Call me Captain Random.
We’re only a day into the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, and there has already been enough random and miscellaneous news for me to write a “hodgepodge” column. But such is the case in Las Vegas during the 10-day rodeo, and news develops at breakneck speed as the event rolls on.
I’ve always considered the Wrangler NFR a living, breathing thing, and the way odds and ends pop up hour by hour is, I think, further proof of that. Round 1 was an interesting and entertaining kickoff to the world’s richest rodeo, and there were plenty of noteworthy developments.
The opening ceremony was full of action, including an unplanned dismount when two-time World Champion Patrick Smith was bucked off the horse he was riding as the world standings leaders were introduced to the crowd via a lap around the arena. Smith lost a boot and landed hard on the Thomas & Mack Center dirt – and I’m sure he’ll be appreciative me mentioning this – but came out of the buck-off no worse for wear and teamed with Trevor Brazile to finish third in the go-round.
A flag girl was rumored to have “drawn” the same horse for her part of the Round 1 action, but reports were that she was able to hang on despite the steed’s repeated crow hops through the arena. Smith might have trouble living that down.
The opening ceremony also included Olympic silver medalist archer Brady Ellison of Payson, Ariz., who shot an arrow into a gold buckle target to trigger the night’s pyrotechnics. It was a cool touch that reminded me a bit of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics when a paralympic archer lit the cauldron.
Stock contracting legends Bob Barnes and Harry Vold were honored in a nice lap around the arena during Round 1 for being the only contractors to provide stock to every Wrangler NFR. It was nice to see the men honored, and the fans ate it up.
What did I just see?
I nearly had an aneurysm when a certain video was played in the arena and on the closed-circuit TV system in the Thomas & MackCenter before the bull riding. Apparently, the Wrangler NFR contestants, staff – including General Manager Shawn Davis – and even Elvis taped a choreographed dance routine set to the monumentally popular song “Gangnam Style” by Korean rapper PSY.
I have to admit I have been partly responsible for PSY’s song nearing one billion hits on YouTube, and I’ve heard the catchy tune at literally every sporting event I’ve covered or attended the last two months. You can’t watch the cherubic and chubby Korean – who reminds me a lot of a certain PRCA PROCOM department staffer and Nebraska Cornhuskers fan who will remain nameless – in that video and not laugh, and seeing the NFR’s version of it really made my day.
A nifty 50
The Wrangler NFR notes put together each day by PRCA Senior Media Relations Coordinator Jim Bainbridge – one of the best and hardest-working people in the industry – called attention to the fact that this year’s Finals is the 50th that Davis has been involved with. The three-time world champion saddle bronc rider competed in the rodeo and was involved in organizational roles before becoming the rodeo’s GM in 1986. Shawn does a great job, and it’s nice to see him reach this milestone.
One place you don’t want to visit in Vegas
While most people were taking in the sights and enjoying Las Vegas on Monday and Tuesday, bull rider Kanin Asay – the reigning Xtreme Bulls champion – was laid up in the hospital with a blood infection. That just sounds painful, but the five-time Wrangler NFR qualifier was released on Wednesday and climbed aboard Salt River Rodeo’s Smilin Bob on Thursday night. He was bucked off, but my hat is off to the friendly and devout Asay, who is a fan favorite.
I can say from personal experience that a hospital is one of the few places in Las Vegas you don’t want to visit (I had an epic acid reflux incident a few years ago during the NFR), and so I was happy to see Asay be able to climb into the chute Thursday night.
Put ‘em up!
I had an interesting e-mail pop into my inbox on Wednesday from one of MGM Resorts International’s PR managers. Legendary tie-down ropers Cody Ohl and Fred Whitfield – both MGM Grand-sponsored cowboys – stopped by the press conference for the fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez for a photo op with the boxers.
The two diminutive pugilists will face off Saturday night in one of the biggest fights of the year, and Ohl and Whitfield were a part of the build-up to it. The photo was taken from below, so you can’t fully see just how much the cowboys tower over the 147-pounders, and it was a pretty cool promotion for the multiple-time world champs.
Dressed to the nines
The Women’s Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) and the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame have put together a new contest for this year’s Wrangler NFR barrel racers called the Jerry Ann Taylor Best Dressed Award. Fans can go to wpra.com, here http://www.wpra.com/nfr_vote_2012.asp or to facebook.com/cowgirlyglamour and vote each night for the barrel racer they believe is the best dressed during that performance.
The barrel racer who receives the most votes through Dec. 15 will win $5,000 for the contest, which is named after Taylor, a 1986 NationalCowgirlMuseum and Hall of Fame honoree. The same contest will be held at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo Finals in Februrary.
Get ready to see more sequins than you can shake a whip at!
Speaking of which, I followed Brazile’s lead by having my picture taken with a pair of Las Vegas showgirls (much to my girlfriend’s chagrin) in the press room as they prepared to take part in the opening ceremony. They must have recognized me from my picture in the Review-Journal or on this blog when they asked me to pose with them!
I spent the end of the night enjoying the hospitality of steer wrestler K.C. Jones and his Rodeo Vegas partners at The Mirage – including Michael O’Brien – as Miss Willie Brown performed on the stage set up in the casino’s sports book. Rodeo Vegas has a heck of a concert lineup scheduled for this year’s Wrangler NFR, so I suggest you check it out.
I was sitting next to Jones and Wade Sumpter as the Round 1 replay was being shown on the big screen in the sports book, and steer wrestling just happened to be on. I couldn’t resist asking the former college linebacker Sumpter if him overshooting a quick-stopping steer and receiving a no-time counted as a missed tackle.
He acted like he hadn’t heard me (it was loud in there), but Jones cackled and said yes. Wade’s a great guy and a talented bulldogger, and I’m glad he didn’t try and tackle me after my sarcastic remark.
That would have been a shame, because I would have likely spilled my drink.