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Ridin' and Ropin'--
It Ain't Just For The Bedroom Anymore

by Mad Dog


Cowboys tried not to get thrown off bucking broncos, they wrestled steers to the ground without the help of WWF costumes or scripts, and they roped calves and tied them up faster than a $200 dominatrix. 
I went to the rodeo under a full moon in Reno and lived to tell about it. They call it the Wildest, Richest Rodeo in the West and it was the first time Iíd been to one since my cub scout troop went on a field trip to visit the true wild westóNew York City, which may be the most un-rodeo place in the world. Watching a rodeo in Madison Square Garden is like viewing a Chagall painting hanging in the middle of a corn field. Except in Madison Square Garden we didnít have to be on the lookout for oncoming tractors. Just rampaging bulls, overprotective den mothers, and upset stomachs from eating too much cotton candy.

   Itís hard to tell whether a lot has changed, since my recollection of the rodeo is mostly of trying not to sit in front of my older brother and his friend Ralph who thought putting peanut shells down my back had higher entertainment value than some guy in a cowboy hat wrestling a calf to the ground. Thereís no question the Reno rodeo had added some modern touches. They showed instant replays on a giant screen, there were radio-style commercials broadcast over the P.A. between events (including, of all things, the Reno Orthopaedic Clinic), bleach blonde waitresses in cowboy boots walked through the stands serving beers off trays rather than hairy, stinky, unshaven guys from Queens shouting ďBe-ah he-ah!Ē, and the announcer proudly told the crowd that their web site, www.renorodeo.com, had received a half-million hits during the first two days of the rodeo. Now thatís a virtual first place if I ever saw one, pardner.


Rodeo is a popular sport. Itís NASCAR on horses, only without the noise, fumes, and seat belts. 
   In the arena it was pretty much rodeo as usual. Cowboys tried not to get thrown off bucking broncos, they wrestled steers to the ground without the help of WWF costumes or scripts, they roped calves and tied them up faster than a $200 dominatrix, and they tried their damnedest to stay on top of decidedly unmechanical bulls. And not get trampled when they got thrown off. The women only had one event, which was to race horses around four barrels. Obviously the Powerpuff Girls havenít dented the rodeo consciousness yet. Even cowkids got into the act. They competed in an event called mutton bustiní, in which the tykes straddled excited sheep and tried not to get tossed off, something most of them had seen Dad do behind the barn when he thought no one was around. In a nod to the 21st century, a six-year-old girl kicked the boysí butts. I couldnít tell if she was wearing a Powerpuff Girls T-shirt.

   The rodeo is nothing to sneeze at. Well, not unless youíre allergic to the smell of animal crap. Itís definitely big business, with the total prize money for this one being a cool $1 million. Itís true thatís nothing next to what Tiger Woods, Lennox Lewis, or Shaquille O'Neal earn by waking up in the middle of the night and going to the bathroom, but on the other hand they canít write off their cowboy hats, spurs, and ropes as business deductions. Only bona fide cowboys and R. Kelly can do that.

   Rodeo is a popular sport. Itís NASCAR on horses, only without the noise, fumes, and seat belts. It was a Monday night during a week-long rodeo and the grandstands were packed. The crowd ranged from babies to grandparents. While going to the rodeo is a time-honored tradition among the older folks, it turns out to be perfect for the MTV generation too, since the events are all short, fast, and exciting. In fact, in bull riding you donít even get a score unless you stay on for at least eight seconds, which is quicker than an Osbourne can be bleeped four times. Yes, itís the perfect sport for those with A.D.D., which helps explain the booth selling Jack Daniels and Ritalin shooters. In the rodeo, unlike the bedroom, a 60-second man is a star. No wonder the groupie quotient is so high.


Instead of sending all those troops into Afghanistan we could have put nuevo- cowboy Bush atop a bucking Osama bull Laden, opened the gate, and if Bush stayed on him for more than eight seconds it would all be over. 
   Donít be surprised if rodeo events become part of the Olympics, joining such other ďsportsĒ as badminton, synchronized swimming, and kayaking. Even though itís an American creation, other countries wonít be at as much of a disadvantage as you might think, since they have their own time-honored versions of it. Granted, in Mexico, Spain, and other countries they spear the bulls rather than ride them. And in Pamplona every July men donít get up on the bulls unless theyíre gored and thrown atop one as they run through the streets trying to avoid a stampede, the whole time wondering why they hadnít tried a more sane Hemingway passion, like fishing or suicide. But as with other American icons, such as Big Macs, Baywatch, and Britney, theyíll quickly adopt our rodeo and learn to love it.

   In fact, the rodeo would be the perfect way to resolve international disputes. Instead of sending all those troops into Afghanistan we could have put nuevo-cowboy Bush atop a bucking Osama bull Laden, opened the gate, and if Bush stayed on him for more than eight seconds it would all be over. Weíd have bin Laden, Bush could ride off into the sunset with Laura the Rodeo Queen, and we could focus on whipping the economy back into shape.

   Next, Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat could get together for the team roping competition. Someone would let a dove go. Sharon and Arafat would take off after it on horseback, lariats swinging. If they lassoed the dove and tied it into a neat bundle it would be a miracle, much like peace in the Middle East. But at least it would be more fun to watch than it is now. Not to mention another chance to eat cotton candy, buy beers from bleach blonde waitresses walking through the stands with trays, and wear those ten-gallon hats that have been collecting dust since Urban Cowboy. Look for the International Peace Rodeo, coming to a web site near you soon.

©2002 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
These columns appear in better newspapers across the country. Read them practicing with that lasso.

 

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