dance-worthy 80.5 pointer.
Michael Manes hoped to have the same luck with his re-ride that Douglas Duncan did, but instead gave the sizable crowd probably the most exciting moment of the night – but, alas, no score. Manes had scored a 70 on “Reckoning” (Gene Owens), but accepted his re-ride instead.
During the re-ride – on a bull that was not identified to the crowd – Manes bucked off at the 7.01 second mark, then hung a spur in the rope. The bull headed straight for and through the out-gate, dragging Manes, as well as the three bull fighters – Shorty Gorham, Frank Newsom and Jesse Byrne – who were trying to get Manes free, down the alleyway.
Gorham pulled his knife, to cut Manes free from the rope, after the bull, Manes and the bullfighters were far down the alleyway. Manes and the bullfighters then returned to the arena, appearing unscathed, to the cheers of the crowd.
Another exciting moment came when 2009 world champion Kody Lostroh helicoptered over the head of his bull, “Die Hard” (Dakota Rodeo/Berger/Struve) at the 1.84 second mark. The bull flung Lostroh a short distance, but Lostroh walked away from the flight.
It was a rough night for former champs, evidently, as 2009 champion Guilherme Marchi bucked off “Bone Handle” (Jeff Robinson/Callahan) at 6.71 seconds, and then took a shot from the bull. Reigning champion Renato Nunes was unable to hang on, bucking off at 5.68 seconds from “Congo” (4C Bucking Bulls).
After all the talk in the offseason about changes coming to the PBR productions and live events, some fans said before the first round started that they were apprehensive and yet excited to see what the new PBR regime would bring. The opening kicked off with the PBR tradition of lots of fire, but instead of all 40 bull riders being introduced, only the top five from the end of 2010 were introduced by name. The opening did include more video clips, but otherwise appeared a typical PBR opening.
The energy level of the entire round was muted by a horrible sound system that made it difficult to understand a single word – or score – said by in-arena announcers Brandon Bates and Clint Atkins, or by entertainer Flint Rasmussen. That problem persisted throughout the entire round.
Round two takes place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, January 8 and will air on Versus. It will include a new PBR feature, where after that round, the top 10 in that event’s standing will each take on an additional bull, in hopes of widening the margin between them and the rest of the field. That change was announced on the PBR website about a week ago.
On Sunday, January 9, round three and the championship round will take place at Madison Square Garden, beginning at 1 p.m. It is slated to air on NBC, beginning at 2:30 p.m. (all times eastern time zone). The PBR then hits the road for back to back weeks in California. New York City is the only east coast event until Tampa, Florida in mid-April, then a weekend in Georgia in May and then North Carolina and Connecticut at the end of the season.
©2011 Story and photographs by Mary Rudloff