Bucking bulls and flying chunks of dirt filled Nationwide Arena this weekend as riders battled to stay on the bulls for eight seconds.
The Cooper Tires Invitational was held Friday and Saturday at Nationwide Arena, making Columbus the last stop of the regular Professional Bull Riding season before the PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals in Las Vegas.
If the rider was bucked off the bull before the eight second mark, he was automatically given a score of zero and the bull was the only participant to earn a score. Four judges scored each ride on a zero to 25 scale, giving separate scores to the rider and the bull. The higher the score the better the chances were for the rider to make it to the next round and get that much closer to winning the competition.
Mike Lee, who rode bull Modified Clyde for a score of 87 points in the first round, went on to rack up a score of 349.75 points across the four rounds, garnering the title of overall winner for the Cooper Tires Invitational and a nearly $39,000 prize, according to the PBR website.
“I had a couple of good bulls and that helps a lot. Everything worked good and felt good,” Lee said. “I want to stay on (the bull) and always to enjoy it and have fun.”
Those who got bucked off the first night did not fare so well in the competition. Stormy Wing was bucked off after 5.9 seconds by bull Johnny Walker Black Jr., who was rowdy while in the chute and caused a slight delay in the competition as it took longer than usual for Wing to get settled on the bull.
“It was terrible, I had a good bull and I should have rode him but I didn’t,” Wing said. “I let him get away and I don’t accept failure and I don’t like to accept failure.”
Wing finished sixth overall in the invitational with a total of 178 points and nearly $9,000 in earnings.
Robson Palermo also did not stay on as long as he’d hoped the first night of the invitational.
“I got a good bull tonight, and I got bucked off,” Palermo said. “I didn’t feel good tonight and my confidence wasn’t where I needed it to be.”
Palermo finished the invitational without a score, a fate that nine of the 35 total riders faced, although they did all still walk away with $400.
The night was filled with more than just bucking bulls though. A mix of the wild west and a modern sporting event, a T-shirt gun launched free shirts into the crowd during commercial breaks from a Ford truck that drove around the arena.
The night started with a bang as fireworks exploded from the announcers’ stage on the arena floor and from the jumbo TV in the middle of the arena.
Wading out from the back pens, the riders walked across flaming “PBR” letters in the dirt to the middle of the arena as they were introduced to the crowd. One young boy was also named the “Fan of the Night” and received a belt buckle from host of the evening, barrelman Flint Rasmussen, 44, for “being energetic and a huge fan of bull riding.”
The music playlist for the night ranged from modern pop, rap and also rock songs, including songs such as Flo Rida’s “Whistle,” Tag Team’s “Whoomp! There it is” and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll.”
A crowd favorite seemed to be PSY’s “Gangnam Style,” especially when Rasmussen danced the “gangnam style” and encouraged the crowd to join in.
The PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals is scheduled to be held Oct. 24-28 in Las Vegas.