Nobody really understands the pressure of playing on the biggest stage in one’s sport. Whether it’s the Super Bowl or the World Series or the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, there’s so much more to it than just going out and tackling the fundamentals.
That’s why you see some contestants struggle in the spotlight. Sometimes it’s a one-year struggle, a bout with the inconceivable. In rodeo, the hope is the 10-round NFR is a big profit to a year where earnings are virtually equal to the expense of getting down the trail.
That’s why making a significant living those 10 days in Las Vegas are so important. But money is even a bigger deal in rodeo.
Baseball players, football players and all those in “other” professional sports are provided guaranteed paychecks, whether they compete, watch from the sideline or don’t make the trip because of an injury. In rodeo, dollars serve as championship points.
Arizonans Derrick Begay and Cesar de la Cruz were the world standings leaders in team roping heading into the NFR with nearly $119,000. Inside the Thomas & Mack Center, they struggled, pocketing just $15,288. They fell from first to seventh (Begay in heading) and eighth (de la Cruz in heeling) in the standings.
Those are the breaks in sports. The reality is Begay and de la Cruz made money in Vegas; several others didn’t. But each earned the right to play in Sin City. That’s worth everything.