While I am a rather avid sports fan (you don’t subject yourself to filling a space like this without a love of the subject), my interests do skew rather hard toward team sports.
If I were to list my favourite sports in order, team sports would fill the top six-to-eight slots I am sure.
When I do watch individual sports, I also tend to go somewhat off the beaten path to find sports, that, for the most part, don’t garner massive interest, at least here in Canada.
One sort of exception to that rule is my interest in the Professional Bull Riding (PBR) circuit.
The sports organization, which highlights the premier event from the broader range of rodeo events, was founded in 1992, so it is a young organization compared to the National Hockey League or the governing bodies of golf or tennis. But, it has also been around long enough to set down to significant roots.
While we tend to think of rodeo (and that includes bull riding) as very much sports disciplines growing out of the ranching lifestyle in the United States, PBR has grown the sport to become an international one.
The international aspect of PBR can be seen in a number of ways, most significantly by looking through the ever-changing list of the top cowboys in the sport. As I write this seven of the top 10 cowboys are from Brazil, a country which puts out amazing bull riders almost as much as they do soccer players. It is a rare PBR event where a Brazilian rider is not in the hunt for the championship.
But the rider list is more international than just Brazilians. Canadians ‘play the game’ too. Dakota Buttar from Kindersley, SK. sits 14th in world rankings, and Tanner Byrne from Prince Albert sits 28th. That is interesting when you consider Alberta is often thought of as the heartland of rodeo in Canada.
Of course PBR is growing in this country too, with events held across the country now, including Yorkton with the inaugural event here going this Friday and Saturday. This is the sort of event from which the likes of Buttar and Brynes arise to take on the top riders in the world, so it will be a great event for the city.
The top level also has a spattering of Australians such as Lachlan Richardson and riders like Edgar Durazo from Mexico.
The international aspect of the sport has been highlighted further with the creation of the Global Cup, launched in Edmonton in 2017, taken to Australia earlier this year, and the third edition running in Texas in February 2019. The event pits teams of riders from the top five bull riding nations on an event where total team points win it all. Canada has finished third in the two previous cups, still besting the U.S. this year, so our riders are right there with the best in the world.
That is part of the appeal of the sport, the international flavour, with Canadians legitimately in the mix to cheer for. That added to the sheer power of the bulls, and the internal fortitude it takes for riders to face the punishment of rides every weekend, and the sport is certainly worthy of watching.
And to have an event here, a stepping stone to the main stage of the sport, is certainly going to be fun.