The air in Austin has become ripe with the smell of cedar pollen and manure, which can only mean one thing. Soon there will be tickets to purchase, sticky cement stairs to ascend and large quantities of beer and raked dirt to wash out of your hair. If you're lucky, it'll be "Flung Dung" night and upon entering the building, you'll be handed a complimentary foam Frisbee-like disk made to resemble a brown cow pie.
Hee Haw, ya'll! It's bull riding season.
The arena floor will have been stripped of its usual ice and sports paraphernalia and divided in half. Unlike hockey, which calls for a full rink in which to detach a cornea and splinter a femur, bull riding requires only half a rink. Somewhere backstage, a Zamboni with a front-mounted gurney attachment will be warming up.
The competition will begin with riders taking turns attempting to impersonate a hood ornament on a bucking, hairy and horned eighteen-wheeler. Most will not last the required eight seconds. And for those riders who fail in a particularly pathetic and unflattering way, there will be merciless chiding and mocking from Gizmo -- a surly, senior rodeo clown occupying a hallowed spot inside the rink, where he mostly hurls insults via his Madonna-like headset and crouches inside his gore-proof barrel.
There's a chance it might be Mexican Bull Competition night, where the emcee will announce that a special batch of fresh bulls has been delivered from Mexico that very day. These bulls will be exceedingly unhappy about being in the show, probably because the other bulls don't speak Spanish and have been cruelly tittering at their frilly sombreros.
The final event and by far the most interesting will be a competition called, "A Hundred Dollars the Hard Way." Any spectator over twenty-one who cares to sign a medical waiver will be invited into the ring to try and snatch a one hundred-dollar bill tied to one of the bull's horns.
Breathalyzer tests will not be performed before this event.
As the competition begins, you will see a group of large, softened people attempt to run for the first time in ten years.
You will see in vivid red colors the extreme disadvantages of a papery-thin human body when pitted against a large leathery steamroller.
You will witness embarrassing airborne acrobatics and mouthfuls of stinky soil.
At some point, you will bury your face in your hands and wonder aloud why the promoters didn't up the ante and make this competition WORTH risking a life for. The person next to you will lean in close and whisper that if they offered more money, then more people would be inclined to do it. The way it is now, only the people who think a hundred dollars is actually a LOT of money give it a try -- thus any losses acceptable.
You will not reply back to him or make eye contact.
But somewhere deep inside, you will concur.