Casper Star Tribune and Jackson Hole Star Tribune – Jun 12, 2007 – Jon Gold – Douglas Duncan limped toward the back of the chutes, his face scarred, his mouth bloodied, his shirt torn.
“Sure, I’ll talk,” the Wharton County Junior College bull rider said. “If you get me three Vicodin.”
Minutes earlier, in his second bull ride at the College National Finals Rodeo, Duncan was tossed from an angry Seminole Wind, hitting the ground in a matter of seconds. If it would’ve stopped there, Duncan might’ve walked away clean and healthy. If it would’ve stopped there, Duncan might’ve been able to speak without slurring, blink withot wincing.
As it was, Seminole Wind was not a breeze. After bucking Duncan, the bull continued to charge, using his horns to vault him into the air without remorse. Then came the pummeling. Then came the trampling. Duncan was run into the fence and walked away looking as if he went four rounds with Mike Tyson instead of four seconds with Seminole Wind.
The crazy thing is, Duncan blames himself.
“If I was riding him like I was supposed to, I probably wouldn’t have gotten hit,” he said. “You know from your first start that anybody can get hurt — you ain’t gonna be a bull rider and not get injured. It goes along with the sport.”
That willingness to sacrifice his body sets Duncan and his fellow bull riders apart from other high-level athletes. Duncan considers what is essentially an extreme sport to be an acceptable risk. He looks at other extreme athletes and doesn’t see a correlation.
What’s a broken rib or two when you have to put ribs on the table?
“I think skydivers are crazy, but it’s something they’ve done all their lives,” Duncan said. “I just grew up around it, so it’s just second nature to me. It’s all I’ve wanted to do since I was a little kid. That’s why everybody don’t do it, I guess.”
Palm Beach, Fla. sports psychologist John F. Murray said that the risk-taking identity of bull riders is just that — an identity. A city kid would probably scoff at the idea of jumping on top of a 2,000-pound animal. Likewise, Duncan says he could never sit at a desk.
“(For them) it’s a totally acceptable undertaking,” Murray said. “I don’t see it as that outrageous that if you’re brought up in a setting like that, it’s something they want to do. Environment dictates what a kid’s going to grow up to admire.”
And Duncan sure grew up admiring the rodeo. A broken pelvis when he was 18 set him back a bit but, of course, he was quickly right back on the bull.
Compared to that, Monday’s injuries were but a scratch to Duncan.
“I put a lot of faith in God … but you can’t rely on God 100 percent,” he said. “Injuries do happen in bull riding, and everything happens for a reason. There’s a whole lot worse that could happen. You ain’t gotta brush fake teeth, anyhow.”
But a set of dentures might make one thing Duncan said a bit tougher.
He doesn’t mince his words when asked what he would tell Easy Street if he got the chance.
“I’d tell him payback’s a mother,” Duncan said. “I’d eat him at McDonald’s next week.”
Dr. John F. Murray is a sports psychologist and clinical psychologist providing sports psychology and counseling services based in Palm Beach, Florida.