By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Something Adriano thought he could do.
In the fourth round he drew Crossfire Hurricane, a bull that had bucked off all comers in 2004. It was not a fun ride. Toward the end, Adriano nearly fell over the front of the bull and had to use his bicep to stay on. After he dismounted, he dropped to his knees in the arena. The judges scored the ride a 93, the best score of the fourth round.
But a third title wasn't to be. Mike Lee, the 21-year-old who'd finished the season second to Adriano in points, rode seven of eight bulls in Vegas. Adriano rode only four.
But Paulo Crimber was one of two cowboys to ride his first five bulls. And Adriano and his brothers became the first trio to qualify for a world championship. And Ednei Caminhas overcame injury to win $130,000 on the season. And Guilherme Marchi rode nearly half his bulls in his first year on tour.
And 10 years after one Brazilian finished in the top 45 of the PBR, five Brazilians were there.
There's Paulo Crimber, with an ice pack on his swollen riding hand, standing on the walkway behind Adriano's chute. He has the charisma to be the next Adriano: He ends each conversation with a wink, and after each successful ride, he does a dance that can only be described as cowboy hip-hop. And Crimber obviously has the talent. It's just staying healthy long enough to inherit the throne.
Allan Moraes stands next to Crimber. The youngest of the Moraes brothers, he attended Mass this afternoon in his pajamas. He looks as though he'll one day outgrow the extra pounds he carries.
Andre Moraes, his build as unassuming as his personality, is nearly squished in the effort to prepare his older brother for his ride.
Guilherme Marchi comes into tonight with a 73 percent riding average for 2005, improving on a rather impressive rookie season. He keeps quiet as Crimber and the others shout encouragement.
As does Rogerio Ferreira. Tomorrow afternoon, he will be the only Brazilian to make it to the championship round of the Express PBR Classic in Oklahoma City.
Adriano Moraes closes his eyes and breathes. Beneath him is Coyote Ugly, the bull that three months ago tore Adriano's bicep from the bone. After the season, when Dr. Freeman operated on Adriano, he found tendons so shredded, nothing could be fixed. He pulled the muscle to its full length and, as he says, "kind of tacked it down." But the muscle is not connected to the bone.
Adriano hasn't ridden Coyote Ugly since his injury. The moment is significant enough to draw Ty Murray from wherever the PBR president sits during an event. Murray ambles up the walkway and peeks between Brazilian shoulders.
Seconds later, Adriano nods his head. The gate flies open.
And Adriano's bucked off. The ride lasts less than two seconds. "What in the world happened there?" the announcer asks. But perhaps the better question is "What in the world does this mean?" Is retirement far off? And if not, who will be the next great Brazilian bull rider?
Adriano's told Crimber when he retires--perhaps years from now, perhaps not: Adriano's never been one to plan ahead--that Crimber has the skill and personality to be a legend.
But the rider Adriano really likes is one he saw last December, when he was home for Christmas. To hear Adriano talk about this cowboy is to hear Charlie Sampson talk about a young Adriano. Even some of the language is the same. The bull rider in Brazil is 25 years old, but boy does he have great technique, boy can he "ride like a son of a gun," Adriano says. He's already persuaded him to come to the United States. Not surprisingly, Adriano's helping to get the papers processed.