Sitting in the stands of a rodeo in Forth Worth is like going back in time. I’ve been to the rodeo and I’ve watched the event on TV so I understand the basics. In all honesty, I find it a bit dull so while I’m sitting there watching girls ride horses around barrels, I’m thinking of other things. My friends, who had never been to a rodeo, were captivated. To them, it was incredible watching humans ride animals with such skill.
Chit chatting about it after, I think the big attraction to rodeo for many folks is that it reminds them of a better age. The rodeo is wholesome family entertainment. There’s no sex or crude jokes. There’s no hip-hop music blasting from speakers. It’s just wholesome looking young people, corny jokes and a good time. Cheap too. Tickets to a rodeo are nothing compared to a football game.
That’s what makes it feel like a trip back in time. For most of human history, entertainments were relatively cheap. Entertainers lived on the fringes of society and made very modest livings. Maybe the showman who owned the circus or traveling act made a good living, but the performers did not. Running away to join the circus was not a move up, it was giving up. If you could not hack it in normal life you ended up as the bearded lady in the circus.
Contrast that to today where we venerate knuckleheads with the IQ of a goldfish and shower them with millions. In order to do that the cost of entertainment has skyrocketed. I was at the Dallas Cowboy game on Sunday and the prices are staggering. Cheap seats are $500 just to get in the door. The facility, which is incredible, is simply a massive platform from which to sell you stuff.
That’s what’s incredible to me. Everything has a sponsor. “This hot dog concession stand brought to you by AT&T” is the sort of thing that makes me think the Catholics were right about cupidity being a mortal sin. Every square inch of the Cowboy facility has a sponsor attached to it and almost every square inch is for the purpose of moving product of some sort. You keep wondering, “Don’t they have enough?’
That excess allows the Cowboys to pay their star defensive end millions of dollars, even though he spends his free time beating and strangling women. You only do that when you have so much, you feel you are immune from public opinion. Hearing the crowd cheer when that demented knucklehead made big play, I’m going to assume the paying portion of the public is OK with wife beating.
I’m sure many rodeo entertainers are terrible people. That’s just a part of life. My guess is though, public knowledge of bad behavior ends your rodeo career unless you also get right with Jesus. The customers will look the other way if you are turning your life around after getting drunk and running naked through the streets. Otherwise, there’s probably not a lot of tolerance for it.
In a weird way, people enjoy things like the rodeo now because it lets them escape the wall of sound that is modern mass culture. The whole downtown Forth Worth area feels like it exist as an escape. People dress in their cowboy clothes and have an old fashioned good time. I was at a bar in Fort Worth and it was just cheap drinks and people dancing to country music, like they used to in the old days.
That’s the other thing that popped into my head comparing a night in Fort Worth to the day at Jerry World. In today’s mass media culture, everyone is assumed to be a child. At the football game, it is nonstop noise and video. Between plays they are hitting you with some ad or speech. In breaks for commercials, they hammer the audience with messages. You don’t have a minute to talk to the guy next to you. They assume you must be amused for every second like a toddler.
The infantilization at a modern ballpark extends everywhere. Buy a beer and they open the container and keep the cap. I guess they don’t want you to swallow it. The container is made from something that prevents it from being a projectile, in case you have a tantrum. Of course, they shut off beer sales half way through events so you don’t have too many. The modern sporting even is the nanny state taken to the logical conclusion.
All that said, Texas is a great place to visit. I’ll have more thoughts on it when I return back to the Imperial Capital.