Since there are just nine days remaining before the 2014 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo kicks off in Las Vegas, I thought I would point out nine things fans need to know about this year’s 10-day extravaganza.
There are several more things to keep in mind in addition to these nine, and thankfully NFRExperience.com is a great “one-stop shopping” place for rodeo fans to get the low-down on everything about this year’s Finals. Here’s a quick look at nine that come to mind when I think about the impending rodeo.
- Trevor Brazile will win another all-around title.
This isn’t exactly a news flash, but it’s worth mentioning that arguably the greatest cowboy of all time will continue to add to his growing legacy. He won another gold buckle at the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping earlier this month, and his all-around crown will be world championship No. 21. Tuf Cooper is mathematically alive, just $144,582 behind Brazile, but Brazile would need to virtually be skunked in the team roping and tie-down roping. That simply won’t happen, and Brazile has a great shot to win another team roping title and has a chance at the tie-down roping gold buckle as well. In the end, Brazile will claim his 12th all-around championship, and hopefully fans appreciate the level of greatness they’re witnessing with him.
- “New blood” could shine in Las Vegas.
This year’s rodeo includes 27 first-timers who will experience competition inside the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time. Several of them – including bull riding world standings leader Sage Kimzey and fifth-ranked steer wrestler Clayton Hass – have great chances to challenge for gold buckles and should make some waves in their inaugural Finals appearances. Bull riding has the most first-timers, with seven of the 15 competitors checking in as Wrangler NFR rookies.
Rodeo fans will be treated to a one-hour documentary on CBS Sports Network on Dec. 1 titled “Buckin’ the Odds – 30 Years of the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas” to commemorate the event’s 30th year in the “Entertainment Capital of the World.” The documentary will air at 7 p.m. PT/10 p.m. ET and feature interviews with Hall of Famers like Ty Murray, Shawn Davis and Joe Beaver and numerous Las Vegas leaders and is produced, written and produced by Jeff Medders and Kirk Martindale. It will tell the story of the rodeo’s move from Oklahoma City in 1985 and its evolution in Las Vegas. In addition, my book “Rodeo’s Gold Rush: The Stories Behind the Greatest 30 Years in Rodeo History” tells the same story in print will be sold nightly at the Thomas & Mack Center and daily at the Cowboy Christmas Gift Show.
- Television broadcasts to bring Wrangler NFR to millions.
I haven’t heard too much about this year’s television information for the Finals, so here’s the low-down for rodeo lovers who won’t be able to make it to Las Vegas Dec. 4-13 for this year’s season-capper. In the United States, the Wrangler NFR will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network, which is channel 221 on DirecTV, channel 158 on Dish and Channel 333 on Cox Cable. Broadcasts will run from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. ET each night. For rodeo fans north of the border in Canada, they can find the broadcasts through CBS Sports Net carriers Rogers, Bell Aliant, Cogeco, SaskTel, Canadian Cable Systems and Ontario, Inc. That’s all I know, and if you have more questions, call your TV providers.
- There will only be 15 team roping teams in Las Vegas.
This usually goes without saying, but a pair of team roping tandems filed grievances with the PRCA that could have ended with 16 teams nodding their heads at this year’s Finals. The team of Tom Richards and Cesar de la Cruz won an appeal on Oct. 31 that put them in the field and knocked Chad Masters and Kinney Harrell from the Wrangler NFR lineup. Masters and Harrell then began their own three-step grievance process that concluded on Monday with a ruling by the Grievance Review Committee. The Committee deliberated overnight before announcing on Tuesday that Masters’ and Harrell’s appeal was denied. That makes Richards and de la Cruz the 15th and final team roping pair in this year’s field. I will follow up with a separate article about this situation from the Wrangler NFR, so stay tuned for more details and quotes from the quartet of cowboys involved.
- Wrangler NFR going social in a big way.
This year’s rodeo will feature a massive interactive social hub, where fans can use their favorite forms of social media to connect with what’s going on in Las Vegas. Social media is one of the most powerful and popular forces at work in the universe these days, and ProRodeo and the Wrangler NFR have embraced it in a major way. Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube or Instagram, rodeo fans have several online avenues that will help them enjoy the world’s richest rodeo like never before. I will be Tweeting throughout the Finals as well, so follow me @NealReid21 to get some “NFR Insider” insight in the palm of your hand.
- Super service still available for rodeo fans.
The Wrangler NFR is one of the most fan-friendly events in all of sports, and two examples of that are the nightly satellite feeds that are piped into area hotels and casino properties and the NFR Express free shuttle service. Fans who can’t get tickets for the rodeo at the Thomas & Mack Center can watch the night’s performances live at more than 40 casinos and hotels via “Beyond the Dirt” satellite feeds. The feeds are free, and many casinos have begun to host watch parties each night that are a heap of fun. For the full list of participating properties, click here. The NFR Express is back and better than ever, so fans in Las Vegas who need rides to the Thomas & Mack Center or Cowboy Christmas can hop on a bus at 22 hotel properties and ride for free. The shuttle service begins at 5 p.m. PT for the 6:45 p.m. nightly performances and will drop fans back at their hotels via return service until 10:30 p.m. Here’s more information on the shuttle buses.
- Post-rodeo entertainment, parties to have another huge presence.
One of the greatest things about the Wrangler NFR is the number of post-performance entertainment options, parties and celebrations that go on across town on a nightly basis. Fans lucky enough to get to Las Vegas for the Finals can visit a different party or celebration after the rodeo each night and mingle with contestants and friends as replays of the rodeo are played on big screens. Fans can also check out ample entertainment opportunities throughout the city every night in a city that buzzes 24/7. The city really does become a “Cowboy Town” every December, and there are multiple ways to see that each night.
- Rodeo fans can get married at Cowboy FanFest.
That’s right, anyone who gets the urge while at Cowboy FanFest and Cowboy Christmas can tie the knot at the Rope ‘Em In Wedding Chapel, powered by Zappos.com. There aren’t too many places where a person can get their Christmas shopping done, see some great entertainment, grab a drink and a bite to eat and get hitched all in one day, but Cowboy FanFest and Cowboy Christmas provide all of that and more. Having thousands of potential wedding gifts at the ready is also a benefit for wedding attendees who don’t want to bother with gift registries.