Over the last 11 days, I have written 55 stories.
It’s been a busy time in Las Vegas, but I’m so thankful for many things. No. 1, I’m thankful that God gave me the talent to do this and the passion to follow some of the greatest people on our planet. They are my sources and my stories, but also they are my friends. I’m proud to be their storyteller.
There were so many great story lines that came out of this Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. A Brazilian all-around champ in Junior Nogueira; the first Canadian team ropers to qualify come through with the gold buckles; Tyson Durfey exploding from 14th to the world title.
The emotions run high in the pressure-packed confines of the Thomas & Mack Center, from pure frustration to exhilaration. Tim O’Connell saw me in the media room after the final round concluded and gave me a giant hug. I haven’t told his story, but he’s told it himself pretty well, dominating this year and putting an exclamation point on his first world championship over 10 December nights.
I experienced the humbleness of Coleman Proctor, who didn’t have much luck at all in Las Vegas. He caught two go-round checks, but he remained positive and influential and caring through every missed opportunity. As a competitor, it had to eat at him, but you would never see it in his face, and you’d never hear it in his voice. His wife, Steph, has every reason to be proud.
Speaking of frustration, I join many who want to just give Richmond Champion a pat on the back and tell him he deserved better. The judges penalized him greatly throughout all 10 days, and it was so obvious that several other bareback riders expressed it; as many said, he should have placed more than the three times he was credited. I’m not sure what they didn’t like about Richie, but it was disappointing to watch.
What wasn’t was Orin Larsen’s toughness, grit and the fact that in spite of all the pain of separated ribs that occurred on the opening night of the championship. It took him four more rounds to find a way to ride through the pain. Once he did, they couldn’t keep him away from the pay window.
The NFR is one of the greatest championships in all of sports because of the number of contestants all vying for those coveted gold buckles. But it goes beyond all that. This is a place where friends gather. It’s a family reunion.
I’m happy to be part of the family.