Do you know what’s really interesting? How little Americans know about a uniquely American sport. And that sport is rodeo.
Oh sure, it was the Spanish who brought modern day horses to North America and rodeo is a Spanish word meaning round up. And yes, rodeo competition started among vaqueros. But somewhere along the line the American cowboy, the most popular icon in the world, seems to have taken possession of the franchise.
Either way, rodeo has been around in America for a long time and for years it outdrew NBA basketball by 5 million fans with half as many events. So yes, rodeo is a very popular sport, with bull riding being the most recent driving force.
And yet, most Americans don’t know the difference between a bull or steer. Nor do they know the difference between a bullfighter and a bull rider.
And half of America thinks that the only reason a bucking horse or a bull bucks is because they are prompted to do so only after having a rope tied around their genitals. Which is really hilarious because, have you ever tried jumping around with a rope tied around your genitals? Good luck.
In fact, I bet if tying a rope around your genitals prompted you to leap the tallest building, then professional athletes everywhere would be doing it. Because you’d have to assume that the tighter you tied it, the higher you would leap, right? And/or scream or sing.
Fact is you can’t make a horse or bull buck if they are not inclined. Believe me, I know. Three quarters of my life is spent at and in rodeo arenas as executive producer of "Special Cowboy Moments" for RFD-TV and Wild Rides" for The Cowboy Channel.
Something else you may not know is that rodeo might be the last great preserver of traditional American values, as well as one of America’s most ardent preservers of patriotism.
No rodeo starts without ample time given to respecting our flag and praying to our maker. That’s a fact. And few people rely more on their maker than a rodeo cowboy or cowgirl who knows better than anyone else that their safety is not in their hands. Nor is anyone else’s.
Interestingly enough, when I interviewed the bullfighters at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, they said that they felt more comfortable and in control in the rodeo arena with a bull charging at them than they did in the parking lot of your average mall. And come to think of it, so do I.
In fact, this coming Sunday we’ll be producing a professional rodeo at the Stark County Fairgrounds just south of Dickinson. And because it’s one of the last rodeos of the 2019 rodeo season, cowboys and cowgirls will be flocking there from everywhere in an attempt to still qualify for the National Finals Rodeo, the Superbowl of rodeo, held each December in Las Vegas.
And I can guarantee you that a rider will race around the arena with our flag. The announcer will say a prayer. And we’ll honor aging rodeo heroes. Then we’ll watch young cowboys and cowgirls put it all on the line and hope for the best for each and every one of them.
But most of all we’ll feel like we are among good people. And we’ll be reminded that America is a great place.
Because as one famous man once said, “No hour of life is wasted that is spent in a saddle.” And that famous man was Winston Churchill.
You see, he knew what I’m talking about.
Kevin Holten is the executive producer of "Special Cowboy Moments" on RFD-TV.
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