December 13, 2007

And They Call The Thing Rodeo

I've never made a secret for my love of rodeo -- indeed, the one positive thing about the approaching end of the football season is that it brings me that much closer to RodeoHouston this spring. And right now its time for the National Finals Rodeo, the event that caps off the year for the sport that grew out of the everyday skills of the American cowboy.

The New York Times covers it today.

Just as they did in the 1882, when Buffalo Bill Cody organized the first major rodeo, in North Platte, Neb., cowboys rope calves, ride rough stock and wrestle steers. Life for a cowboy, however, does not get much better than the 10 days they spend here each December chasing the biggest pot of the year at the National Finals Rodeo.

It means that after 80 or so rodeos, they are one of the top 15 competitors in their discipline. It means that after more than 270 days on the road driving four cowboys to a truck and sleeping two to a room or often a tent they finally receive their own accommodations.

And at the lower levels of the sport, that is exactly the case every weekend. But at the NFR -- not to mention here in Houston -- you see the best of the best competing for incredible amounts of cash. That is where the living is sweet -- though the risk is high. Certainly the physical toll that the sport takes is every bit as high as football -- except that there is no such thing as a penalty flag on a bucking horse, nor does a bull stop its spinning and bucking after 8 seconds. And yet these men keep on enduring the pain for one more shot at the gold buckle and a check.

Indeed, I've got only one complaint about the article. Why pick this picture to be the first thing you see about the story?


I can tell you that there would have been plenty of American flags and probably 49 other state flags presented in an identical fashion. Why play up the one with the Confederate Battle Flag so prominently displayed? Is it a sign that someone with the NYT wanted to surreptitiously present an editorial opinion about rodeo and its enthusiasts? Or was this really the best that they had?

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I was at the NFR on Saturday and Sunday. They had about 15 States and two Canadian provinces represented. All the folks from each state or province rode out behind the person carrying that flag. Sure they cherry picked it. What they also probably didn't tell you about was the standing ovation for the military members in the crowd on Sunday night.

The bulls won on Sunday night. Only two riders scored.

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