Regular-season rodeo wins are nice. Carrying a lead into the WranglerÂ® National Finals Rodeo is even better. But neither means much once the gate cracks open for that first bareback rider on Dec. 2 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Those 10 days of Thomas and Mack Center competition will determine who walks away with each of the nine world championships up for grabs.
Titles are won and lost at the NFR. A win at Cheyenne (Wyoming) Frontier Days is great, and it certainly puts some big-time cash in your wallet. But it won't mean much if you finish second in the world because of a bad NFR.
So that's what we had in mind when Western Horseman asked us to make predictions for the 2005 finals. Who's been there and done that? Who's proven they can win in the glare of a national spotlight? Who can make the most of every day for 10 consecutive days? These are the criteria we used. And when we couldn't pick between two or three guys, we went with our gut instincts.
Predictions aside, we're the first to admit that we're not exempt from being shocked by Lady Luck. Rodeo, like all sports, has its share of upsets, come-from-behind victories (remember Cody Hancock's bull-riding win in 2000?), and edge-of-your seat suspense.
Otherwise, it just wouldn't be rodeo.
Okay, so this might be the one title that's not really up for grabs. With three straight championships, Trevor Brazile's the man to beat. He's in the lead once again and earned spots in the NFR and the National Finals Steer Roping. We can envision only one scenario in which he can be beat, but it would involve Ryan Jarrett qualifying for the NFR in two events (steer wrestling and tie-down roping) and clubbing Brazile in the knee.
So we won't spend any more time on this one.