“Buck Off the Island” sounds like an insult, but is the appropriate catch phrase behind the Professional Bull Riders’ (PBR) visit to Nassau County on Sept. 23-24 as part of its Built Ford Tough Series (BFTS).
On the PBR circuit, an athletic, well-conditioned bull weighing more than 1,500 pounds has eight seconds to “buck off,” or unseat, its rider. The rider must survive for eight seconds the bull’s intense gyrations by anticipating its moves and do so in style in order to win high marks from the four judges who score each ride.
“It is incredible entertainment experience for people of all ages,” stated Sean Gleason, PBR’s CEO since 2015, when asked why Long Islanders should travel to NYCB LIVE, at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, for either the Saturday, Sept. 23, at 6:45 p.m. competition or the one on Sunday, Sept. 24, at 1:45 p.m. “We’ve got the best bull riders in the world going against the best bulls, in a rock concert environment,” Gleason added.
The world’s top 35 bull riders are competing in the 2017 PBR BFTS, which will hit 26 cities this year. The season began in January at Madison Square Garden and concludes with the PBR World Finals in Las Vegas in early November. Riders amass points at each event and carry them cumulatively into the next competition. “We have one of the tightest races in our history and every event awards enough points to move a rider substantially in the standings,” Gleason said.
The BFTS is the sport’s premier league yet there are hundreds of other PBR-sanctioned events in the U.S., as well as Australia, Brazil, Canada and Mexico. A new five-country PBR Global Cup—think The Ryder Cup for bull riding—debuts in November in Edmonton.
“We continue to work hard to introduce the sport to people and once they see it, they love it,” Gleason continued, in a phone interview from PBR’s headquarters in Pueblo, CO. “We’re not just a red state sport.”
PBR’s national profile grew dramatically this spring when Bonner Bolton, one of PBR’s star bull riders, was paired with professional dancer Sharna Burgess on ABC’s prime-time hit, Dancing with The Stars (DWTS). The electric duo made it to DWTS’s semi-final round and exposed millions of ABC viewers to Bolton’s winning personality, athleticism, and toughness after a remarkable recovery from a broken neck and temporary paralysis following an ill-timed bull dismount.
“If you go there once, you’ll become a fan,” said Mike Miller, an independent stock contractor, when asked what he’d say to a prospective PBR ticket buyer. Mike Miller Bucking Bulls breeds, trains, feeds, and then transports these remarkable bovine athletes to PBR competitions from an 80-acre farm in Jersey Shore, PA.
“It is a 24/7 job,” Miller explained, as he discussed the commitment he and his colleagues have to their bulls. “They’re just like people; they are taken care of based on what they need,” he said, while recalling the workout regimens and dietary preferences of PBR stars such as the 2,200-pound Mississippi Hippy and one of Miller’s smallest bulls, Micro Man.
PBR’s CEO said the bulls are bred to jump, kick and spin just like racehorses are bred to run fast.
“There’s no agitation compelling bulls to buck; it’s in their DNA,” Gleason said. “PBR bulls are retired to stud following their careers and live four to five times longer than the average bull. Making it to the PBR is like winning the animal lottery.”
Mike Barry can be reached at email@example.com. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.