For most of the 60 years that the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo has been the championship event of the sport, there has been a reporter on the sidelines waiting – not always patiently – to interview the contestants.
He’s missed the NFR the last couple of years, but this year we are sure he is reporting from the sidelines in the sky. The pressroom will never be the same without the big booming voice and presence of Ed Knocke.
Ed’s love of the sport started when he was a sophomore at the University of Texas. He was covering the Cotton Bowl, saw a sign for the NFR and thought it looked like fun. He and a buddy bought tickets and that was the beginning of a love for a sport that became a lifelong passion.
Ed started working for the Dallas Morning News in 1967. When the sports editor found out he was a rodeo fan and they needed someone to cover an event, Ed got the call. He welcomed the task and writing about one rodeo turned into a weekly column that took him across the country and made many friendships. He covered his first NFR in 1973 and was at the rodeo for all 10 performances until his health prevented him from making the trip.
His career at the Dallas Morning News spanned 39 years and paved the way for many more reporters to regularly cover rodeo. Many people would buy a copy of the Thursday paper just to read his column.
“Growing up in North Texas, Ed Knocke was one of the first reporters I ever heard about,” Trevor Brazile said. “He helped our sport so much, getting space for it in a major news outlet. It was a good thing when Ed wanted an interview.”
He also wrote a column for the Western Horseman and covered rodeo for ESPN.com. He was a true fan who brought many more fans to the table. He told great stories and loved to share them. A big man with a booming voice, he was an intentional listener who made it a life’s mission to get the facts straight.
We have an empty chair in the press room this year. Ed passed away one week ago. He was 79. We’ve also lost Dwayne Erickson, who wrote for the Calgary Sun and Calgary Herald. In today’s digital world, newspapers are changing, but the need for written words and accurate reporting is still relevant.
For Ed’s diligence in reporting, he was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Hall of Fame and had received awards for Excellence in Print Journalism from the PRCA and WPRA. In fact, he was one of four reporters honored with the PRCA’s award and received it twice in 1999 and 2000. And while many of today’s contestants will never know what an honor it was to be interviewed by one of the greats, I hope they realize that there have been many people working on their behalf to promote the sport throughout history to make it better. For Ed, and his wife Mary Jane Baumgarten, the media room at the NFR just isn’t the same without you.