By: Justin Felisko
May 31, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Tick.
If 4 seconds has gone by and Jared Allen’s Air Time has yet to erupt inside the arena, then a bull rider should claim it as a moral victory.
It isn’t often that a rider can survive for even 4 seconds atop the bovine beast.
However, there aren’t moral victories in the toughest sport on dirt, and Air Time certainly has no plans on offering any 8-second handouts any time soon.
The 2016 World Champion Bull contender is a bucking bull time bomb, one that many riders want to avoid at all cost.
Air Time is no simple explosive device either. You can’t just snip the red wire or close your eyes and yank the blue one and avoid catastrophe.
Call in the bomb squad?
Yeah, that probably won’t work either.
Just ask the mad scientist himself, stock contractor Matt Scharping, and there is no answer to what a rider should or shouldn’t do when it comes to making 8 seconds on Air Time.
“Every time that bull bucks, it is like lighting a fuse on a bomb and letting it go off,” Scharping said. “His deal is he has just gotten so smart. There is no set pattern.”
Air Time has elected to detonate himself before 5 seconds in all six of his BFTS trips this season and in all but four of his 28 career outs at all levels of competition.
The rarity of a rider lasting 5 seconds or longer is even more amplified by the fact that 2010 World Champion Renato Nunes owns three of those four trips.
Nunes is also the only rider to have earned a qualified ride on Air Time, doing so for 92.5 points at the 2014 BFTS event in Phoenix. He then lasted 5.14 seconds (Oklahoma City in 2015) and 5.84 seconds (2015 World Finals) in his next two attempts.
The only other trip that Air Time didn’t erupt before 5 seconds was his first career out at a PBR Touring Pro Division event in Guthrie, Oklahoma, in 2012 when Mason Lowe made it to 5.66 seconds.
In comparison, according to ProBullStats.com, three-time World Champion Bull Bushwacker was only ridden past 5 seconds in 10 of his 87 career outs at all levels of competition. Only six of those outs came on the BFTS during his six-year career.
Although the odds are very much stacked in Air Time’s favor, Scharping isn’t willing to go out and say Air Time is unrideable.
Air Time is next scheduled to buck during the Young Guns Challenge at the J.W. Hart PBR Challenge BlueDEF Tour event on Saturday in Decatur, Texas. The event can be seen exclusively on PBR LIVE beginning at 8:50 p.m. ET.
“I am not saying he is unrideable,” Scharping said. “I will never say that because they are all rideable. He is just making it difficult.”
That is a mild way to describe Air Time’s dominance.
Air Time’s trips are so wild and unpredictable that it has made it hard for riders to have any hint of an idea of what to expect once the gate of the bucking chute comes crashing open.
Just take a look at his past two outs on the Built Ford Tough Series.
In Des Moines, Iowa, Air Time was smart enough to use his signature belly roll instead of erupting with a high-kick to dispose two-time World Champion J.B. Mauney in 3.63 seconds. Mauney, who famously ended Bushwacker’s record streak of 42 consecutive BFTS buckoffs – appeared to be waiting for Air Time’s explosive kick and instead got caught off guard by the belly roll.
Three weeks later and Air Time didn’t hold back with his earth-shattering kick. The bovine athlete bust out of the bucking chutes at the Las Vegas Village during Last Cowboy Standing with no tricks up his sleeve and simply over powered rookie sensation Jess Lockwood in 2.66 seconds with a ferocious kick that resulted in Air Time’s rear-end hitting Lockwood in the back.
Two completely opposite trips.
Two similar results.
Air Time has evolved into a deceivingly smart bull since making his BFTS debut in 2013 at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, event. You combine that with his freakish bucking ability and that has resulted in the PBR’s equivalent of dynamite.
“He is going to go strictly off feel,” Scharping said. “If you are going to lean over to the left, he is going to start that way and then he is going to dump you because he is going to go back to the right. He has gotten smart and he has a feel for them guys. In the same token, he felt where J.B. was and he gave J.B. a belly roll. Because of that, he didn’t score as high because he didn’t finish with the big kick like he can.”
Mauney paid Air Time the ultimate compliment in Des Moines despite Air Time being marked only 45 points, “He reminds me a lot of Bushwacker,” Mauney said. “You never know what he is going to do. You don’t set no gameplan, which I don’t for any bull I get on. Like Bushwacker, I got on him so many times he never did the same thing twice and neither will that bull. He is going to do whatever it takes to buck your ass off.”
Lockwood has already made it clear that he wants a rematch with Air Time and this Saturday he may get that shot. If Lockwood can defeat Cooper Davis, Derek Kolbaba, Kurt Shephard and Jorge Valdiviezo in the Young Guns Challenge, he will get an opportunity to attempt Air Time for a chance at $50,000.
Much like his prized owner and former NFL defensive end Jared Allen, who was known to explode around an offensive tackle and wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks, Air Time has developed quite the reputation in PBR circles.
In particular, the BFTS newcomers competing in Decatur all know in a matter of milliseconds a promising start can turn downright lethal to their 8-second aspirations.
Shephard had to ask his way into Hart’s competition, but he admits he isn’t sure how he would go about solving Air Time after watching Lockwood get slammed despite appearing in relatively good position.
“I haven’t seen him much,” Shephard said. “I saw him Vegas and with Jess he kicked real hard. He cracked him right back.”
Air Time is bucking in the month of June for only the second time in his career and first since that Guthrie 2012 event.
Davis is the only rider of the group to have slayed a bovine dragon this season by riding Crossfire for 91.5 points at the Ty Murray Invitational. He has never attempted Air Time, but he has heard the notion that a rider’s best chance aboard Air Time is to nod for the gate when Air Time’s head is looking down at the ground.
“I have never been on him, but I have watched him enough to know he can have a couple of different trips,” Davis said. “If he is right there into the gate to the left that is what I would prefer. If he is right there to the left he will probably bucks a lot harder, but it is more of an honest trip. Then he can throw those big rolls. If you can get past the rolls I think you have a good chance.”
Fellow rookie Kolbaba made headlines by selecting 2015 World Champion Bull Long John for the Young Guns Challenge, and he doesn’t plan on letting Air Time’s record intimidate him.
“Shoot, you just have to go at him like any other bull,” Kolbaba said. “Stick to the basics and try your butt off. It is not going to be easy by any means. Riding rank bulls isn’t easy. If you listen to Justin (McBride) or Ty (Murray) talk about it, they always say if you are going to ride a rank one you are going to have to work at it and be moving. If they are going to get you out of position you have to fight to get back.”
All of the young guns chatter and desire for an opportunity at Air Time is exactly what Scharping hoped for when he agreed to bring Air Time to Decatur.
Scharping wants them to fearlessly try to defuse Air Time instead of running for the hills when they see the white-spotted bull in the bucking chute.
“It may be a touch of calculated risk taking by me, but I want them guys to get comfortable,” Scharping said. “I want them to be like, ‘Man I want to get on him.’
“I want people to want him. I don’t want people to be scared of him.”
That might easier said than done.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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