The Talking series is a weekly segment that delves into the topics that guests discuss at Men’s Daily Warrior Podcast.
Imagine climbing up 2,000 pounds of lean muscle, raging testosterone, and ravenous horns, knowing that once the chute opens, the onslaught of dollars and violent kicks will make eight seconds seem like an eternity. Now imagine doing this for decades, and relentlessly pursuing your dreams. By Michael Gaffney, Co-Founder of Professional bull riders, there is no need to fantasize. lived it.
Professional Bull Riders (PBR) is the world’s leading professional bull riding organization, complete with televised events, a subscription-based streaming service, and 83 million loyal fans in the United States alone. The company was a huge success by any definition, but in 1992 it was just a handful of cowboys with little money and even less chance of making it. During a recent episode of the Men Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast, I spoke with one of these cowboys, Michael Gaffney. In this article, I look at where his love of bull riding originated, what it takes to disrupt the industry and revolutionize the sport, and what he values most in life.
Why ride a bull?
When most of us were deciding who to play with in kindergarten, 5-year-old Gaffney was competing in his first rodeo. Instead of the massive beasts that would one day define his career, the future legend rode a 500-pound wrestling thrust that “was more like a big dog than anything with horns,” Gaffney says. That day’s journey lasted only a few seconds, but sparked a lifelong love for the sport. What followed was an incredible career that included winning the elusive gold clip as the PBR World Champion in 1997 and his record ride on the legendary Little Yellow Jacket in 2004. Gaffney retired after the 2004 season but returned in 2018 for one last run.
Professional bull riders
Prior to PBR, professional bull riders risked their lives every night with barely enough to cover their travel expenses and entrance fees – if they were lucky. In April 1992, 20 of the world’s best bull riders, including Gaffney, decided to stand up and challenge the companies getting richer on the backs of hard-working cowboys. Although getting away from the rodeo was a huge risk, they each invested $1,000 to start their own business. “I called [my wife] And I told her I wrote a check for a thousand dollars,” Gaffney explains. “It wasn’t a good night at Gaffney’s house.”
Despite the momentary hardships, these dreamers knew that people come to see cowboys and bulls, not promoters, which means they have a chance to make a big difference. They took the risk and changed the world of bull riding. There is no doubt that treating athletes like professionals and offering a better product to customers has paid off; Since its inaugural season, the popularity of the PBR has exploded and has taken on the great American tradition of riding bulls all over the world.
Three decades later, PBR is turning things around once again by adding the team series to the lineup. While the ride will still have a cowboy trying to cover his bull for eight seconds, each rider’s performance will collect points for the team. The season runs from summer to fall and consists of 10 regular events and one per tournament. Being such an integral part of the sport’s history, Gaffney is excited to be part of her future as head coach of the Austin Gamblers, one of the eight teams in the league.
the father and his son
You’d think Gaffney, the 2005 PBR Ring of Honor recruit, comes from a family steeped in bull riding traditions, but he doesn’t. His father, a tough guy who served two rounds in Vietnam as an F-4 fighter pilot, was so afraid his son would get hurt that Gaffney suspected he intentionally made him miss his first high school competition. Despite his anger at the time, Gaffney now says, “I didn’t know how scared he was until I had my son…You know the real vulnerability when you have a child.”
As Gaffney speaks, you can hear his father’s reverence and sense how much his father helped shape the man he is today. While he was growing up, his father emphasized to him the importance of treating others with respect. Now a father, Gaffney imparts this wisdom to his son with lessons from his own life. He reminds the 14-year-old to “put on his shoelaces…and work through” whatever he does because he can be a fierce competitor and a good person.
What a person is most proud of says a lot about their personality. While Gaffney is proud of what he’s accomplished in the arena, he values two things much more, “I’m proud that I’m a respected father and that my wife is such a big part of my life; she’s been my best friend since we were kids, and I look forward to seeing her every day,” he explains. Although putting his family above all else says a lot, those who spend their lives riding bulls can’t quite get away. It is a passion that runs deep in their hearts and souls. Gaffney may have traded in resin, seasons, and triggers to begin the next chapter of his life, but the sport he helped revolutionize will forever be a part of him.
Check out my entire conversation with Gaffney on The Men’s Journal Everyday Warrior Podcast, Available now.
To access exclusive gear videos, celebrity interviews, and more, Subscribe to YouTube!