John F. Russell: The bulls keep us entertained

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Some people come for the Western heritage, others come because they love horses, and more than a few pack the stands of the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena simply because they love cowboys.

The reasons people come to the rodeo grounds on the Fourth of July vary almost as much as the people who walk through the gate.

But nothing grabs the attention of this urban cowboy quite like the bulls.

Bull riding is to rodeo what car crashes are to Nascar and what bench-clearing brawls are to professional hockey.

Is there anything more interesting than watching a 170-pound cowboy attempt to ride a twisting, turning 2,000-pound bull?

In the end, we are amazed by the cowboy's courage and talent or thrilled by the wreck that follows in the seconds after the chutes fly open.

Don't get me wrong.

Nobody wants to see a cowboy get tossed to the hard ground, and nobody wants to see anyone get hurt.

But the danger, the thrill of the 8-second ride keeps us coming back. If it wasn't for the danger, most of use would head to the concession stand for a beer -- but we don't. It's like watching stock cars on a figure-8 track or really bad reality television.

We want to turn away, but we just can't do it.

Instead we sit back in our seats afraid to blink because we might miss something.

Throughout the years, I've discovered that bull riding is an easy sport to watch from the safety of the metal grand stands at Brent Romick Rodeo Arena, but on the floor of the arena, it's a different story.

The bulls seem bigger and faster, and the hits seem harder. When the rodeo is over, the bull rider jumps back in his rig and heads down the road for another ride with destiny, taking his cuts, bruises and other assorted injuries with him.

The spectators head home with a story to tell their friends around the water cooler on Monday morning.

The fact is, whether you like rodeo, it's hard not to respect bull riders. Most of them ride because they love the sport and the thrill that comes from tempting a bull and living to tell the story over a beer.

A few will get rich on the PBR and PRCA, but far more will end up with injuries that they will carry with them long after they've stopped chasing those belt buckles.

Yes, it's true that rodeo is a lot more than just bull riding.

There are ropers, wrestlers, bareback and saddle bronc riders who would spend their last dime for a chance to make it to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. I respect them, too, but when I head to the rodeo grounds on a Friday night, nothing grabs my attention quite like a twisting bull and a gutsy cowboy who is willing to climb aboard for 8 seconds.

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