ARLINGTON--When the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo gallops onto Globe Life Field in December, the renowned rodeo will have returned to its Dallas-Fort Worth area birthplace for the first time since 1961.
The inaugural National Finals was held in 1959 at Dallas’ Fair Park Coliseum. The NFR also was in Dallas in 1960 and 1961.
“It was a big deal then and it’s even a bigger deal now,” Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association chief executive officer George Taylor said.
Since its humble beginnings in Dallas, the National Finals has been conducted in three other cities. Pro rodeo's equivalent of the World Series was in Los Angeles in 1962-1964 and Oklahoma City from 1965-1984. In 1985, it moved to Las Vegas.
The rodeo will return to the Nevada city next year after making a trip to Arlington this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Since 1985, the world’s top postseason pro rodeo has been conducted at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus. But this year, officials decided that Las Vegas no longer is a feasible option as a host site because of COVID-19 restrictions.
Globe Life Field seats more than 40,000 fans for Texas Rangers baseball games. But because of the pandemic, sports venues in Texas are allowed up to 50% fan capacity according to Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide order. Under those guidelines, Globe Life Field could seat about 20,000 for the NFR with social distancing.
“We spent a lot of long nights talking about the structure of the arena and what we would do, it was really exciting as it started to come together on how we could really optimize a baseball field,” Taylor said.
The NFR performances will be broadcast live each night on RFD-TV and the Cowboy Channel.
“One of the reasons that I think that we won the agreement, the new (TV) contract with the PRCA is the new things we wanted to bring to the NFR broadcasts such as the sky cam, the ghost cam and the 360 cam, and 4K broadcasts,” said Patrick Gottsch, the founder of the two networks. “We’re going to do everything for the NFR that these other channels do for the Super Bowl and for the World Series. We’re going to put everything we’ve got into it. I think people will really see a difference.”
National Circuit Finals
On Sept 10-13, the PRCA conducted its second most important post-season event, the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Greeley, Colorado. The RNCFR originally was scheduled in April in Kissimmee, Florida. But it was cancelled in Kissimmee because of coronavirus concerns and was moved to Greeley.
Jeff Askey, a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo who lives in the Athens and Eustace area, clinched the bull riding title and earned $21,049, according to prorodeo.com. The main reason Askey's earnings were inflated was because he was the only cowboy who made a qualified ride in the semifinal round where he turned in a score of 88 and earned $11,317 for 8 seconds of riding. With the title at stake during the Sunday afternoon finals round, Askey clinched it with an 89 aboard a bovine named Chupacabra.
Other champions were bareback rider Tristan Hansen (89 points on Nutrena's Tic Tac); steer wrestler Olin Hannum (3.7 seconds); team ropers Coy Rahlmann and Ryan Von Ahn (11.1 seconds);saddle bronc rider Shorty Garrett (87.5 on Marquee); tie-down roper Jake Pruitt (10.2 seconds); and barrel racer Nellie Miller (17.11 seconds).
The Sept. 10-13 National Circuit Finals offered competitors $388,000. The rodeo featured athletes from 14 circuits or geographic regions within the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
On the Professional Bull Riders circuit, Jose Vitor Leme, a Brazilian who lives in the Decatur area, clinched the title at last weekend's Unleash The Beast tour stop in Billings, Montana. During the finals round, Leme turned in an 89.75 aboard Bad Decisions (TNT Bucking Bulls/Hart Cattle Co.). He was the only cowboy who stayed on all five bulls throughout the Sept. 11-13 show.
Leme, who also won the UTB tour stop in Fort Worth on Aug. 30, is ranked No. 1 in the PBR's 2020 world title race with 1,310 points. Joao Ricardo Vieira, another Brazilian who is from Decatur, is ranked No. 2 with 716.91.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.