No Bull In Hartford Riding; First Time In City's History
By CHRISTOPHER KEATING
October 09, 2011
HARTFORD – It only takes a few seconds before the courageous cowboy is thrown off the bucking bull, but the fans absolutely love it.
About 5,000 of them cheered loudly at the XL Center in Hartford on a warm Sunday afternoon as the world's top 40 bull riders competed on the road to the sport's biggest prize. The professional tour, which already reached 27 cities around the nation, heads later this month to Las Vegas for the world finals that carry a $1 million bonus for the winner.
Some of the cowboys are only 150 pounds, and they climb onto the back of a fierce, kicking 2,000-pound bull in one of the world's most injury-prone sports. Their scores increase if the bull is particularly nasty, and only the top-performing bulls are used in the world championships.
"It's the most dangerous thing you can do – without a doubt,'' said Ty Murray, one of the founders of the professional tour. "It takes incredible skill physically. You have a bull who can kick his hind legs 12 feet in the air. It's a rough, dangerous sport. It's like a fast and violent chess match.''
A nine-time world champion, Murray is the best-known personality in the bull riding business. He has appeared on Dancing With The Stars and is married to Jewel, the famed singer whose father was a rodeo champion in Alaska.
"If you give this sport a real chance, and watch it … it's impossible not to see the amount of athleticism that goes into it,'' Murray said in an interview backstage before the competition began. "If you can get past the ignorance, this sport is with any sport there is.''
Out in the arena, Fabiano Vieira of Brazil won the competition that earned him nearly $40,000 for a weekend's work and said through an interpreter that he could not have predicted his victory.
"Only God knows if you're going to win or not,'' he said. "You just do your best.''
The rider who came in second place on Sunday – Douglas Duncan of Houston – broke his pelvis and missed two years of competition. But he said he never thought about quitting the sport – and cannot imagine doing anything else because the adrenaline rush is so huge on the back of a bucking bull.
"There ain't a drug in the world that can match that high,'' Duncan said in an interview. "It's awesome. I don't ride bulls for the money or the fame. … I love my job. I've wanted to be a bullrider since I could walk.''
And the money isn't bad. The world champion can earn up to $2 million per year, plus another $2 million in endorsements. The last-place finisher on the pro tour earns about $75,000 per year, according to a veteran rider.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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