Professional bull riding (PBR) is one of the fastest growing sports in America. It can be a tough, dangerous sport, and it takes a special kind of person to not only participate in bull riding, but to excel. Justin McBride, the 2005 PBR champion, current 2007 PBR standings leader and poster boy for PBR, is a good example of just what it takes. McBride gives us his special recipe for Frito Pie, how he deals with the pain inflicted by bucking broncs and what life is like on the PBR circuit.
You began calf riding at age 3 in Nebraska. How young is too young?
Three is pretty young. But my dad was there and wouldn't let me crash too hard. I'd say you wouldn't want to try it much earlier. You want to get out of diapers first.
You're known for your mental and physical toughness. Many still talk about your competing in the 2003 World Championships with broken ribs and a punctured lung. What gets you through the pain?
The fact that I want to win. Whenever I made decisions to ride after being hurt or after surgery, it's never been where I could get hurt any worse. Like, I rode right after I broke both bones in my leg a few years ago and just had surgery. Man, it hurt, but riding wasn't gonna hurt it any worse. If I could take it, my leg could take it. I think the desire to win and to be the best at somethin' will get you through most any pain.
At this point, what bone haven't you broken?
I haven't broken anything on this leg (grabs his left leg) yet.
What do you think about the recent trend to wear helmets?
I think you're going to see more and more of it. When I was a little kid getting on calves and other animals, I wore a cowboy hat. Now you're seeing when little kids are starting out, they're putting helmets on—which is a great idea but it's not for me. It's not my bag.
What word would best describe your relationship with the bull: fear, respect, love, hate, none of the above or all of the above?
Probably respect. I respect an animal that big that can turn so fast and jump so high. They're really athletic animals.
Some people consider Rocky Mountain oysters to be a delicacy. How do you feel about them?
I like 'em OK. I wouldn't consider 'em a delicacy but they're all right. Like, I eat 'em every year at my branding at the ranch.
Is that like how some native tribes would eat the heart of their enemy?
Well, at home I have beef cattle. You castrate the calves when they're little. So you cook 'em up at the branding. That's what you feed everyone for helpin' you (laughs).
In your line of work, you've seen a lot of bullshit, literally. How did that word come to get the meaning it does?
Bullshit? Man, I don't know. That's something I've never really thought about.
Is it fair?
I don't know. It fits well. Like Angela (turning to Angela Hiatt, PBR public relations and marketing manager sitting next to him) is full of bullshit sometimes. It just seems like the appropriate word to use. I don't know really know why it fits so well. It just does. Great word, though.
8 Seconds, a film about the life of Bull Riding World Champion Lane Frost, came out when you were in high school. At the time, what did you think of it?
Same thing I think about it today. It's a good movie. But it's a movie.
The final scene of that film shows Bull Riding Champion Tuff Hedeman riding a bull an additional 8 seconds in tribute to the deceased Lane Frost. Who would you ride an extra 8 seconds for?
I'd do it for any one of my buddies if I thought I could stay on an extra 8 seconds. I might just have to say "I'm doing it for 8 seconds for you." But that was a cool thing Tuff did in memory of his friend. And I've got a few good buddies I'd do something like that for.
There are movies and there's reality. One of the protagonists in the film Brokeback Mountain was a professional bull rider. How many gay riders are on the circuit today?
Whoa, whoa, whoa! I've never seen Brokeback Mountain, but I don't think that's the story line. They're like sheepherders or something, aren't they?
The Jake Gylenhall character is a professional bull rider.
Well, I don't know how many gay bull riders there are or if there are any. I'm sure there probably are. I don't know.
The Sports Business Journal reported that in 2005 you were the 11th highest earning athlete in professional sports.
Yeah man, that was a typo. Maybe the 511th. They printed it, but it's incorrect. I know it was just for on-the-field performance but it's still not even close. The 90th golfer would've beaten me. I saw it, and I was like, "Whoa, was there a check come in that I didn't know about?" I think the way they figured it was maybe wealthiest per second, but the way they wrote it in there, it didn't sound that way at all.
You've starred in a Fritos Corn Chips national television ad campaign. Give us your special recipe for a Frito Pie.
Start with the Fritos of course. Then my wife makes a chili up. And I pour it on top of the Fritos and then I pour some cheese on it. Do it in that order. And maybe I'll put some sour cream [on, too].
What's the average age of retirement for a bull rider?
It's gettin' shorter every year. With the better the bulls are and the more events we have, I think if you make it to your mid-30s, you've really [gone] a long time.
What's the projected Justin McBride retirement age?
Just as quick as possible (laughs). I'll say no further than 30. That'll be it.
After that, what are you going to do?
I'm gonna do whatever I want. That'll be pretty much what I do. Hang out on the ranch. When it's summer time, I'll fish, and when it's winter time, I'll hunt.
PBR, April 27-28, 8 p.m., $15-$55. Idaho Center, 16200 Idaho Center Blvd., Nampa. For tickets, call 208-442-3232.
Dave Hollander is the author of "52 WEEKS: Interviews with Champions!" Info at: www.davehollander.com.