Professional Bull Rider tells his stories

Each year when the Professional Bull Riders Built Ford Tough Series comes to Tulsa, I am there, and this year was the 11th time the PBR made a stop in Tulsa. Well, this time around I finally had the opportunity to interview PBR entertainer extraordinaire, Flint Rasmussen. Although he wears clown face makeup, don’t confuse him with your childhood memories of a rodeo clown – Rasmussen is truly an all-around entertainer, and that’s how he likes to be billed.

“It’s been a tough title to live up to,” Rasmussen admitted. “It’s a tough balance. I don’t do ‘clowny’ type stuff, it’s a little more contemporary and modern; a lot of music and dance. It’s almost like stand-up and impromptu stuff.”

Rasmussen is very similar to a stage performer or sports mascot who feeds off the crowd but also has to rely on whoever plays the music.

“We’re lucky because on this tour it’s like a concert tour, it’s the same announcers, same music guy, and same lighting guys,” he said. “There’s a comfort there, so we get to know each other, and yeah, I have a great music guy that makes me look pretty good. We read each other’s mind and signal each other and whatever makes the crowd have fun that’s contagious. If we’re having fun, they’re having fun, and that’s what we’re shooting for.

When he was in school, Rasmussen was an athlete competing in football, basketball and track, but also found an interest in music and drama. He even appreciated the anonymity of mascots hiding behind a mask or costume.

But it was a family involvement in rodeos that made him pursue the entertaining side of the business.

“My dad and brother were rodeo announcers, and I grew up backstage, if you will, so I knew the sport inside and out,” he said. “It was kind of on a dare. I said I had been watching rodeo clowns since I was a little kid and thought I could do better, so it was kind of a dare from my dad and brother. And there is that little bit of anonymity, you get to hide behind the face a little bit, because if you see me out later at the hotel or whatever, I’m not acting like this.”

Rasmussen, 47, suffered a heart attack in 2009, but has been going full bore ever since. He was a math and history teacher after graduating from college, but it didn’t take him long to realize his calling was making people laugh.

“The first time I ever did a rodeo was 1987, but I quit teaching in 1993 to pursue this, so it’s been over 20 years,” he said.

Rasmussen lives in his hometown, a small town in Northern Montana named Choteau that was settled by the same French fur-trading family that settled Chouteau, Oklahoma. He’s been the exclusive entertainer on the PBR tour since 2006, but doesn’t mind the travel. His wife and two daughters are involved in competitive rodeo and travel for those events sometimes on the weekends when Rasmussen is working.

“I fly 26 or 27 weekends out of the year out of Great Falls, Montana,” he said. “I’ll fly home this week on a Sunday and I’m home until Thursday afternoon, and when I’m home, I’m home.”

Rasmussen said the PBR is currently enjoying renewed interest with bigger crowds all across the country and the television ratings are up, so he’s not looking at retirement.

“As soon I you think it’s time to quit, the PBR creates interest and creates buzz, and it makes you want to stay, so I’m having fun right now,” he concluded.

RETIRING AT 28

Oklahoman Austin Meier announced this week he is retiring from the PBR after 10 years in the sport. Meier told me, in an exclusive interview, he’s hanging up his spurs because of multiple back injuries.

“Basically injuries have caught up with me,” the Kinta, Okla., native said. “In 2010, I broke my back and never really had it looked at, it was just one of those ride through the pain deals, but these past couple of years that pain has continued to get worse and worse. It was affecting my home life to an extreme point, just because I’d get home to heal up and would be too crippled to move. It just plays a part in your everyday life.

“So, that finally nudged me to get it looked at and find out what was actually wrong since it wasn’t ever getting better and seemed to keep getting worse. They did x-rays and MRIs, and found out how bad the situation is in my back, and that it wasn’t something that over time is going to get better.”

Meier began riding bulls at an early age, practically from the time he started walking he was riding something. He enjoyed a quick climb to the top of the pro ranks.

“Obviously, as any kid that’s coming up in a sport you’re looking to go to the top of whatever that sport is, and for us it was PBR,” he said. “As far as rodeo-wise and being a cowboy, riding bulls was always my knack. I loved riding horses and training on them, but as far as competing it was always riding bulls.”

Meier has qualified for eight PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals and has won more than $1.4 million over the past 10 years (2005-15). He has collected nine Built Ford Tough Series event wins along with 45 Top-5 finishes, 69 Top-10 finishes and 18 90-points rides during his career.

“Some of my fondest memories were of certain bulls that I rode,” he said. “In 2012, I won an event on “Shepherd Hills Trapper” in the very last round of the finals with 92-plus points. That’s just something for me and that bull that notches one more mark in my career.”

In fact, he recorded two 90-plus rides on that bull – a 90.75, and the highest marked ride of his career, 92.25.

Like in any sport, injuries are nothing to take lightly and can affect a person’s well-being later in life.

“Over 90-percent of these riders, whether they’re considered old or not, those injuries catch up to you and play a part in the rest of your life, in some form or another,” Meier said. “I have a little girl now, and I don’t want to be that dad that just sits in his recliner. I want to be involved in her life and do things with her that a dad ought to be able to do.”

Meier is looking forward to the next chapter in his life.

“My plan includes possibly getting in full time with a ranch and looking at a possible law enforcement position, and also being a field tech in the gas and oil industry,” he said.