The Professional Bull Riders event in Townsville was supposed to be a celebration of athleticism, courage and rodeo skill, but it was as much as celebration of religion, patriotism and the military.
The PBR Townsville was the final event of the Australian leg of the international sporting competition, and served as the finals of the national championship.
The overt militarism of the event was obvious before entering the stadium, as fans lined up for selfies with the sparkling new army tanks parked outside the convention centre. This continued during the prelude to the sporting contest as members of the defence forces were presented to the crowd, and when the American host referenced the military ties between Australia and The United States by using a phrase similar to “The Coalition of the Willing”. George Bush would have been proud.
The bull riders were presented to the crowd and the well-lubricated fans showed their admiration for the athletes, especially those from Queensland. The raucous cheering subsided upon the singing of the national anthem, as cowboy hats were removed and beer cans put aside.
Once the national anthem was finished, I expected either an acknowledgement of country, or a bull bucking in anger. However, neither happened. An acknowledgement of country is a spoken recognition of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land on which an event takes place. Anyone can do it, and it has become very common in Australia in recent years. However, there was no acknowledgement of country at PBR Townsville. I don’t know why.
Nor did the action begin.
No, first we had to say a prayer.
I have never said a prayer before a sporting event in Australia, and I’m no spring chicken. But this was my first PBR, so I could only assume this is normal.
Thus, hats were removed, beer cans put aside, again, and the hundreds of people in attendance stood silently and in great reverence for a prayer which thanked god, thanked the military for keeping us safe and protecting our freedom, and asked for the safety of the riders and the bulls. Yes, the host even prayed for the bulls – but did not acknowledge country.
The prayer was also surprising because I can guarantee that most of the crowd, who showed great reverence and finished the prayer with a loud ‘Amen!’, would never got to church – except at Christmas and Easter, in true secular-Australian style.
With the prayer over, and the military saluted, I though the bull riding would finally begin. But no, there was another treat for the audience: Ryan Weaver. The worst singer I have heard in public for a long, long time. This guy was worse than a drunken friend at a karaoke bar. He was terrible, but he was loved.
He was patriotic.
Not towards Australia necessarily, but towards the US. He emerged in boots, buckle and big hat, with the stars and stripes emblazoned on his T Shirt. He was universally loved because he sang about patriotism and the military, and because he is a US war veteran.
Once Ryan had made his patriotic exit, the bull riding finally began.
The action was impressive, as the hulking masses of beef bucked off rider after rider and only a select few riders manged to stay on their ride for the mandatory eight seconds.
One rider stood out from the rest not because of his scores, but for another reason. His name is Cody Rodeo Tyler. Yes, that’s his real name. On his birth certificate, his passport and his entry form.
The boy from Guthrie, Oklahoma was obviously destined to ride bucking animals, and he does it well. One wonders, though, if Cody has a son and wants to set his offspring on the path to success in the future, will he call him Cody ‘Rodeo’ Tyler Jr., or Cody ‘Influencer’ Tyler.
Cody and his colleagues threw themselves around the arena for the initial rounds in an attempt to qualify for the final, and after many thrills and spills, an intermission was called so the riders could take a well-earned rest.
I was deciding whether I needed to go and buy another pie, take a comfort break or stretch my legs, when the decision was made for me. Ryan Weaver walked back out onto the arena and belted out another massacre.
Time for a pie.
Ryan finally made way for the riders, who treated the crows to some exciting action and spectacular falls.
Who won the event in the end?
Let’s just say patriotism was the winner