If you grew up in Idaho, or maybe if you just occasionally listen to conservative talk radio, you probably think you know what sweaty, drunken aggro-patriotism looks like or sounds like. Maybe you recall certain T-shirts or questionable jokes, or maybe you just think of a decal you once saw on the back of a pickup. But unless you went to the Professional Bull Riders tour stop last weekend at the Idaho Center, you don't know bull. On the PBR, patriotism is the flaming letters U-S-A erupting in the middle of a dirt-filled ring. It's a 10-minute video introduction that actually counters shots of bulls bucking with clips of warfare in the Middle East. It's riders with Army sponsorship logos on their backs, flags on their chests and crosses on their chaps.
But honestly, that kind of stuff doesn't bother me much anymore. Admittedly, this is coming from a guy whose idea of comedy is watching Kirk Cameron "save" heathens through card tricks on the evangelical show The Way of the Master, but I find the over-the-top pageantry that inevitably ensues when religion, warfare and marketing get it on for audiences on the homefront to be absurdly, creepily exhilarating. What's tougher to handle is how quickly those same audiences forget the contemporary commandment of "revere the military" in favor of the timeless, "shooting stuff at people is a helluvalotta fun--and the harder the better!"
Case in point: During the first intermission on Saturday night, PBR rodeo clown Flint Rasmussen strutted into the ring brandishing a CO2-powered, T-shirt-launching bazooka. While a token military-sounding snare drum played over the speakers, he fired cotton scuds into the crowd--with predictable results. One hit a woman in the mezzanine squarely in the face, breaking her glasses. The next missile narrowly missed a handicapped girl in a wheelchair. Rasmussen shot a few more shirts, made a joke about lawsuits, offered to give the first woman a "gift basket or something," and ... by the third intermission, he was out in the ring to the same music, driving a little tank that--you guessed it--fired shirts at innocent bystanders.
And I'm the one who gets hassled by some old lady just because I cheer for the bulls? Eff!