OKLAHOMA CITY – Ash Cooper always fancied himself a world-class hockey player.
That’s what little boys dream about while growing up in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. And, truth be told, Cooper was pretty talented on the ice.
“I was employed playing hockey, and at the same time, I was playing a high level of rugby,” said Cooper, an athlete turned rodeo clown who just worked the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas for the first time in his career this past December. “It was a huge honor for me to work the NFR. More than anything, for me, it was representing my country.
“I tried representing in hockey and didn’t make it, and I tried and rugby, and it didn’t happen. I had to settle for representing my country as a clown, but I’ll take it.”
You see, Ash Cooper has an alter ego, and his name is CrAsh; he’ll be part of the 2012 Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for March 29-April 1 at Jim Norick Arena at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds. This is where the biggest names in the sport come to show off their talents, and Cooper will be in town to provide a little comedy relief and other entertainment options as the barrelman/funnyman,
The ProRodeo national circuit finale provides another prestigious championship event for rodeo-savvy Oklahoma City, the longtime host of the NFR and the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping. The 2012 event marks the second straight year the RNCFR is part of Oklahoma’s storied rodeo legacy, a place that knows what makes a true champion, even one who wears greasepaint.
“I never planned on being a rodeo clown,” Cooper said. “It’s just one of those things that evolved.”
The evolution began to develop when he attended the Canadian Finals Rodeo, and Cooper’s zest for the extreme was inspired by the action inside the arena during the bull riding competition.
“I was looking for the roughest sport there was, and I figured bullfighting was it,” he said, explaining how bullfighters utilize their athleticism to get into the action of a bucking, spinning and twisting beast and try to get everyone out unscathed. It took a few lessons, but Cooper was hooked and quickly became an in-arena lifesaver.
As the evolution continued, Cooper moved on to the world of a rodeo clown, even if he had to fit it into his personality.
“The hardest part in strictly becoming a clown was losing that athleticism; I was a clown now, not an athlete,” said Cooper, the only person to have fought bulls and clowned at the prestigious Calgary (Alberta) Stampede.
So Cooper did something about it, taking the traditional role of a funny rodeo clown and transitioning it into the form of an athletic entertainer.
“The crowd responds just as much to something that’s a great athletic feat as something that’s funny,” he said. “What I do is just a cross between comedy and athleticism.”
It’s a good mix, which is why he’s working ProRodeo’s National Championship, which will feature the top cowboys and cowgirls from the 12 regional ProRodeo circuits against one another for the prestigious national title. Contestants will compete in seven traditional rodeo events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, tie down roping, team roping, steer wrestling, barrel racing and bull riding.
The RNCFR also is home to outstanding entertainment, and nobody realizes that any more than Cooper.
“My personal preference is to just see what happens,” he said. “I like not knowing exactly what’s going on, just paying attention to what’s happening and just reacting. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived my life like that.”
Maybe it’s because he always saw himself as an athlete, not so much an entertainer.
“I certainly didn’t plan on it, but I’m awful glad it turned out this way,” Cooper said.