I feel sure there are plenty of folks who, while sitting on the couch at home, were very critical of the team roping at the NFR this year. This is the first time in many years the steers were big – big horns, big frames – and they were fresh. It’s very hard to execute 4-second runs when steers are fresh and don’t have a pattern. What I mean by no pattern is when the gate bangs the steer doesn’t start, hesitates, and then starts off slow. This causes the header to have to pull. Then, when the steer leaves, he’s not running to the back end. He’s moving left or right and not going steady in any one direction. The steers were fresh enough that when the headers hit them hard in the corner, in that little arena, they came out of the corner with their legs spread. That makes it very difficult to throw fast or catch two feet.
Don’t get me wrong – I thought the steers were some of the best they’ve had at the NFR in a long time. The first time I made the NFR in 1988 we roped big steers but they had never been roped. Roping big, fresh steers requires a totally different game plan. You have to be very patient, disciplined and make the best run you can. It’s not what the NFR has been for the last 10 or 12 years, where the header can come over the top of the chute and go fast. If the steers used this year would have had three or four more runs, so when the gates banged they knew to take off, it would have been a completely different finals in my opinion.
I’ve never seen an NFR where, at the end of the 7th round, over half the field had a chance at a world title. Then, at the start of the last performance there were still four guys who had a real chance to win a world title.
Those are the top 15 ropers in the world. Every one of them can go fast and rope outstanding. But when you try to make a 3- or 4-second run on big steers, the level of difficulty is extremely high. The start is so important. The timing for the header as he’s swinging his rope when the gate opens is crucial. When the steer doesn’t go, it completely messes that up. Though the steers were fresh, it’s definitely better than roping worn out steers. There’s a fine line there somewhere. Those guys competed hard all year to get a chance to rope at the finals. The steers won the battle this year at the NFR.
Anyone who thinks they can do it should build a little arena and give it a try. I thought there were some great runs on some difficult steers. It might not be as much fun to watch, but it requires more strategy to rope those steers. A header has to think, ride his horse, set things up and try and give his heeler the best shot possible. It wasn’t easy and much different than the last few years.
There are lots of rumors flying about the NFR leaving Las Vegas. The commissioner of the PRCA is trying to negotiate a contract that will raise the prize and payout money for the entire NFR – both the cowboys and stock contractors. There are several cities interested in hosting the NFR. That’s never happened before and shows how much popularity rodeo and the NFR has gained. For the last 29 years we’ve associated the NFR with Las Vegas and that’s all we’ve ever known. Change is usually scary but can be a good thing. Time will tell.
It sure would be nice if the cowboys were guaranteed a substantial amount of money rather than a small amount of money for qualifying for the NFR. This is the Super Bowl of rodeo. It’s pretty tough for the guys who make the NFR then don’t have a good week, or get hurt in the first round or two. They have to start all over and do it again. In my opinion, if you qualify for the finals it should be something special. It should be prestigious with a reward for being one of the top 15 in the world. Now, if you make the finals, you have to prove it all over again once you get there.
Congratulations to Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill for going into the finals with a lead and surviving to win a world title. They made a great run on a tough steer in the final round.
What’s new with me: Before making the long drive home from Las Vegas, I witnessed an amazing roping at the South Point where the World Series of Team Roping finals paid out over $7 million. Many dreams were shattered, and a few came true, almost like the NFR. I was very proud of my wife’s roping, though she had some tough breaks. I’ll be loading her runs on speedroping.com and explaining what happened. She’s been heeling outstanding and had a chance to make the short round in the #9. She roped her steer by two feet and the steer’s tail wrapped around her rope preventing her loop from coming tight.
Shay and I will be going to some of the winter rodeos. In January my family and I will be heading to Brazil for some schools.