Sunday, December 30, 2007

buck up pardners

The Sprint Center, a downtown concept arena, opened its doors recently in Kansas City. It's opening was bolstered by a ten show gig by Good 'Ole Boy and Walmart shopper Garth Brooks. City Manager, Wayne Cauthen, who was in Denver when Coors Field opened, loves grown-ups hooping and hollerin', wearing their Sunday-go-to-meeting cowboy boots and hats, and spending lots of money in the city. Last night the Sprint Center hosted the World's Toughest Cowboy Rodeo along with a Party in the Dirt by the latest Boothell buzz, Trent Tomlinson.

Rodeo, according to the sponsors of the World's Toughest Cowboy, is one of America's fastest growing sports. I thought that was Nascar, but here I think we're talking the same demographics. Go to the rodeo if you haven't been in a while and you can find out why George Bush in in office. God, the flag, and standing tall, all for sale, and a shot of Jagermeister on the side. BooRah.

And since there's so much competition for our entertainment dollars and attention, this rodeo starts with explosions, backlighting, and hip-hop dubs. For those not familiar with the Toughest Cowboy concept, and I wasn't, it's this. It's a made-for-tv event. What isn't? This rodeo is series of indoor arena events that are held during the winter, the typically off-season of the sport. This keeps the concept in the minds of the audience and allows the promoters to go into previously untapped, or understaturated markets. "Twelve of the toughest hombres on the planet" are paired against each other in 3 rodeo events at each arena stop. Since this was the first event this year, I'm not sure how they were ranked, but each competitor is seeded. One goes against 12, two against 11, and so forth. For each round, there are three: bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding, they are given a score. Two out of three wins the head-to-head and the highest total points is declared the winner of that evenings event. As the events progress throughout the tournament, people start to get eliminated until the final rodeo pits the last remaining 4 and they compete to win among other things the Jagermeister Ranch, which apparently is a place somewhere out West that cowboys and George Bush still dream about.

And because audiences tend to drift off the deep end if things aren't happening all the time, it moves fast. Between event changes we have barrel races, "Who doesn't like "pretty ladies on horseback!" the announcer says, but at least there's prize money (amount not stated) and chuckwagon races, which is like a cross between a dirt-track and a chariot race but with a team of horses and dudes in cowboy hats carrying cell phones, everyone going in circles with lot's of dirt flying around. Plus, there's ample time for promotions of the sponsors products. The Jagermeister girls shooting t-shirts into the upper deck. The Polaris paper airplane toss - "win $50,000 worth of ATVs!", and the cattle dog with the monkey-on-its-back who makes the sheep run up the ramp and jump down into the tiny, tiny portable pen.

In short, the World's Toughest Cowboy competition is like a big rodeo party. At the end, they raise that night's winner up in the air on a giant triangle thingy while buckin' broncs snort and cavort about the arena beneath him. Yes, pardners, they really did this. There's even an after-party.

Last night's after-party was hosted by Trent Tomlinson, who is the second biggest county-rock star to emerge from the same town where Sheryl Crow hails from. Trent, who landed 2 top forty country hits with his first cd sings a lot about drinking, his drinking girlfriend, and hanging out with his family drinking 'neath a shade tree.

The best endorsement I've heard about Tomlinson was from the counter woman at Alford's Pit Bar-B-que. "Why, he's a sweetheart. Comes to visit me every time he comes home." There you go, just like Mike Huckabee - Faith. Family. Freedom. The music though? It sucks balls...of the World's Toughest Cowboy.

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