After watching most of the National Finals Rodeo last week, I came to the conclusion that this is the best championship event in all of sports.
For those who do not follow rodeo, let me fill you in on how the finals work.
After nearly a year of competing in rodeos across the nation, cowboys and cowgirls are invited to participate in the "grand daddy' of rodeos, the National Finals.
Only the top athletes in the sport are invited to participate in the event. This is determined by their total payoff from the year. It boils down to the best riders and ropers in each event compete. The select few. The elite.
It is a great honor for any rodeo athlete to compete in the event. It is also a challenge however, because the best livestock is also part of the final rodeo of the year.
Now I'm sure that most Carbon County residents have watched a rodeo or two in their days, but the finals is a whole different event. In fact, each night is a battle for the championship buckle. The best rides are made and the best times are broken during the 10 day competition. In fact, only hundredths of a second separate the top five places in the timed events each night. It is truly an exciting event.
But what makes me think of the finals as the best championship tournament in sports is the fact that for 10 straight days, rodeo athletes compete at their best to win the world title. This is not your ordinary run of the mill game after all. It is a sport which requires extreme dedication.
It amazes me that anyone can strap themselves to a raging bull or a bucking bronc for any given amount of time. It amazes me even more so that these athletes come back each night to endure the same punishment, let alone 10 nights in a row.
What is even more impressive is the fact that these athletes do not get paid to compete. The only way that a rodeo athlete receives a paycheck is if he or she places in the top 10 each evening. And the chances of a cowboy or cowgirl doing so each night during the finals is quite rare.
One prime example of coming up short in the sport of rodeo was displayed during the finals this year by bull rider, Justin Andrade who suffered a herniated disc in his neck and spinal cord compression and bruising after landing on his head the opening night of the finals. Not only did Andrade not compete the remaining nine nights, he also went home without a paycheck in his pocket and a whole lot of pain and suffering.
On the flip side of the coin however, are athletes who received injury, but continued to ride in the hopes of capturing a world title.
Several rodeo cowboys were listed by the Justin Sports Medicine Team as suffering concussions, broken bones, pulled and strained muscles and still continued to compete each night. For these athletes, there is no second string team and bench time is not an option. Pretty impressive for such a physical sport.
I just have a hard time pinpointing what other sport hosts a tournament of this magnitude. One which places so much pressure and strain on its athletes and that is unique and fun to watch. What an event!
It's always exciting to watch a rodeo event, however nothing tops the National Finals.