The Athens Review
New York —
Over the past two decades, bull riding has become one bullish sports business.
The sport experienced burgeoning growth because the Professional Bull Riders emerged in the mid-1990s and proved that rodeo's most dangerous event could break out and fare exceptionally well as a stand alone sport.
The PBR tour was launched in 1994 by a small group of world-class rodeo cowboys, including seven-time world all-around champion Ty Murray, who believed bull riders should receive bigger prize money and exposure.
“We weren't the first to ever do bull riding, but we took it to a level where it hadn’t been before,” said former National Finals Rodeo qualifier Cody Lambert, who is among the PBR's original founders and serves as the association's livestock director.
The PBR began its 20th season with a Jan. 4-6 tour stop in Madison Square Garden. The New York show featured 35 of the world's top bovine busters, including defending world champion Silvano Alves who finished fourth overall.
“When you've got great bucking bulls and riders who can stay on a good percentage of those bulls, you've got a win-win situation,” said Michael Gaffney, a PBR founding father who earned the association's world title in 1997.
He was among 20 cowboys who congregated in a Scottsdale, Ariz., motel room for the PBR's inaugural organizing meeting. Each cowboy put up $1,000 and formed the PBR.
Fans flock to PBR shows for the same reason that they attend NASCAR races: They are captivated by the element of danger. The three-day attendance total at the New York tour stop was 42,994.
“We are a western lifestyle, but we can also go much broader than the western lifestyle,” said Jim Haworth, the PBR’s chief executive officer. “When we are in New York, for example, we draw a wide range of fans who like what we do (bull riding), but you also see people who like various extreme sports, who really tie into that.”
Robson Palermo, a Brazilian, won the NYC show after producing a finals score of 90 aboard a bovine named Whitewater Trouble (Austin Riley/Teague Bucking Bulls). He earned $35,950.
The New York show was the first of 25 regular-season competitions on a tour called the Built Ford Tough Series, which also stops at Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium on March 2. The 2013 tour culminates with the Oct. 23-27 World Finals in Las Vegas.
For the 11th consecutive year, the PBR world champion will receive a $1 million bonus. For more information, visit www.pbr.com.
Bareback rider Wes Stevenson, a former Texas Tech star who lives in Lubbock, will advance to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's April 4-6 Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City after winning the 2012 bareback riding title on the Texas Circuit.
The Texas Circuit is among 12 geographic regions that determines champions each year.
The top money winners for the year in each event and the average winners from the Jan. 3-5 Texas Circuit Finals in Waco advanced to the Oklahoma City championships.
The Texas Circuit's other year-end champions were steer wrestler Todd Suhn, barrel racer Carlee Pierce, team ropers Luke Brown and Martin Lucero, saddle bronc rider Jacobs Crawley, tie-down roper Adam Gray and bull rider Trey Benton III.
The average champions were barrel racer Pierce, steer wrestler Suhn, bareback rider Clint Cannon, team ropers Arky Rogers and Joel Bach, saddle bronc rider Sterling Crawley, tie-down roper Scott Kormos and bull rider Taylor Toves.
Fort Worth rodeos
The Fort Worth Stock Show is just around the corner and fans can expect to see the world's top competitors saddle up for the 117th edition. The Best of the West Ranch Rodeo is scheduled for Jan. 18-19, the Best of Mexico Celebración is Jan. 20, the Cowboys of Color Rodeo is Jan. 21, the Bulls' Night Out is Jan. 22-23 and the PRCA show is Jan. 24-Feb. 9. For more information, visit www.fwssr.com or call 817-877-2420.
Brett Hoffman, a Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member, has written a rodeo column for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram over the past quarter century. Email him at email@example.com.