After a bull threw two men into the air and cornered another during a contest called “Cowboy Pinball” at Saturday’s Bull Bash at the Owensboro Sportscenter, videos quickly went viral across social media. Spectra, the management company of both the Sportscenter and the Owensboro Convention Center, rented the facility to another organization, who used Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association (SEBRA) to put on the Bull Bash.
SEBRA was not associated with the Bull Bash at the Sportscenter last year, and according to Spectra General Manager Laura Alexander. She said attendees were excited about the event returning this year, however the 2018 Bull Bash event did not include Cowboy Pinball, which encourages spectators to volunteer to enter the ring and attempt to grab a $100 bill tied to a bull.
A representative for the Owensboro Sportscenter said privacy laws prevent their staff from getting detailed information on the injured participant, but they’ve been told the gentleman who was tossed by the bull and injured during the Cowboy Pinball game had been transported via ambulance from the Sportscenter. He was released from Owensboro Health Regional Hospital that same night with nonlife-threatening injuries.
Those at SEBRA who held the event on Saturday also hosted a Bull Bash Kids Day on Sunday, though Spectra confirmed prior to the event that the Cowboy Pinball contest was not part of the kid-centered program. Owensboro Times was unable to reach SEBRA leadership, but those with SEBRA working the event at the Sportscenter defended the Cowboy Pinball game, saying the ones who volunteered knew what they were getting themselves into.
“They agreed. They signed a waiver, and the waiver says injuries, death,” said bull rider Matt Allgood. “It was like a make-some-money-the-hard-way game.”
The Sportscenter representative said they would never put someone in explicit danger, and that they were unaware the Cowboy Pinball contest would be played during Saturday’s event.
“The crazy part is, people were still hoping to sign up for the pinball event [Sunday],” the Sportscenter representative said. “We would never allow guests to be put in harm knowingly.”
Allgood said participants who signed waivers and volunteered for Cowboy Pinball were given the option to wear protective vests during the game, though none of the volunteers chose to wear one. Allgood said the professionals wear vests regularly when riding the bulls.
Moreover, Allgood said Saturday night’s Cowboy Pinball game, which featured two different bulls, is designed so that volunteers are almost forced to move out of their circles when the bulls come near them. On Saturday night, however, Allgood said those who were injured during the event were thrown by the bull, in part, because of their refusal to move from their circles and dodge the 2,000-pound animal.
“What they normally do is get scared and step away,” Allgood said. “They had every option to get out of the arena and get out of there. But they wanted that money. If I saw that happening, if I’d been them, I’d be running to the gate.”
SEBRA’s rodeo announcer for the event, Marvin Blanton, said he was a little disappointed in the response from a lot of Owensboro residents who’d watched the video of Saturday’s Cowboy Pinball event. Though it’s not always safe for the participants who step in the arena, Blanton said that’s part of the excitement for those who attend bull-riding events.
“The waiver is a typical waiver that’s out there. The guys are talked to up front. We’ve done this event quite a bit throughout the South. They love the entertainment of it,” Blanton said. “The show wasn’t about the last three minutes of it. It’s unfortunate that one guy got hauled out on a stretcher. The important thing is, the right people were here. They had paramedics that were taking care of him.”
Spectra scheduled EMS services in advance to be on hand for both Saturday and Sunday’s events, said Alexander. According to Blanton, this was fortunate for those who were injured. It has been his experience that many bull-riding venues don’t incorporate emergency services beforehand.
Blanton said despite some negative feedback regarding Saturday night’s injury, the show has received a lot of positive response from those who attended. As a rodeo announcer, Blanton said it feels good to hear the positive.
“When the folks in the stands leave, it’s my job to make sure they say, ‘Man, that was an awesome event. I can’t wait ‘til next year,’ ” Blanton said. “The Sportscenter was fantastic, and what a great facility. These guys [the bulls] are the athletes of the show.”
Alexander said the overall feedback she’s gotten from this weekend’s Bull Bash event has been positive.
“Other than the incident [Saturday] night, the community is saying that it was a great event, so we will look at the possibility of hosting another one,” Alexander said. “As for the community’s reaction to Spectra, I think they understand that we didn’t have anything to do with the game. We will continue to bring a variety of events to the city that the tri-state community can come out and enjoy.”