Regardless of the outcome the PBR history books have already been rewritten.
In the time since making his debut on the Built Ford Tough Series, in 2009, Bushwacker has arguably established himself as the greatest bucking bull of all time.
Bushwacker has averaged more than 46 points per outing at BFTS events.
He is fast-approaching 50 career BFTS buckoffs in four seconds or less, but he will forever be remembered for his PBR record of 42 consecutive buckoffs spanning four years until finally being ridden by the reigning World Champion J.B. Mauney in August 2013.
The two have famously battled 13 times, with Bushwacker winning 12 of those fiercely contested matchups.
Bushwacker was profiled in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, national magazines and metropolitan newspapers as well as the CBS Morning News. Last year, ESPN the Magazine dubbed him “the baddest body in sports.”
He’s done more for the sport of professional bull riding than any other any other bull in the 21 year history of the PBR.
Just last week he was profiled in Newsweek.
He is an icon among legends in the sport of bull riding.
“It’s going to be emotional,” said his owner, Julio Moreno, of Bushwacker’s final two outs this week. “I would love for him to go out winning a world title.”
It would be his third.
However, several experts, including PBR livestock director Cody Lambert, aren’t so sure the famous big red bull will be able to win back-to-back World Champion Bull titles.
“I told [my wife] Kindra not to get upset if he weren’t to win it because we know he’s the greatest bull of all-time,” Moreno said. “We retired him that way and we brought him back for this special, I call it, farewell tour. She said, ‘I know, I know, but it’s not fair they talk about him like that.’ I told her that’s life. That’s part of sports or anything you do.”
“This is really a special animal,” Kindra said, “an athlete. People appreciate him.”
Though he can’t read or write, much less log onto the Internet, Bushwacker has nearly 26,000 fans on Facebook – “a bucking bull” – who leave well wishes and messages of safe travel and good luck.
Kindra said she recently received a message from a fan living in England. The woman explained that whenever she, or her husband, want their children to come downstairs in a timely manner they simply tell them Bushwacker is on TV.
“It’s not just that kid,” Kindra explained, “but that scenario and that story that was told and it was touching.”
Over the past five years, Julio and Kindra have met thousands of people, who otherwise would not have become fans or friends had it not been for Bushwacker.
It’s not just young kids and their parents. It’s been all generations.
They met a 90-year-old woman last month in Nashville, Tennessee, who had seeing Bushwacker in person on his bucket list. Another woman from New York hasn’t been on a plane in more than 30 years, but is flying to Las Vegas.
“It’s absolutely blows your mind,” Kindra said.
Two men who will be tasked with putting the past five years and all of Bushwacker’s accomplishments into perspective will be Craig Hummer and Brandon Bates.
Hummer is the lead play-by-play broadcaster for CBS Sports Network, while Bates will be joined by Clint Adkins as the in-arena announcers this week at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Hummer described his role as setting the scene.
“I’ll react off of what the bull does,” he said, “and, as I always try to do, I try to paint the picture.”
It will be the final scene for a bull the likes of which has never been seen in the 21-year history of the PBR.
“This is historical,” Hummer said. “This is [Derek] Jeter’s last at bat. This is [John] Elway’s last drive. This is Magic Johnson’s last [NBA] Finals. This is some historical perspective that has to be given.”
Bates said Bushwacker’s place in history has been etched in stone.
Regardless whether or not he wins a third title – Little Yellow Jacket is the only bull thus far to win the PBR bull title three times – it will not cast a new light on his legacy.
Just as baseball fans never forgot Babe Ruth or Joe DiMiaggio, bull riding fans now or in the future will never forget what Bushwacker has accomplished.
Not only will these last two outs be played out on live TV, and in front of a live crowd, but, unlike any other era in bull riding or rodeo, these moments will be captured and played on Internet sites like YouTube for years to come.
“I never thought of that until just now,” said Bates, who laughed at the thought of people watching iPhone video clips with his announcing filling the audio 10, 25 or even 50 years from now.
“I don’t think in historical terms how my call will be saved in history,” Hummer said. “I try to basically always stay in the moment.”
“I think that’s what makes great sports moments, great moments,” added Bates, who like athletes said great announcers come through in the moment. “They come up with the right thing to say at the right time and they don’t plan it out. It just comes out because their timing is good, so hopefully when I do introduce Bushwacker for the last time my timing will be really good.”
However it plays out on Thursday night and again Sunday afternoon, both Hummer and Bates have been calling PBR events long enough to trust their knowledge of the sport, ability to weigh the moment and, more importantly, trust their respective instincts.
“This is the last couple of times we’re going to see him and if fate shines the way that it does,” Bates said, “maybe he hits a walk-off grand slam.”
“I think there are a lot of people out there that hope the fairytale continues and the Hollywood ending happens,” Hummer said, “I’m cognitive enough to know, his last out might not be enough to win him a Championship. Will I call him the greatest bull ever in my commentary? That depends on if his last out is extraordinary. If it is, then it’ll be warranted.”
That’s where Hummer and Bates disagree.
“No matter what happens in these final two outs, I don’t think that it all tarnishes what this bull’s career has been,” Bates said. “He’s the greatest of all-time. He’s the greatest we’ve ever seen. I will say this, I do think we may possibly see one better in the future.”
Hummer concluded with, “This was nice chapter. I hope I’m around to see the next Bushwacker.”
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