By: Justin Felisko
February 08, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Dickies Bullfighter Frank Newsom dug his feet into the cold dirt inside Sleep Train Arena and kept his eyes sternly focused on the bucking chutes.
Cody Heffernan was readying himself aboard Fandango inside the chutes, while Newsom continued to twist his left foot into the dirt.
Heffernan nodded for the gate and Newsom burst into position. Eventually, the 8-second buzzer went off.
That is when things got interesting for the 40-year-old bullfighter once again.
Heffernan had just jumped off Fandango for 78.75 points before the bovine athlete caught a sniff of Newsom and fellow bullfighter Jesse Byrne. Fandango then broke off into a charge with the two bull fighters pinned up against the side arena panels. With nowhere else to turn, Newsom gave Byrne a slight shove toward the railing and they both leaped backward as Fandango jutted back into the arena and toward the back bull pens.
Newsom then turned to Byrne and his fierce pre-ride snarl was a relaxed smile of a victorious 8-year-old at the arcade.
Bullfighting is his sport. It is his game, and Newsom loves every bit of the good and bad that comes with it.
Welcome back Frank.
Round 1 of the Sacramento Invitational was Newsom’s first bullfighting assignment since sustaining a concussion, facial lacerations and a slightly torn right MCL in Anaheim, California, when he was kicked by JW Hughes Excavation.
“It ain’t the first time something like that has happened to me, but every time something like that kind of reminds you how real things can be,” Newsom said. “It doesn’t have to always be you. You can see that happening to somebody else and it just reminds you how real things can get and how quickly it can get that way.
“It is a dangerous sport. There ain’t no way around it and still do your job.”
At the time of the injury, Newsom was adamant about returning to the arena to finish the final day of the Anaheim Invitational. He wouldn’t even take off his knee braces at one point.
Newsom still understood that Dr. Tandy Freeman and the PBR Sports Medicine team also were looking out for his best interests.
“I don’t really remember. I remember just being fired up,” Newsom said. “That is normal for me. A lot of times when I get knocked out I get kind of angry a bit. It is natural. I want to go back and do my job. I feel like I am ready. Tandy, he didn’t see I was ready, so he made me stay out. I trust him. I argued with him quite a bit, but when it comes right down to it I trust him.”
Newsom had to put in extra time Saturday after Shorty Gorham was unable to fight bulls following a knee injury on Friday night. Newsom and Byrne had to split the arena into two and ditch their normal triangle formation without Gorham, who said if Newsom or Byrne went down with an injury he could have stepped in as an emergency fill in.
Gorham is expected to undergo an MRI on Monday.
It isn’t uncommon for bullfighters to work events in pairs at lower-level events. Therefore, Newsom and Byrne were prepared for the scenario.
“It is different for sure,” Byrne said. “We definitely have to adjust our play a little bit. Normally we like to make the triangle and surround the bull. Now it is kind of sides. Instead of having the three points of attack, we obviously just have two. It makes for some longer shots out there. If a guy gets thrown out into the middle that is probably worst case scenario. One of us has to cover a lot of ground to be able to get there and be on time. We definitely had our work cut out for us, but it is not something we haven’t dealt with before by any means. It is kind of a throwback. If you go way back, we all started doing this by ourselves. As weird as that is.”
The more ground to cover put a test to Newsom’s injured knee. Newsom had a noticeable limp in his step at times throughout the weekend.
However, he was able to get through the weekend in part because of the PBR Sports Medicine team. He knows without them, his career would certainly not have lasted as long as it has – 18 years on the BFTS to be exact.
He remembers starting out at local rodeos and jackpot bull ridings where he had to serve not only as a bullfighter, but as his own personal doctor.
“Oh yeah, I am always thankful for Peter (Wang), Tandy, Dave (Edwards) and Rich (Blyn),” Newsom said. “I don’t know how many times. I remember the days back going to them small deals and you were on your own. It was just you and your buddies trying to figure it out. There have been a lot of times Dave has put me back together and if I was out on my own it would have been a long night or pretty bad deal.”
Newsom also wanted to thank all of the fans who had reached out to him since the injury in Anaheim.
“I got home that night and my phone had died and kind of had fallen asleep,” Newsom said. “The next day I plugged it in and I got like a hundred texts. My wife (Dea) spent most of the night answering phone calls and texts. It blew me away how many people were checking in on me. It was pretty neat.”
Many people then began to ask if the wreck makes Newsom think further about a potential retirement.
Newsom shrugged about retiring any time soon.
“I don’t know. I hadn’t really thought about it more,” Newsom said. “It hasn’t been on my mind. Everybody seems to be asking me that lately. I still love it. I still feel like I am effective. I feel like I can do my job right. I don’t know when that day is going to be. I am sure it is getting closer. It aint getting further away. As long as I can be effective and I still want to be in that arena I am going to keep working at it.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
© 2016 PBR Inc. All rights reserved.