Austin's health status changes everything


(Oct. 23, 2006) — I just got a call from Matt Austin, and he said he thinks he's pulled something, gotten hurt, and he's probably going to miss Indianapolis, Ind. (Oct. 27-28). If he can't go in Indianapolis, that leaves the bull riding race wide open.

Florida (Kissimmee) went good for everybody. I'll tell you, JayC Bean really made a statement that he's for real. He's not a rookie, but he's never really overly impressed anybody. He has a lot of talent, and he knows what he's doing, but I think some people think he might have underachieved in the past. He's doing a great job now, though. And he's riding real consistently right now — his first ride in Florida was as good as his last one.

I'm still picking Austin to win the whole thing if his health holds up. It's his to win, or lose, and he knows how to win a championship, so he's not going to be thinking, 'Can I do this?' He knows he can do it, and these other guys know he can do it. It's right there for the taking for Matt. But there's so many others who could jump into the spotlight. Matt's got a good lead and he's riding good, but you just can't count anybody out with Indianapolis on the horizon and the Wrangler NFR right around the corner. And now if Matt ends up missing some events, you just don't know what's going to happen. You can close the gap pretty quick if you can get hot.

I'm not sure there's anything I would change about the Xtreme Bulls. What's not to like? I'll tell you, the Xtreme Bulls is such a good thing for these guys. These guys have so many choices now, and they don't have to travel as much to make more money. It's a great time to be a bull rider. Now you can go where the money is. And that's the best thing about the Tour, if you ask me, the amount of money you can win in such a short amount of time. But really, the main thing is that you have so many choices.

I don't have any disappointments with the Tour, none at all. Like I said, what's not to like? These guys have so much going for them. I love the format, and I know for a fact these guys love the format.

I'm looking forward to Indianapolis. I haven't seen that venue, but I've got some history there, some good memories. In August of 1972, I won the first go and the second go and the average, and got a check for $928. Now if I did that at an Xtreme Bulls event, I'd probably win $25,000. But it was a great event — the night I won, after the rodeo, I sat on the front row at a Dolly Parton concert. Doesn't get much better than that.

Do I think I was born too soon? Nah. It's all relative. A Cadillac used to cost $5,500, and now some of them cost $55,000. It's all relative. Besides, I'm too busy, and I'm having too much fun, so I don't have time to think about stuff like that. No rest for the weary.

With all that's going on, we still have to keep our business going. You start your promotions six months out, so there's no down time. It's not just television work or rodeos. We've got to keep the business running. There's so much going on, but this is a great time of the year. I'm busy as I can be, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Donnie Gay is an eight-time world champion bull rider and was one of the original honorees for the ProRodeo Hall of Fame when it opened in 1979. Gay, who lives in Dallas with his wife Terri, handles the color for the Xtreme Bulls telecasts on ESPN and ESPN2.

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