A trip to Fantasyland

Many people live in fantasy worlds, and that can be both a good and a bad thing.

When it comes to sports, fantasy has become a reality in big way. Fantasy football has taken the world by storm, and because of that success, numerous other sports have fantasy leagues that involve fans of all kinds.

The Wrangler National Finals Rodeo has had a fantasy aspect since 2003, when steer wrestler K.C. Jones began Pro Fantasy Rodeo. Now in its 10th year, the competition has grown by leaps and bounds, with nearly 3,000 participants in 2011.

By picking contestants in each event that make up a person’s “team,” fans can put together a lineup of contestants to pull for each night at the rodeo. All fans have to do is go to profantasyrodeo.com and sign up, pay the $89.95 entry fee and pick their teams.

Every player begins with a “salary cap” of $550,000, with top-ranked contestants costing $150,000 to select and contestants in the 15th spot going for $10,000. Entries close Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. PT, and players can pay for and enter as many teams as they would like.

Nightly prizes are awarded, with $2,000 going to each night’s winner, all the way to $250 for sixth place. Winning is simple: put together the team that earns the most combined money at the Wrangler NFR that night, and the $2,000 is yours.

There is also an overall winner, with a 2012 Ram truck going to the team that accumulates the most total money during the 10-day rodeo. Second place is $10,000 cash, and it pays eight places, down to $500 for eighth.

All totaled, $160,000 in fantasy loot will be paid out, and Pro Fantasy Rodeo eclipsed the $1 million mark in money awarded since its inception at last year’s Finals. In addition, a 2012 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. will be awarded to the team with the highest single-day money total during the event, and Rodeo Vegas jackets and Pro Fantasy Rodeo hats will go to the top three winners of the daily rounds.

A 2012 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. will be among the prizes awarded by Pro Fantasy Rodeo this year.

A 2012 Polaris Sportsman 500 H.O. will be among the prizes awarded by Pro Fantasy Rodeo this year.

It’s been a labor of love for Jones and his crew, and the project has gained steam in recent years.

“I’m pretty happy with it,” said Jones, who will compete in his sixth career Wrangler NFR this year. “This will be our 10th year now, and we’re pretty excited. We’re trying to come up with new things every year to keep it fun and keep it interesting for the fans.”

A new wrinkle for this year is a host of prize challenges, where fans can enter their teams in specific pools in addition to the overall prize pool. By paying an extra $5 or $10, fans can put their teams into prize challenge pools that qualify them to win unique prize packages. From a VIP stay at the MGM Grand and Cactus Saddlery gear to Pendleton Whisky loot and Wrangler prize packages, fans can compete for all sorts of prized items.

Rodeo Vegas leather jackets, a coveted item in Las Vegas, will also go to daily winners.

Rodeo Vegas leather jackets, a coveted item in Las Vegas, will also go to daily winners.

Last year’s winners were the two-man Canadian team of Tom Davies and Brad Veno, who put together a stellar team that earned $966,682 during the 10-day rodeo. Bareback rider Kaycee Field, steer wrestler Mickey Gee, team ropers Turtle Powell and Jhett Johnson, saddle bronc rider Jesse Wright, tie-down roper Matt Shiozawa, barrel racer Lindsay Sears and bull rider L.J. Jenkins helped Davies and Veno claim the top prize.

“It was kind of amazing,” said Davies, a heavy-machine operator who lives in Brooks, Alberta. “You always expect to win, but it was a dream come true when it happened to us. We enjoyed it, and this year we’re going a little stronger at it than we did last year.”

Both Jones and Davies agreed that Pro Fantasy Rodeo helps generate interest in the Wrangler NFR and makes it even more of a delight for diehard rodeo fans.

“I think it helps the sport, because it gets more people involved, and it’s a neat deal,” Davies said. “Watching the rodeo is interesting enough itself, but when you have somebody you’re rooting for, it makes it a little more exciting.”

Canadian Tom Davies partnered with friend Brad Veno to win the overall prize in 2011.

Canadian Tom Davies partnered with friend Brad Veno to win the overall prize in 2011.

Davies and Veno split $20,000 instead of taking the truck last year since they had no way to share the Dodge, and Davies said he used the money to buy his wife a car and plan a Costa Rican vacation for February.

Picking the right team requires a good deal of research, instinct and luck, so Davies said the most important thing to remember is to enjoy the experience.

“It’s hard to pick all the guys you want because of the dollar values, so you have to kind of jockey around,” he said. “Just pick who you want and have fun.”

That’s good advice.

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