Sometimes the champions don’t win

I do not know how Al and I landed on the channel for the bull rider’s championship event in Las Vegas, but we did. I learned something I didn’t know before: Even the best bull gets a title, as champion for the year.

The rider wants to draw a mean bull, with the highest points. The bull and the rider both perform for scores and titles.

Interesting. Does the bull really think he’s performing?

No. He’s just mad.

Some of the riders were riding with broken collarbones, an arm out of the socket and various other injuries.

Each rider said, “Just one more ride, then I can rest and get well.” They were determined to finish the season.

They interviewed one of the riders who was contending for the national title. He said he had a meltdown the day before. He had drawn a bull he had ridden before and that bull was his downfall, but that bull also brought his biggest scores. He said he was an emotional wreck. He needed that bull.

Silvano Alves, from Brazil, rode High Octane Hurricane to win the champion title and a $1 million bonus payday. He was the first cowboy to win back-to-back titles. He was the first to have earned over $2 million in his career.

Chris Shivers, from the USA, who had entertained the audience for 20 years, was saying good-bye to his fans. His ending didn’t turn out as well. Two-time world champion Shivers rode his final ride on Smackdown. A mean, enraged bull made sure that Shiver wouldn’t finish as a Hollywood hero. He was bucked off. There was not a dry eye in the audience as fans stood to applaud this great champion. They watched history pass when they saw him ride for the last time.

As one rider was waving in victory, another walked off in his final moment. He had been bucked off in front of his fans. Smackdown won that final ride and got the points, but Chris Shivers walked out of the arena as a champion.

As I turned off the TV, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the meanest bull made a champion out of him —  kind of like our football season. It was the toughest season we have had to face, and face it we did!

I know football season is over for Pagosa, but I had to honor the team, the coaches, the parents, the fans and Ed Fincher with The SUN who covered the game, the mood, the play-by-play perfectly.

Even though we lost, every week our grandsons fought over the sports page in The SUN. They wanted to see their name by the number of tackles and sacks.

I heard one grandson say to the other (Wylie) grandson, “That was me, they got it wrong. I made that play.” Even the announcer at the game, confused the two Wylies. But, believe me, they knew who made the tackle.

The Pagosa Pirates are champions. You might question seven losses and one win and wouldn’t call them champions, but I see it differently. They played hurt because they didn’t want to disappoint their team.

This was a hard year for the team. I saw it as a practice year for something better to come next year. The season started with the announcement that we would be in another conference, which meant we would be playing tougher teams with big points.

We were a young team. Our young  Pagosa Pirates practiced for weeks in the hot sun before school started, several of them were playing positions they had never played before. They were not seasoned for their tough opponents.

Some choices were made to preserve the integrity of the ball club. It was a hard call for the coaches, but necessary. Throughout the season, a couple of strong players left the team for one reason or another. The team needed them, but they pulled together and stepped into those positions.

Because of the small number of players, several of the young men played both offense and defense during the whole game. They didn’t get time to rest, while other teams, who had double the players, brought in fresh players in the second half.

During a couple of games, some of the young men came off the field defeated and sobbing. They had played their hearts out, they were pushed around, pulled to the ground, tired, and they couldn’t get a winning score. They worked through those emotions. By the end of the season, they took the losses in stride.

We had one win. The football team’s tradition is to sing the Pirate’s Team Song after the win. The team grabbed the words to the song in the last five minutes of the game. The victory song had not been sung to date. They belted it out to the fans. That was a proud moment. They did get to sing their victory song once.

Our team did not give up. They made every team fight for a win. They played hard in every game, to the finish.  Our last game of the season was with Bayfield, our biggest rival. We had two seniors and they had 17. We made one touchdown and you would have thought we won the lottery.

We were all singing, “We made a touchdown, la, la, la, la, la.”

That touchdown was like gold to us. It proved that our boys didn’t give up.

Those two seniors on the team were our grandson, Slade Wylie, and Keith Archuleta, whose mother followed the team all over the state of Colorado. These two young men started playing the year that YAFL began in fifth grade.  They presented flowers to their proud parents. But, like Chris Shivers, they left the field for the last time without a win.

I realize we are small fish in a small fishbowl, but some of our kids are playing for a college scholarship. Pagosa is a football town.

I’m a proud grandmother and Pagosa lets me be one.

Final brushstroke:  As Chris Shivers walked out of the arena bucked off for his final ride, he walked off as a champion.  This season, our boys did, too.

Artist’s quote

“For this bull riding legend, Chris Shivers, part of the secret to success is sometimes wanting it more than it hurts.” — Dan Gleason.

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This story was posted on November 29, 2012.