As I sit here in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo press room one last night this year, it’s hard to believe my 10th Finals is coming to a close.
Where did 10 years go? A decade ago, I was a greener-than-green greenhorn who barely knew the difference between a steer and a calf, didn’t know how the mark-out rule worked or what a barrier was and who was just trying to keep my head above water as I took everything in.
I’m not exactly a rodeo expert now, but I know enough to have forgotten some things, and I’ve seen a whole heap of history and amazing moments through the years. For 10 years, I’ve had a ringside seat at the Wrangler NFR to witness some of the greatest moments in rodeo as they unfolded.
Some years run together, but I have a treasure trove of great memories from the last decade here in Las Vegas. I thought about coming up with a “top 10” list and ranking my favorite moments and memories, but I realized pretty quickly that it’s impossible to rank everything one through 10.
Instead, I think I will just list them one by one in no particular order since they are unique and so different that an attempt at ranking them would be futile. Some are achievements I’ve seen happen inside the arena, others are personal experiences and then others are anecdotal or statistical.
So, here we go:
Trevor’s Triple Crown(s)
I’ll never forget what I saw Trevor Brazile do in 2007, when he became the first cowboy since Hall of Famer Roy “Super Looper” Cooper in 1983 to win a Triple Crown. Brazile won the steer roping, all-around (of course) and tie-down roping gold buckles – in that order – to accomplish the amazing feat. For good measure, he did it again three years later, except in steer roping, the all-around and team roping. Purely awesome.
Walker triumphs after tragedy
No column I ever wrote got more visceral response from fans than a pre-NFR article I wrote last year on barrel racer Mary Walker. Walker had overcome the tragedy of losing her son, Reagon, and recovered from a debilitating hip and pelvic injury to not only qualify for her first Finals at the age of 53, but went on to win the world title. Many tears were shed in the press room as Walker tried to grasp the gravity of what she had just done, and they weren’t all hers.
A chat with Charlie
Last year, I happened by the Wrangler NFR security office and saw country music legend Charlie Daniels hanging out in there before his performance in the opening of Round 5 last year. Knowing some of the security personnel through the years, I stepped into the room and asked Daniels if I could bend his ear for a few minutes. He was more than welcoming and offered me a seat next to him. We only chatted for five minutes or so, but he was interesting, engaging and a great interview. I just got a “good guy” vibe from him that left a nice impression on me. Yes, Charlie Daniels is a class act, and I can attest to that personally.
An exclusive with Trevor
The first year I did the “NFR Insider” column in 2011, I had the unique pleasure of not only getting an exclusive with Brazile, but the treat of doing the interview in his massive suite at the MGM Grand. I’d heard his “pad” during the Finals was something special to behold, and I wanted to get a look at it. I had known Trevor for years from my role as editor of the ProRodeo Sports News, so I felt comfortable asking him for the special access. He is insanely busy during the Wrangler NFR, but he agreed to let me have an inside look at what living the good life is like. Shada and the kids were there, and I got some great, honest information from Brazile during our informal interview. The piece I wrote is one I’m extremely proud of and one of my best-received articles from that year.
Disco fever at Studio 54
Another highlight from 2011 was my night at the now-closed Studio 54 at MGM Grand. I went to the huge casino to get a taste of the night life and ended up meeting the Studio 54 manager, taking photos of cowboys dancing on the dance floor and hanging out in the iconic night club for a few fun hours. It was a great place, and I was sorry to hear they closed it last year.
A ridiculous roping
The best team roping I’ve ever seen came in Round 9 of the 2009 Finals, when Chad Masters and Jade Corkill set the world and Wrangler NFR record with a 3.3-second run. Not only was their run blistering, but there were a total of five times under 4.0 seconds that night. The team of JoJo LeMond and Randon Adams set the world and Wrangler NFR record of 3.4 seconds earlier in the round before Masters and Corkill stole the show, and a team had to be 5.1 seconds just to win a check. It was so amazing, we wrote an article about it in the PSN early the next year.
Stran the man
Tie-down roper Stran Smith is about as good of a person as they come, and seeing him finally win a gold buckle in 2008 was a special treat. Smith had finished fourth in 2005, fifth in 2007 and survived a stroke in 2003. The consummate family man finally put everything together in 2008, and everyone in the Thomas & Mack Center was happy for the friendly Texan. I could always count on Smith for a great interview and quality insight, so I was one of them.
Like father, like son
Rodeo is all about family, and I’ve written that on multiple occasions through the years. So, to see Kaycee Feild and Tuf Cooper follow in the Hall of Fame footsteps of their fathers, Lewis and Roy, and win world championships in 2011 was pretty cool. Both of the younger cowboys are great guys, and so I was happy to see them take home gold anyway, but throw in the history and it’s a story that gets even cooler.
Perks for my pops
In 2009, my father, Jimmy, came out to Las Vegas for a few days to see the Wrangler NFR. Being a former Mississippi high school bull riding and all-around champion (1967), he had a blast seeing the rodeo. I gave him a behind-the-scenes tour and was able to give him an even more special treat one day. We were doing a pair of photo shoots with Brazile and Ty Murray, because Brazile tied Murray’s all-around record that year. Murray brought his wife, Jewel along for the photo shoots, and I was able to introduce my dad to her and Murray at the South Point. I took his picture with her, and he couldn’t have been happier (can you blame him?). I also got my picture taken with her and with Brazile and Murray as well, so it was a great day for both Reid men.
I’ve had the pleasure of covering some great cowboys and cowgirls the last 10 years, and it has been great to see some really good people win gold buckles. From Bobby Mote and Kelly Timberman in the bareback riding to Luke Branquinho, Dean Gorsuch and Lee Graves in the steer wrestling, I’ve seen my fair share of awesome world champs. Names like B.J. Schumacher, Matt Austin, Taos Muncy, J.W. Harris, Patrick Smith, Kelly Kaminski, Rocky Patterson and Jhett Johnson also come to mind, and I could add another 20 more with ease. It’s always fun to see good things happen to good people, and witnessing world titles being won by quality folks always puts a smile on my face.
I’m sure I’ve left something out (or maybe five things), but those are the “things” that immediately came to mind when I set out to compile this list. Maybe something will happen later tonight while new world champions are crowned that will be worthy of this list. That’s the beauty of the sport and the allure of the Wrangler NFR.