Bloodless Sport

Samuel Linder

Standing backstage at the World's Toughest Rodeo, all I could imagine was the gladiator pits under the Colliseum. Gladiators wrapped in thick leather armor pumped themselves up however they could, by screaming or wall-punching or staring straight ahead with their best Bogart face on. These guys were warriors, ancient beings, champions against the tide of wildest nature.

But what exactly WAS this great enemy they were about to engage?

Ah yes, the mighty bull. But those mighty bulls seemed really nice in their cages. In fact, they'll follow your hand if you move it around them, kinda like big puppies. How do they become worthy of our chapped titans?

One of those big puppies was led forward into its on-deck cage, and preperations began. A swarm of ten-gallon gnats surrounded the massive beast, poking it in the eyes and ears and a$$ with all types of rather infuriating-looking objects. The cowboy slated to ride that turn would hop on and start heel-kicking (can you say masochism?!?), digging his completely real spurs into the beefsteak's sides. It looked like the worst playground scene ever, when a whole group of bullies gangs up on a kinda dumb kid and torments him until he does something stupid that they can then blame on him when the teacher comes by. &undefined;&&undefined;undefined&undefined; Something stupid like freaking out and bucking in circles to get a motherf***ing cowboy off his back.

We all blame the bull too. &undefined;&&undefined;undefined&undefined;

"Lookit that big monster!"

"He looks prehistoric!"

"What a beast!"

"YEEEEEEEEEHHHAAAAAAAAWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!"

Everyone is in awe of the primal instincts on display, but those instincts are entirely fabricated. We poke the bull's eyes until he's so mad he sees red, and then we laugh as he unleashes his fury. &undefined;&&undefined;undefined&undefined; Hell, the meanest bulls aren't even natural – they're bred that way!

I got to speak to a breeder before the rodeo on Friday, as I pet the gentlest &undefined;,&&undefined;undefined&undefined;00 pound Brahma Bull the world's ever seen. &undefined;&&undefined;undefined&undefined; He told me that some bulls are bred down long lines for their gentle nature (read: milk and meat bulls) while others are bred exclusively for meanness. Which means that they are specifically selected for their antagonistic traits, and that those traits are concentrated unnaturally over time. &undefined;&&undefined;undefined&undefined; Which means that bulls aren't even this mean in the wild. &undefined;&&undefined;undefined&undefined; We've made them this way.

Now, I'm not saying that rodeo is wrong. I would watch a bull fight (waaaaaay the hell more cruel than a simple rodeo) if given the chance, but that might just my desire to someday be (minus the alcoholism and suicide and misogyny, duh!) Ernest Hemingway. I'm just sayin' we need to think about the way that we create our world, and ESPECIALLY the way we create entertainment culture. Our pasttimes help define us as a people, and we in America have a very delusional view of our pasttimes. We relish competition and drama and individual transcendence, even at the most dire expense of the participants (see: football brain trauma, celebrity rehabs, Joan Rivers' face). And after our celebrities crash under the weight of our impossible expectations, we throw 'em onto tabloid covers (or into homes) so we can laugh at/foget them. In the rodeo, and on the streets, we are breeding our populace to move further towards these goals.

With all of these heavy thoughts in mind I started to feel really bad for the bulls, tortured as they were by these nasty cowboys for our amusement.

Then I heard one of the cowboys talk, one of the cowboys who gets his underside smashed repeatedly by a 3/4 ton animal almost every night.

I didn't know that cowboys sucked in that much helium during their rides!

I guess the bull wasn't the only guy out there taking one for the team…