For four days Justin McBride has been pumped full of antibiotics, a last-ditch effort to curb the effects of viral meningitis on the eve of the Professional Bull Riders World Finals.
Silly doctors, don’t they know the only drug that will cure McBride will be found at the end of an eight-second ride?
“That’s what keeps you coming back,” McBride said Thursday, sounding completely healthy. “That’s why you do it — for that feeling. It’s a feeling of satisfaction, of accomplishment. The whole ride itself and the whole buildup to the ride is the adrenaline.
“It is definitely an addiction to that one feeling.”
If the feeling of victory is an addiction, consider the former UNLV rodeo team member a junkie.
Heading into the “Super Bowl for bull riders,” McBride is more than 1,700 points ahead of No. 2 cowboy J.B. Mauney, and he has the chance to become the first rider to rack up more than $2 million in season winnings.
So no measly case of viral meningitis is going to sideline him.
In a sport known as much for toughness as jeans and 10-gallon hats, McBride has no issues about riding while sick. This is a guy who has climbed atop bulls while nursing broken ribs, a broken leg and punctured lungs.
And here’s the scary part: He’s not even one of the crazy ones.
“It’s hard to be 100 percent, but I feel plenty good enough,” said McBride, whose MySpace page has countless get-well messages from the past three days. “You understand when you start out in this sport that there are no guaranteed paydays. If you’re gonna do well and make a living, you’re gonna ride with injuries.”
McBride is lucky; he has never really had to worry about making a living. In eight years on the PBR tour, the Oklahoman has amassed winnings of more than $3 million, plus another $687,175 this season. Sure, that $2 million season signpost has its allure, but McBride is already financially secure.
Now, it’s entirely about that feeling, that adrenaline rush. Maybe it has been the whole time. Maybe that’s why McBride has been so successful.
“It’s always been about winning for the sake of winning,” McBride said, sounding not the least bit cocky. “That’s always been my greatest motivation. I hate losing more than I like winning.”
That motivation could be starting to wane.
With a 19-month-old daughter, Addison, and a recently purchased, 32-acre ranch in Oklahoma — now you know where all those winnings went — McBride concedes that his riding days are probably numbered. With another PBR world championship, McBride says he might be satisfied.
Some day soon, he’ll retire to his ranch and give up riding for good.
“I don’t see myself ever really getting into the stock contracting part of it,” McBride said. “I’ve been an owner in the PBR for a few years, and I’ll stay involved. But other than that, I don’t know how involved I’ll stay in it. When I’m done, I’m done. This is all I’ve done for half my life.”
But he still has a few rides left, and it starts tonight at Mandalay Bay Events Center aboard Smash Hit, on the sport’s biggest stage. Battling sickness, expectations and pressure, McBride, though, is in his element.
“I relish this,” he said. “This is why you compete in sports, for the big show. It’s the level that everyone wants to be at. It’s the position that everyone wants to be in. That’s why I compete in this sport — for the chance to be the best at it.
The PBR World Finals run at Mandalay Bay through Sunday and then at the Thomas & Mack Center for four days next week beginning Thursday night.
Contact reporter Jon Gold at email@example.com.