DODGE CITY, Kan. – In any sport, momentum can be the key between success and failure.
The pendulum can swing in either direction. When it’s heading in the positive direction, great things can happen.
Bull rider Tim Bingham felt that last summer in his first qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. It all began at the Dodge City Roundup Xtreme Bulls competition, where Bingham rode two bulls and earned the event title. He carried that momentum and found himself playing on the sport’s biggest stage in Las Vegas this past December.
“It set me off on the right foot,” said Bingham, 23, of Honeyville, Utah. “That was my first one for that little run as the week went on. It set me up to make a really good run in the end.”
He will try to defend that title during this year’s Xtreme Bulls, set for 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 28, at Roundup Arena. He needs all the help he can get if he hopes to return to the NFR in a little more than four months, but he has a good idea of what can happen in a short amount of time.
Starting with Xtreme Bulls in Dodge City, Bingham placed that same week in Abilene, Kan., and Sidney, Iowa. A week later in Lovington, N.M., the Utah cowboy won both rounds and the overall championship at the Lea County Xtreme Bulls. In just eight days, he earned $18,293; more than $5,200 came in western Kansas.
“I drew two really good bulls, Centerfold and Swamp Dog,” he said of his Dodge City victory. “I knew as long as I stayed on, they’d do their part. I’ve never seen any one of those bulls have a bad trip.”
It worked out quite well. Bingham finished the regular season with more than $85,000 in earnings. He then added another $30,000 at the NFR to have his best season ever. He began the 2015 campaign with a bang by winning the rodeo in Billings, Mont., then suffered a severe injury at a bull riding in January.
“I broke my left leg and ankle, and I had to have a plate and five screws put in,” he said. “I broke my right foot in three spots. I also broke my right elbow and had to get a long rod in my elbow down to my forearm.”
But his cowboy mentality kept him on the sidelines for just four months. He returned in May in time to win the Helldorado Days Rodeo in Las Vegas.
“Things haven’t gone too hot since,” Bingham said. “Right off the bat, I thought it would be OK, but it’s been pretty slow.”
As of mid-July, Bingham sits outside the top 50 in the world standings. He’s a long ways from earning a spot at the NFR – only the top 15 contestants in each event at the end of the regular season qualify for the finale.
“I haven’t stressed about it one time, because I know how the last couple of months play the biggest role in rodeo,” he said. “I’m positive. I’m still visualizing making the NFR. There are plenty of bulls and time to get there. I’m still planning on getting there.”
Dodge City Xtreme Bulls features a night of strictly bull riding. The Roundup committee has done everything possible to ensure the top players in the game will be on hand for the competition by coming up with sponsorship dollars. That money, combined with the cowboys’ entry fees, will make up a hefty purse.
“We’ve been very pleased with Xtreme Bulls,” said Dr. R.C. Trotter, chairman of the rodeo committee. “We want our fans to see the top bull riders rodeo, and they know they’re going to get that on Tuesday night.”
For the cowboys, Xtreme Bulls is a major part of each rodeo season.
“It’s very important, because they pay good and it’s just bull riding,” Bingham said. “In the money I won last year, $20,000 came in the Xtreme Bulls. It made a big difference to my standings and placing in the world.
“When it comes down to it, consistency lays a big roll. If a guy can get hot and stay hot, a lot of things can happen. If you can get on that roll, it can be easy for you. Nobody knows how it clicks and how it doesn’t. If a guy could figure out the difference, they’d win the world every time. It’s nice when it comes around, that’s for sure.”
Dodge City’s a good place to get that roll started.