Flexvanderbuilt’s Blog

Not Your Average Sporting Event

Posted in Sporting Events by flexvanderbuilt on February 23, 2009

There is a debate that has raged on over the past half century about sports. What is considered a sport, what is the most physical sport, what is the most finesse sport, etc. When one compares and contrasts all of these categories, it is possible to determine which sport out does the others. I submit that the combination of skill, technique, and agility coupled with the danger of being crushed by a 2,000 pound animal makes the Rodeo the all around winner. The rodeo is indeed, the toughest sport in the world. I will defend my position by explaining origins of the sport, discussing its legitimacy, technique required, athletic ability required, and finally discussing the inherent risk involved.

What is it about the rodeo that is so compelling you ask? Not wanting to disagree with the brilliance that is Garth Brooks, I defer to his answer. “It’s boots and chaps, it’s cowboy hats, it’s spurs and

National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, 2004.

National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, 2004.

latigo. It’s the ropes and the reins, and the joy and the pain and they call the thing rodeo.” He further states, “It’s the broncs and the blood, it’s the steers and the mud, and they call the thing rodeo (Bastian).”

While Garth may say it more poetically, he’s fairly on par with what experts accept as the sports origin.  The modern day rodeo is a spectator sport, often held at county and state fairs. Rodeos started as nothing more than a professional competition amongst cowboys to see who was top in their particular field, a “bagger of the month” competition for the boys of the Wild West if you will. The distinction of having the longest running rodeo in the country belongs to Cheyenne, Wyoming, which has hosted its Frontier Days annually since 1897 (rodeo).

The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA), governing authority for the sport, breaks the rodeo down into six categories- bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, and bull riding (Rodeo 101). With 176,625 in attendance in 2008, the National Finals Rodeo is the largest event of the rodeo year. (National Finals Rodeos Tickets) The competition, held in Las Vegas, has all the trappings of a big time sporting event to include fog machines and laser light shows (…and they called it RODEO). Granted, there aren’t 98 million home viewers or $3 million dollar commercial timeslots like the Superbowl, or over 200,000 total tickets sold like the average World Series, but an event that draws 176,625 fans meets my definition of legitimate (incidentally, I happen to use the same definition as the dictionary).

Without getting too ensconced into the subject, I can’t discuss all of the technical aspects and rules of the rodeo. Instead, I will take just one example. In the bareback riding category the rider must hold on the bronc with one hand. Touching himself, his equipment or the bull with the free hand will result in a disqualification. The rider must keep his spurs touching the horse’s shoulders until the horse hits the ground following its initial leap. Failure to do this is also a disqualification. The rider is judged on “spurring technique, the degree to which his toes remain turned out while he is spurring and his willingness to take whatever might come during his ride (Rodeo 101).”  Let’s compare this to the sport of swimming. Swimmers are judged on whom gets to the finish line first. Not to say that swimming doesn’t involve technique, but it isn’t a graded criteria. I argue that because the skill is required by the guidelines of the sport, it means that it is an inherently more technical sport.

Steer wrestling involves leaping from a horse travelling at about 30 mph and wrestling the animal to the ground (Rodeo 101). I love football, but consider this example. Would you rather strap on shoulder pads and a helmet and run into other men in the same equipment at your own personal top speed, or leap from a moving animal travelling at 30 mph onto another moving animal over twice your size and wrestle it to the ground and tie it up? I’d rather run into people all day long in pads before I try to roll up a steer, I promise you that.

Finally, risk. Football is considered by many to be the most dangerous sport. However, as the January 2002 edition of National Fire & Rescue tells us:

Even the common man can try his hand at riding the bull, at least the mechanical kind. They tend to be much safer!

Even the common man can try his hand at riding the bull, at least the mechanical kind. They tend to be much safer!

“A comprehensive 20-year study of rodeo injuries completed in 2000 provided some interesting statistics: of the over 1,300 rodeos attended by the JSP and the close to 7,000 performances held during the 20-year period, close to 8,800 athletes (13.98%) of 62,000 evaluated were treated for minor injuries, while close to 900 (10.17%) were treated for major injuries that required a trip to the hospital. Of those injuries, injuries to the head and face were most common, followed by knee, shoulder and spine injuries (…and they called it RODEO).”

In any given week you can find 50-60 players across the NFL sitting out of games, mostly due to pulled muscles, or strains (Injuries). This is about 3% of the NFL’s players. This comparison shows how much more dangerous Rodeo is as a sport than even professional football.

In summary, the fact that rodeo is a sport with a professional governing authority and legitimized by its fan base with technically demanding competition, physically challenging, and overwhelmingly dangerous make it my selection for the toughest sport in our modern world. So next time you wonder what can make a man cry in Cheyenne, Wyoming or Winfield, Kansas or Pendleton, Oregon… “it ain’t no woman, flesh and blood, it’s that damned old rodeo (Bastian).” Thanks to Garth for clearing that up.

1.    “rodeo.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 23 February 2009. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/506563/rodeo.
2.    Rodeo 101. http://www.prorodeo.com/eventcategory.aspx. 23 February 2009.
3.    Bastian, Larry. Ropin’ the Wind. Rodeo (As performed by Garth Brooks). September 2, 1991. http://www.garthbrooks.com. 23 February 2009.
4.    “…and they called it RODEO”. National Fire & Rescue Magazine. January, 2002. http://www.hellercreative.com/rodeo. 23 February 2009.
5.    National Finals Rodeos Tickets. http://www.barrystickets.com/rodeo-tickets/nfr-tickets.php. 23 February 2009.
6.    Injuries. http://www.nfl.com/injuries. 23 February 2009.

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4 Responses

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  1. phantomryu said, on February 23, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Rodeo clowns deserve respect, man! I think those guys have the most dangerous job in the whole industry!

  2. daddyspaige said, on February 23, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Looks fun..would love to try one day!

  3. josephkachmar said, on February 23, 2009 at 8:59 pm

    The last time I went to a Rodeo I was 10. It was small, but the bull riding and the clowns where by far the best part!

  4. chickenwithlargetalons said, on February 23, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Let ‘er buck!

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