An interesting dynamic, being a defending champion.
I was pondering this today while I watched network programming, and realized much of it is either competition-related (even America's Funniest Home Videos has a grand prize), or is itself competition (like Law & Order, or Desperate Housewives). Sports obviously glorifies competition, but even the passivity of watching television has become a sport, the winners are the salespeople, and the losers are almost always the viewers. Somehow this line of thought wound it's way back to my own fall from grace the other night at work. I realized that maybe the reason I screwed up so bad was, since I'd gotten so used to being dependable and reliable (aka, "number one" if only in my own mind), I'd forgotten what it was that spurred me to get better in the first place. If that makes any sense.
When you're not first, and desperately want it, you won't give up until you have it: the trophy, the golden ring, bragging rights, whatever.
When you *ARE* in first place, you no longer want what you already have. Which basically gives the competition a chance to size you up, because now you're the new precedent to be defeated.
Take Desperate Housewives for example.
Until they came along ABC was cowering in the shadow of NBC's Law & Order trilogy wondering how to catch up. Now, not only does ABC have Desperate Housewives, it also has Blind Justice and ... I can't think of what the other runaway hit is right now. In any event, the tables have turned and NBC is not the powerhouse it once was.
Meanwhile, back at the peacock ranch, Law & Order suffered two major blows: first, Law & Order the original series lost Jerry Orbach to Law & Order: Trial by Jury. Then we just plain ol' lost Jerry Orbach altogether... may he rest in peace. You kind of can't help but wonder: was it really that smart putting all one's eggs in one's basket, hmm?
I will be curious to see how my beloved Detroit Pistons will fare in the playoffs this year. I hate to admit it but I haven't watched much basketball this season, only seeing the highlights instead. I will still be rooting for them, and they'll still be my favorite NBA team, whether they win the championship this year or not. Once a Pistons fan, always a Pistons fan! I don't want to jinx them, so that's all I'll say on that subject (and anyway, I would just be repeating what I heard on Sports Overtime tonight, which isn't very original).
As for professional bull riding ... whoa. For some reason I got sucked into watching it this afternoon. Perhaps it's because I got called in to work on my day off and I just figured since my day was shot anyway, might as well shoot it some more. (I'm in utter denial about having to work today, too; makes me think of that clever Citibank commercial: "Overtime pays more because of what you're missing." Amen, sister.)
Today I saw one rider in particular get a whooping I never wanted to see a human being get. You just don't know what to make of it. The guy got knocked out when the bull he was riding rose up and connected with his head unexpectedly, at which point he just kind of got tossed around like a rag doll for a few heart-stopping seconds until the wranglers could get the bull under control, and get the rider off the bull. It's one thing to get knocked unconscious once you're off the bull -- this guy got knocked unconscious while he was still on the bull, and his hand was still connected to the bucking hulk of a bull with a rope. I don't know why I didn't turn away -- you'd think I was watching my brother or my husband getting knocked around like that, the way I had my hand covering my open mouth, frozen and agape in awe at the spectacle. (And by the way, I think marrying a bull rider should be outlawed. Marrying a soldier is bad enough.) I don't know which was worse: watching it happen, or watching the slow-motion replays.
Be glad you did not see him getting whipped around like that, making his arm twisted in a contortion I'm pretty sure the human arm was never meant to make. He was like a ratty ol' flag on a flag-pole in a stiff easterly wind. As this guy got the pummeling of his life, the announcer said, "So you wanna be a bull-rider???"
That guy, I think his first name was Fabrizio, had to be escorted off the ring, needless to say. I was pretty sure he would not survive, but miraculously, he did.
Then, they played a retrospective on a different bull rider, one who was about to take the ring, but before he did they replayed footage from an earlier bull riding competition he was in. The announcer intro'd it by saying, "What was only supposed to last eight seconds, lasted a minute..." (the bull riders have to stay on eight seconds in order to qualify)
Now when they said "lasted a minute", I pictured the guy still sitting on the bull. OH no.
This bull that the rider got to spend one minute with was a lunatic. The bull rider, on the other hand, somehow got his leg caught in the rope contraption they use, and each time the bull bucked, while he miraculously managed not to land on the rider who was underneath him, instead managed to land in a way that was twisting the rider's leg tighter and tighter. The bull kept bucking and landing, bucking and landing, in a clockwise direction.
That went on for a minute. He was only supposed to stay on for eight seconds, and some bull riders get bucked off in the first three to six seconds.
How DO you stop a 2,000-pound bull from bucking?
By the time the rider finally got free, he had the help of several of his other competitors, and other wranglers. The damn bull just would not stop, which was part of the problem, needless to say. I think at some point there must have been 12-15 men trying to get this guy free from a 2,000-pound bull that would not stop bucking.
And the guy walked away from it.
Call it what you want, but I was amazed. Bull riding, professional or otherwise, is not something I condone, but I suppose there are people out there -- obviously -- who just get used to doing it in their lives, or they grow up with it. And when you've been training for professional bull riding competitions, what else are ya gonna do? I mean, on the one hand it seems pretty stupid, and you can just hear the critics: "Why in the world would somebody voluntarily take their life into their own hands like that? That just seems stupid. Just to ride a bull."
But those guys did not strike me as being stupid. Arrogant, maybe. There really does seem to be a skill to it, though; it seems to be a delicate blend of physical skill and mental acuity, because part of what made the successful riders win was their ability to not just hang on to the bull, but to actually outsmart the bull, too.
Regardless, they earned my respect today. I had never taken the time to really watch what they do, so I'm glad I did that today.
Maybe the NBC marketing suits could take a lesson in bull riding. :)