Corey Costelloe mug

Corey Costelloe

So, they tell me I’m riding a bull on the 4th of July. By "they" I’m referring to the Tehachapi Mountain Rodeo Association, which came up with an idea to have a “local celebrity” attempt to ride the first bull of their annual Bad Bulls event on Independence Day. I’m thinking the pool of celebrity is rather shallow; therefore, here I am.

This entire scheme was put into motion by none other than local rodeo leader Dal Bunn, who in a conversation with one of my coworkers suggested this celebrity idea and ended the sentence with “I think it should be Corey.” She wholeheartedly agreed without a single ounce of protest. With friends like that, who needs enemies? When I called Dal and asked him what kind of plan he was hatching, he told me, “It’s already been hatched; see you Thursday.”

So, isn’t this on the happy side of terrific? I’ll be literally thrown to the bulls on Thursday as they kick off the annual show. I’m praying someone is pulling my leg, I’m praying for rain, for lighting, or some sort of catastrophic weather event that cancels the whole deal. The Man upstairs must have a great sense of humor because checking out the weather forecast, it looks like it could be the most perfect 4th of July weather in Tehachapi history. Wow, the luck just keeps on pouring in for yours truly.

Now I can’t imagine the hate mail I’ll receive this time around. Last year for simply championing the sport of rodeo, bull riding included, I was chastised by an organized letter-writing campaign out of the Bay Area from our animal-loving friends for my “barbarism,” and “approval of abuse.” And those were the letters that were public; my email was inundated with much-nastier stuff, including one person who called for my castration while another suggested I be “tied up and dragged through the arena.” What can I say? I make friends wherever I go.

That means this year when word gets out that the rodeo-loving, animal-oppressing Corey Costelloe is actually sitting on the back of one of these animals, the outrage will be tenfold. Honestly, it’s probably the best way to respond to it. I call it leading by example. I hope they’re paying attention because I’m raising the bar quite high.

Back to my current dilemma: I’m counting down the hours until a snot-faced, would-be Big Mac is trying to eject me from his back. I’m hoping there’s some sort of compromise here. Maybe while the boys are sorting the pens, they let a Holstein bound for the dairy barn slip into my bucking chute. Maybe they accidentally pour my bull some of “grandpa’s cough medicine,” if you know what I mean, and he’s a little under-performing that day. Maybe I’ll simply draw a fairly unmotivated bull that is just as unhappy to be in that chute as I am.

As long as his name isn’t something like “Original Sin” or “Undertaker’s Apprentice” or “Tornado,” I think I might be OK. It’s the psychological power of a bull’s name that almost gives him the advantage from the get-go, especially since he’s not afraid of someone named “Corey” on his back.

Speaking of tornado, what’s that in the distance? I’m thinking of all-weather events other than a tsunami that’s probably the least likely to occur to get me out of this jam. But I’ll take the one-in-4.2 million odds of that occurring before I consider I have any chance of just clearing the chute on Thursday.

Meanwhile, I’ll put on a brave face and proclaim this is for America, this is for freedom and this is for the love of rodeo and it’s right to exist as a sport. It’s also for your enjoyment. It’s not every day an idiot gets in way over his head in front of a capacity crowd. For that, you’re welcome, and Happy 4th of July.

Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at corey.costelloe@gmail.com. The opinions expressed are his own.