It was a bucking good time at the BOK Center last weekend as the Built Ford Tough Series Professional Bull Riders rode into town for their annual visit. Many Oklahoma bull riders competed in the Express Employment Professionals Classic, and when the two days of competition were over, Hulbert native Ryan Dirteater finished second place, just two points behind winner Jess Lockwood.
The Tulsa stop kicked off the second half of the touring season for the PBR, following a three-month break.
Now in his second year on the PBR tour, Lockwood, 19, finished with 262 points on the weekend, bettering his fourth place finish a year ago.
“I had luck here last year, but just not enough to get the win, but luckily I got it this year” Lockwood said. “There were awesome bulls, awesome crowds, and Oklahoma is bull riding country. I’ve done a little growing up and maturing, so it’s starting to show a little. I’m trying to act my age.”
Dirteater finished with a score of 260 and was leading when Lockwood had the last ride of the competition and passed Dirteater’s score.
“I did my job, and it was up to the rest of the guys, but Jess rode his butt off and rode great, but that’s just the way it fell this weekend,” Dirteater said. “I’m happy with my performance this weekend, being in Tulsa, right here in my backyard. I love that I came in here and rode 100-percent.”
Dirteater, always gracious, had some nice things to say about Lockwood.
“Jess is a great kid, he was rookie of the year last year, and he’s really riding great,” he said.
Cody Rodeo Tyler, of Guthrie, stayed on the back of a bull for eight seconds only one time in three rides, and finished with a score of 85.
The PBR competitors are competing for points each week, in hopes of finishing in the top-35 and making it to the World Finals in Las Vegas, in November.
The clown prince of rodeo entertainment is Flint Rasmussen, and as always, he put on a great show. As the official entertainer of the PBR, Rasmussen’s primary job is to keep the audience engaged and laughing while waiting for the next bull rider to come out of the chute, or while waiting for the next element of the competition to begin. As long as Rasmussen is out on the dirt and on the microphone, there is no down time. As a fan, you never find yourself getting bored or wondering what’s next.
I asked him what it is about Tulsa that makes it fun to come back here each year?
“For one, Tulsa always falls [on the schedule] as either the first or second event when we’re coming back from the break, so there’s a freshness. We always feel really good when we come to Tulsa, so maybe we like it so much because of that,” Rasmussen said. “The fans here, for me on the entertainment side, they appreciate the entertainment, but they’re educated in the bull riding part of it too, and that’s such a good balance. For us, it makes for a fun crowd, where they appreciate what they’re seeing in the bull riding, but they appreciate what we do in the breaks, too. There is an energy there because of that, and that I like.”
I wondered if he would have the same answer if he were talking to a reporter in Dallas or Chicago.
“Dallas is different because we’re in the Cowboys Stadium, so it’s a whole different answer, but a place like Chicago or New York City, I think the answer is more of, we have a lot of people who watch us on TV but don’t get to see live bull riding very often, so there’s a great energy there,” he said. “We appreciate that maybe we’re educating more people to love our sport. So, there is a difference a difference here.”
During the competition on Sunday, Rasmussen put on a ball cap with a fake hair mullet and then decided to take the character a bit further by asking a fan with a knife to cut the sleeves off his shirt. As an entertainer, the old adage applies; do anything for a laugh.
“I told my boss from Cooper Tires, I have a couple more of those particular uniforms, and I said, ‘tomorrow if I get a chance, I’m cutting the sleeves off this baby,’ and he said, ‘just do it,’ so it was worth it,” Rasmussen said. “When you do something like that, and some people would say ‘oh, making fun of Oklahoma,’ but not at all. You’re tying into what the people appreciate. When you cut the sleeves off your shirt, you’re committed man.”
At 49, Rasmussen still runs around the arena and jumps up on the stage in the center of the dirt, but maybe not with the agility he once did. However, his wit and humor is as agile as ever, and he continues to be a crowd favorite year after year.
It was another fun evening of covering the PBR for me, and I will look forward to its return next summer.