Philippines, 29 May 2024
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OUTSIDE LOOKING IN: Who said smoking is bad (for an athlete's) health?

Smoking, bad for your health?

Tell that to the marines ? er ? to J. B. Mauney, a 140-pound cowboy who rides 1,800 bulls for living the past 13 years.

J. B. as in James Burton, can be seen with a cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth a couple of hours before seeing action in competitions he takes part in.

?Well, hell, it?s a stressful profession,? he told Erik Brady of USA TODAY in a story published on September 26.

Mauney smokes Marlboros, which he calls ?Cowboy killers,? flashing a crooked grin that makes the cigarette move in his mouth with a long trail of ash hanging on precariously, like a cowboy to a bull.

He was in a makeshift locker room in the bowels of a basketball arena at George Mason University in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, getting ready for another premier series stop on the Professional Bull Riders tour.

Mauney is a two-time world champion and PBR?s most popular cowboy, as measured by merchandise and social media, Brady reported.

J. B. said bull riding is all he?s been doing in his entire life. ?They put me on a sheep when I was three.?

Mauney (pronounced Mooh-nee) rode his first bull at 13 and turned pro at 18. He?s 31 now, though some days his body feels more like 81. And before the night is out, this will be another of those days.

Mauney?s tattooed torso offers a jumble of sayings and symbols. ?Carpe Diem? reads one. ?It Is What It Is? reads another. ?Born to Ride? reads the one across his shoulders. He?s got 16, by his count ? branded, like a bull.

?I did a lot of questionable things when I was younger,? he deadpans.

He?s won more than $7.2 million in prize money, the most in western sports history. More difficult to count are the broken bones. He figures it?s simpler to count the ones he hasn?t busted.

Only last year, Mauney tore his right arm almost completely off, which needed a screw with 13 anchors in his right shoulder. They said the skin was the only thing holding it on. All four rotator cuff muscles were tore off at the bone. Bicep, tendon, labrum, everything. Broke the ball in three places. They had to take pieces of the ball out.

He wsn?t complaining though. Only his way of explanation.?Part of the game,? Mauney wold say. ?You ride these bulls for 13 years you?re going to break a lot of (expletive).?

Mauney raises bulls of his own on his North Carolina ranch. ?Some of them are mean, some of them are nice. Just like people.?

J. B. clarified though that that he said about a stressful profession was just a joke. He doesn?t do stress.

?I don?t worry about a whole lot,? he related. ?People ask me, ?Well, how do you prepare?? I don?t.?

Truth is, Mauney doesn?t prepare strategy for his rides. Doesn?t work out at the gym. Just goes out and wings it, an old-school cowboy competing against young stars who lift weights, eat right ? and don?t smoke.

He?s been to a gym once, he confessed. ?That was to buy a membership so I could have a tax write-off.?

The bulls he raises are aggravating, but he likes them. They?re like having an 1,800-pound 3-year-old kid. They break everything.?

That includes him, of course. He tells a story about the week before he was going to turn pro. A bull stomped him and he broke all the ribs on his right side. Had a lacerated liver and bruised kidney, too.

?They said it could have killed me,? Mauney says. ?They said it would be six to eight months before I could ride again. I told them they was crazy. I was working at a ball bearings plant and that was enough to make anyone decide they were going to have hell trying to throw me off.?

Bulls can throw him, sure, but not doctors, although last year he listened to one who said his arm wouldn?t heal right if he didn?t stop smoking. So he quit cold turkey for four months ? and started up again the day he was cleared to ride.

Mauney wakes up happy every day,? his wife, Samantha Lyne Mauney, who was standing in a hallway near the arena floor about an hour before showtime remarked.

She?s got an ironclad rule for their ranch: No smoking in the house. Mauney spends most of his days outside anyway, raising cattle and riding and roping and all the rest. She figures that?s why he doesn?t need a gym: Ranch work trumps workouts.

?He?ll quit smoking,? Samantha , a champion barrel racer herself said. She comes from rodeo royalty. Phil Lyne, her father, won all-around cowboy championships at the National Finals Rodeo back in the day.

The Great American Cowboy, a 1973 documentary about her father?s rivalry with another rodeo star, won the Academy Award for best documentary feature in 1974.

Now she?s married to her own great American cowboy with whom she has a 7-year-old daughter, Bella, from a previous relationship. Samantha is pregnant and this time it?s a boy.

Asked when she thinks her husbnd will quit smoking, Samantha retorted: ?He?ll stop smoking when he quits riding.?

Click here to view a list of other articles written by Eddie Alinea.

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