When it comes to the most popular sports in North America, rodeo tends to be considered an “alternate” sport. If your average Joe were to make a list of sports by popularity, ball-sports would certainly take the lead, with plenty of others before it ever came down to our traditional western action, but I think it holds some advantages that tend to get overlooked. Here are a few of those things:
10. Rodeo has something for everyone.
With seven main events in the sport, each night brings a variety of options to engage. Typically split into roughstock and timed events, there’s plenty to cheer about on any given night, with a new aspect playing out every 20 minutes or so. Even if you never choose a favorite, there’s plenty to enjoy all night long!
9. Rodeo is the only sport that stems from practical, real-life situations and skills.
Not to demean the skills of hitting a ball, slapping a puck, or dunking, but sports tend to fabricate their own actions. As awesome as those actions are to watch, rodeo is different in that timed events are the result of making roundup practices as efficient as possible, and roughstock riding directly derives from breaking green mounts. The only rodeo event that doesn’t actually have its source in practical ranch life is bull riding. Pretty sure the source of that one is just a bottle of whiskey and some girls to impress.
8. Rodeo is the most dangerous sport.
It’s not just the eight seconds of bull riding that’s dangerous, but let’s face it: watching a bull do its thing against a rider 1/10 its weight is fraught with peril. Injuries aren’t just a potential, but rather a constant, with death itself always sitting right there, front and center. There are plenty of other dangerous sports (heck, even roping can cost you a finger), but most of them don’t feature men matched against large animals that intend them harm. That puts the excitement level off the charts!
7. Rodeo has better uniforms.
A baseball uni with high stirrups is classic, and who doesn’t love Notre Dame’s gold helmets? Still, though, rodeo competitors get to wear what works for them, and everyone puts their own style on it. Ultimate advantage? We get to wear Wranglers. Enough said.
6. Rodeo comes to you.
From coast to coast, and across North America, pro rodeo actually brings the top competitors and stock to the hometowns of the fans. Even small rural towns can see the biggest stars in the game, which is not a luxury provided by most sports. Love TB? Well, from Idaho, your only shot to see Tom Brady is hundreds of miles away, but Trevor Brazile? He’s somewhere nearby every summer.
5. Rodeo celebrates animals as stars, too.
Little Yellow Jacket. Bushwacker. Grated Coconut. Lunatic Fringe. BabyFlo. Rodeo loves you whether you have two legs or four, and our critters get treated like royalty!
4. Rodeo is better than ever, and the same as it always has been.
Since the sport started on the ranch and takes great pride in that heritage, things tend to stay pretty consistent. Sure, we’ve modified things like taking one hand off the bucking stock, and such, but we haven’t really strayed from the basics of what rodeo has been since the days of Dean Oliver, Jim Shoulders, and even Yakima Canutt. Even the PBR’s “chute clock” doesn’t change anything once the ride actually starts. From that point on, it’s the old west again — man vs. beast.
3. Rodeo cares.
Pink night. Man Up Crusade. Wrangler National Patriot. Justin Cowboy Crisis Fund. We certainly aren’t the only sport that cares, but it is impossible to miss this one. Rodeo has a huge heart and gives back to its community at every chance.
2. Rodeo is the ultimate team sport and the only where adversaries are allies.
Most sports have uniforms and sides. In each case, one is pitted against the other, and any cooperation between the two is foolhardy at best. In rodeo, though, the toughest and most competitive individuals on the field all work together. Whether it’s one bull rider assisting another pulling rope, one bulldogger hazing for the next, or the stream of contestants that are on site to assist with serious injuries, cowboys have each other’s backs, even when they’re trying to beat each other. It’s not just unique. It’s awesome.
1. Rodeo represents the grit, heritage, and heart of our American West to the world.
The PRCA and PBR are welcoming riders, not only from across North America, but across the world, into western sports. It is now common to see names from Brazil, Australia, and even thanks to consistent bareback champion Yvan Jayne, Europe is showing up as well. This means that broadcast back into home countries puts our sport and lifestyle on tv and laptop screens across the globe.
Is rodeo the only sport? Certainly not. Don’t overlook it, though – you might miss something really remarkable.
All photos belong to Thomas Duncan of Through These Two Eyes