The rodeo came to town last weekend as the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) held their annual three-day competition at Madison Square Garden. Considering how hard it had been for country music to find a radio home here I figured that at best a few thousand urban cowboys would come out to see which riders could survive eight seconds on the back of a bull with one hand raised in the air. You can imagine my surprise when I saw that there was hardly an empty seat in the house.
In retrospect the good turnout at the Garden should not have been so shocking. PBR has had a contract with the CBS Sports Network for years and it has long had blue chip sponsors such as Ford, Wrangler, Lucas Oil, the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority, and Jack Daniel’s.
If that wasn’t enough, last summer the colossal sports and entertainment agency, WME/ IMG acquired PBR for around $100 million. Clearly they see bull riding as the next NASCAR.
Contrary to popular belief, there are just as many bull riders from outside the United States as there are from the American southwest. Brazil’s Paulo Lima won this past weekend’s Monster Buck Off at the Garden.
Another change is that nearly all of the riders have ditched the traditional cowboy Stetson in favor of football-style helmets. The biggest danger for them is not getting gored by the bulls but rather the risk of concussions from getting thrown high in the air.
There were no protests from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals outside of Madison Square Garden. The riders now use extra long ropes to attach themselves to the bulls to minimize discomfort for the animals. The cost of raising, training, and transporting the bulls is very high and so it would be economically counterproductive for them to be mistreated.
The NFL Network commemorated the 35th anniversary of the release of the Americans who were held hostage by the Iranian government and their student proxies with a very well-done documentary, “America’s Game and the Iranian Hostage Crisis.” It was produced by the same company that made the Academy Award-winning film, “Argo,” which also dealt with that ugly situation, and it’s narrated by George Clooney.
What is little-known about that aggravating 15-month period is that Alex Paen, a reporter from an LA radio station, managed to get a visa to get into Iran and he worked hard to ingratiate himself with some of the captors. It turns out that a number of them studied at American universities and passionately followed the NFL.
Paen was able to make cassette tapes of the radio broadcasts of NFL games including Super Bowl XIV. He was able to elicit a promise from the captors that they would let the hostages hear the broadcast of Super Bowl XIV and they complied.
Speaking of sports documentaries, the MLB Network debuted its biography of Mets manager Terry Collins on its “A Life In Baseball” series, last Tuesday. Unfortunately it conflicted with the State of the Union address so that kept down viewership.
Collins admitted that he thought that he would never get another managerial job after he resigned that position with the California Angels in September of 1999. It appeared that he would be prophetic because it would be another eleven years until Mets general manager Sandy Alderson decided to take a chance on him.
While Collins’ managerial decision have occasionally caused the scratching of fans’ heads, his players have always spoken highly of him and have always played hard.
I caught my first Rangers game in quite awhile last Saturday afternoon when they took on the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center in South Philly.
The Rangers won 3-2 in an overtime shootout. The game was exciting not just because of the close score. There were a lot shots on goals; there were no fights and very few penalties; and the action moved quickly from one end of the ice to the other from the start of the first period right until the end of the third.
Rangers left winger Chris Kreider, who has been struggling this season, scored the Rangers second goal of the game. I asked him afterwards if the fact that the Rangers have gone deep in the NHL playoffs in recent years has caused some fatigue. “Well, you could look at it that way. I like to think that the more hockey that you play, the better a player you become,” he replied.
Defenseman Dan Girardi believes that one reason why the Rangers are not that tired is because they play in the Metropolitan Division where a lot of the road trips are so short that they can be made by bus or train. He then chuckled when I reminded him of a promotional appearance that he made years ago at the Soupman store in Astoria. “ I remember that! It was during my rookie season with the Rangers,” he replied with a wide grin.
Boxing’s heavyweight division has lost a lot of luster over the years but it appears to be finally getting some of its glitz back. Premium cable network Showtime kicked off its 30th year of telecasting the sport with a World Boxing Council heavyweight championship fight at the Barclays Center between Alabama’s Deontay Wilder and Poland native Artur Szpilka who now resides in Houston. It was a back and forth bout until Wilder landed a right hook to Szpilka’s noggin that knocked him out in the ninth round.
On cue, British boxer Tyson Fury, who recently defeated longtime champ Wladimir Klitschko in Dusseldorf, Germany, jumped into the ring and challenged Wilder to a match. His braggadocio patter sounded as if it could have been written by anyone who works on World Wrestling Entertainment scripts for their talent.
New Giants head coach Ben McAdoo resembles a young Kris Kristofferson.
A lot of baby boomers loved the Gabe Kaplan comedy series, “Welcome Back, Kotter,” that ran from 1975 through 1979 on ABC. With the exception of a failed TV adaptation of the Cameron Diaz film, “Bad Teacher” that starred Ari Graynor on CBS a couple of years ago there haven’t been any high school TV comedies that I can recall.
That drought appears to be ending. Next month Tru TV will debut “Those Who Can’t” about a fictitious Denver high school. TV Land will have some comedic fun about elementary school educators with “Teachers.”
NBC’s “Superstore” starring America Ferrera that airs Monday nights smartly wrings laughs out of a fictitious big box retailer a la Costco/BJ’s/Sam’s Club, while Fox’s Sunday night comedy, “Cooper Barrett’s Guide To Surviving Life,” uses the frat boy humor that made “The Hangover”a hit film. The show is uneven but at least it’s better than “The Hangover” sequels.