The toughest sport on dirt meets the world’s most famous arena. From January 3rd to January 5th, Madison Square Garden hosted the PBR Unleash the Beast Monster Energy Buck-Off at the Garden. The Garden was filled to capacity as a sold-out crowd came to enjoy the evening. I had the honor to attend this event as well as to go backstage. Furtherly, I was able to go into the lockerrooms where the riders were getting ready. The locker-room had an entirely different feel. The level of concentration was unimaginable. The riders were focused beyond belief while preparing. Whether it was prepping the bull rope or practicing moves for the rides, the atmosphere was tense. But bull-riding is the most dangerous sport there is, so they must be prepared both mentally and physically. It is a common known fact among riders regarding injury that, it’s not if you get hurt, it’s when and how bad. Eight seconds can change your life. In eight seconds, you can win the event or you could have a career ending injury. Eight seconds is all it takes.
The beginning of the event is sensational. Pyrotechnics kick off the event with the introduction of the riders. After that everyone removed their hats for a prayer. A prayer for the safety of the riders and the animals and for the safety of everyone. The hats remained off while the national anthem was sung. That’s when the rides began. Rider after rider, the adrenaline rushed. 8 seconds is such a short amount of time but is so long when watching riders ride, and even longer when riding. Not knowing who rides or who bucks keeps you on the edge of your seat. But it’s not all about the riders and the bulls. The bull fighters may have the most important job. Their job is to protect the riders from the bulls once they hit the dirt. The three bull-fighters Cody Webster, Jesse Byrne, and Frank Newsom, who were at the event, did a marvelous job of keeping the riders safe especially when rider Dylan Smith was thrown after his ride, or when rider Stetson Lawrence was bucked off and became unconscious. These bull-fighters are the best ones there are. The riders have a form of brotherhood, and are all quite close to each other. This was shown when Rider Stetson Lawrence was knocked out and his two friends - also riders, Derek Kolbaba and two-time PBR World Champion Jess Lockwood - jumped in to make sure he was alright. Another key member of the PBR team that night and every night is Flint Rasmussen, he is the PBR entertainer. He makes the fans laugh like crazy. He has a special award he gives each event. He picks one lucky fan each night and presents them with the title Fan of the Night. With this honor you receive the Fan of the Night belt buckle, which is made by the company Montana Silversmiths. The night I attended the couple who won Fan of the Night came all the way from North Dakota on a honeymoon. It is always fun to see happy fans receive this honor.
The night I attended, Night 2, was a special night. Arturo Di Modica was in attendance. He is the genius responsible for the Charging Bull on the famous Wall Street. PBR decided to honor this genius because he truly embodied PBR’s “Be Cowboy” motto. Arturo made a trophy, a mini charging bull trophy, and presented it to PBR. Now, that trophy is given to the winner of the 3-day NYC event each year. The rider gets to keep the trophy for the remainder of the season but must give it back when they return to Manhattan. This trophy is special to New York because out of all the locations where PBR goes, only one has this trophy. It will continue to be given to the champion each year of the NYC Event. Night 2 ended with a bang. The winner, Dakota Buttar - from Kindersley, Saskatchewan, Canada - won the event. He rode the bull Total Feeds Bushwhacked for an incredible 88 points. He beat the second place rider Cannon Cravens, who only got 86.25 points. The night was truly amazing and the atmosphere was memorable.