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“Danger on the Dirt” Brings Fans Inside the Minds of Bull Riders

PUEBLO, Colo. – An extraordinary upcoming CBS special chronicling the top dramatic moments and key storylines from the 2015 PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals is a whole lot more than rides and wrecks.

“Danger on the Dirt,” airing on CBS on Dec. 27 at 3 p.m. ET or 5 p.m. ET (depending on market), brings fans into the psyche of the bull riders competing for the championship of a grueling sport.

With PBR’s top athletes mic’d up as they hit the dirt and then discussing why they’ve chosen a punishing profession, the show is the ultimate portrait of athletic toughness. Casual fans and newcomers to PBR will gain a deeper understanding and respect for the intrepid cowboys putting everything on the line to claim the title of world’s best…and $1 million.

“Danger on the Dirt” is raw, it’s unvarnished, it’s real and it’s not to be missed.

“I know I’m gonna get injured,” said J.B. Mauney (two-time PBR World Champion, 2013, 2015)  who is featured prominently in the documentary from David Neal Productions, which brings fans all of the televised Built Ford Tough Series events. “The chances getting hurt riding a bull are 100 percent. I’m gonna be hurting. I’m gonna be sore. That’s always been a part of bull riding and always will be a part of the sport.  You can’t whine about it.  Just pick up your chin and keep going.”

Are very few of us born with a rare devil-may-care ability to cackle at our deepest fears, manhandle danger and then play through the inevitable excruciating pain?  Or is that selectively bred in certain elite warriors?  It’s a question “Danger on the Dirt” explores throughout the riveting hour.

“From the time I was little, my dad told me, ‘You play the game, you take the pain.’ I’ve always tried to live by that,” Mauney said.

While PBR’s biggest star has previously revealed glimpses of his gun-slinging persona, “Danger on the Dirt” goes even deeper inside the head of a quintessential American cowboy who picks the rankest bulls, does not want your sympathy for his latest broken bone and sets sky-high personal expectations starkly contrasting a softening “everyone-gets-a-trophy” culture.

The bull riders’ awe-inspiring grit, resolve and determination in climbing on top of what PBR bull rider Shane Proctor calls “animals of pure aggression” is revealed in highlights from the PBR World Finals and BFTS events throughout the season, as well as intimate interviews also including J.W. Harris, Tanner Byrne, Reese Cates and Bonner Bolton, who is called a “young heartthrob” and will be sure to face back-pen ribbing in Allstate Arena when the 2016 Built Ford Tough Series commences Jan. 9 in Chicago.

The extraordinary CBS special also plumbs the unique perspectives of bull fighter Jesse Byrne; Jared Allen, bull owner of the supremely talented and volatile Air Time; PBR co-founder and nine-time world champion Ty Murray; PBR’s Director of Livestock Cody Lambert; and the sport’s chief physician, Dr. Tandy Freeman.

As Air Time was vying for the 2015 World Champion Bull title in Las Vegas, Allen, a star defensive end for the Carolina Panthers, was preparing for a marquee NFL game. The big matchup was taking place in Charlotte. His mind was elsewhere– at the PBR World Finals in Vegas.

“We’re getting ready to play the Eagles on Sunday Night Football, and I have everyone in the training room of Bank of America Stadium watching Air Time!” Allen remembers.

Come Vegas, one sub-par out is often the difference between winning or losing a championship. Jared Allen’s Air Time was bested by Long John for the World Championship, but Allen’s Carolina Panthers kept winning, and at press time remain undefeated.

Of course, riders also deal with season-climaxing pressure to perform on every out.

“The ups and downs of this sport are huge,” said Tanner Byrne, a member of Jared Allen’s Pro Bull Team. “One day you can be on top and the next day you’re face down in the dirt. It’s what we do for a living and have lived our whole lives for.”

The odds don’t exactly favor a 150-pound cowboy taking on an ornery 2,000-pound bull bred to buck.  The past two seasons, Byrne has had his fleet-footed brother Jesse on the dirt keeping him from harm’s way.

“I feel like we have a team out there,” Tanner said. “When the person who’s going to protect you is your brother, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Jesse Byrne and his three bull fighting teammates have the best seat in the house, though they don’t get to stay in one place when the bulls explode from the chute.

“The dirt is flying. The crowd is cheering. The rider’s grunting,” Jesse Byrne explained. “It’s a matter of keeping your focus on the entire picture, seeing if that rider is still in control,  and ultimately where he’s going to end up so you can take the bull’s attention away and have a safe outcome.”

The bull fighters’ courage, skill and effectiveness don’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.

“I’d crawl on a grizzly bear with those guys in the arena,” Reese Cates said.

Yet the bull fighters can only do so much. Bulls get the better of Neil Holmes and Robson Palermo in harrowing scenes where the pain is as real as their determination to ride again as soon as possible.

The riders’ treatment comes under the guidance of Freeman, who oversees PBR sports medicine and has the competitors’ complete trust.

“I’m kind of like a ‘small town doc,’” Freeman said. “You get to know people. You’re part of the same community.  The difficult aspect is keeping the emotional component out of things when you need to be objective.”

Adding to this full-access backstage pass, “Danger on the Dirt” also puts to bed any retirement rumors surrounding Mauney.

“The way I feel now, that’s a long ways down the road,” he said. “I’d like to win (the championship) at least two more times, preferably back to back.  If I accomplished that, I don’t even know if I’d stop.”

And once again, “Danger on the Dirt” comes back to that question.  Why?  Why would a world-class athlete riding high at the pinnacle of his sport continue to put his body at risk?

Mauney is elite.  He’s on another level.  There’s no settling back and kicking up one’s feet to admire those trophies.  Win big today, plan to win bigger tomorrow. Following a championship, Mauney’s personal standards merely increase. He wants a few more PBR championships, preferably back to back.

“When I retire, I want to go down as one of the best bull riders in history,” he said.

Laws of physics and bovine behavior being what they are, the 26 body-battering weeks that go into hoisting more hardware will most certainly exact a physical toll.

But as Murray observed, tallying future aches and pains doesn’t even enter the conversation. It’s what separates bull riders from other athletes.

“Having guts and toughness, wanting to slay the dragons, that attitude is imperative to this sport,” Murray said. “You gotta be that fearless gunslinger to be a great bull rider. This isn’t a businessman’s game.”

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