Brett Hoffman

The Professional Bull Riders, which is showcasing its 2020 World Finals in Arlington this weekend, has been quick to put its athletes back to work amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The PBR drew national headlines when its crews returned to work in late April at the Lazy E Arena near Oklahoma City. In fact, it was the first professional sport to resume in the U.S. in late April, according to a Washington Times article.

Washington Times sports reporter Adam Zielonka wrote in an April 26 article that the PBR “held an event in an empty arena in Oklahoma, in what appears to be the first professional sport to resume in the U.S. after the COVID-19 pandemic forced leagues to suspend play. PBR’s Las Vegas Invitational was moved from Nevada to Guthrie, Oklahoma, where COVID-19 restrictions were more flexible. Forty-one riders competed ... but no fans were allowed to attend the event.”

But it stands to reason that a western riding sports organization was on the cutting edge of returning to work this year. After all, cowboys constantly come upon forks on the trail.

In the ranching business, cowboys find themselves working through adverse winters. In rodeo and bull riding, fearless cowboys take on the rampaging bull that nobody wants.

And some of these cowboys who consistently buck adversity have the buckles and bank accounts to show for it. One prime example is 2020 PBR world title race leader Jose Vitor Leme who has earned more than $500,000 at PBR events this season. There’s two-time PBR world champion Jess Lockwood who has pocketed more than $200,000 this year.

They were scheduled to compete at AT&T Stadium in Arlington for the Nov. 12-15 PBR World Finals after taking hard knocks throughout the 2020 regular season.

The sport’s organizers have shown the same tenaciousness. Take PBR commissioner Sean Gleason, for example. While the pandemic derailed sporting events across the country last spring, Gleason and his staff worked long hours to devise plans that put PBR athletes back to work quicker than other sports.

The PBR went back to work on April 25-26 to produce a closed-for-TV-only tour stop at the Lazy E Arena, a renowned indoor venue that’s in a remote area north of Oklahoma City. Last weekend, the PBR was in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with its 2020 Velocity Tour Finals.

“There’s been a lot of coverage about being first, but we didn’t do it to be first, but to get our people back to work,” Gleason said. “We’re a unique sport and there are a lot of people in our sport who don’t make money unless they compete. In order for them to compete, the PBR has to conduct events. The easy path was to pack up the tent and ride out the storm in the safety of our home. But the right answer for the entire industry was to put on events and give everybody the opportunity to work and feed their families.”

PBR VT Finals

At the Nov. 6-7 PBR Velocity Tour Finals in Sioux Falls, four wild card berths to this weekend’s World Finals in Arlington were up for grabs. The VT Finals also featured competitors who already had secured a trip to the Arlington championships.

One cowboy who entered the Sioux Falls show with a World Finals berth sewn up was Mason Taylor of Maypearl. He turned in identical scores of 90.5 in both the first and finals rounds and clinched the VT Finals title. He earned $60,146, picked up 90 world title race points and moved up one place to ninth in the world standings.

The four cowboys who competed in Sioux Falls and earned wildcard berths to the Arlington championships were Alex Cardozo, Cody Campbell, Andre da Cruz de Souza and Wallace Vieira de Oliveira. 

At 41, Oliveira became oldest rider to qualify for a PBR World Finals. The record previously was held by Gary Richard of Houston who was 40 when he qualified for the 2002 PBR World Finals.    

Brazile roping tough

Trevor Brazile of Decatur secured a record 26th world title (multiple categories) on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association circuit last weekend.

Brazile, who is semiretired, clinched the 2020 PRCA steer roping world title at the Nov. 6-7 Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping in Mulvane, Kansas, in the Wichita area, according to prorodeo.com.

It was his eighth world steer roping title. Brazile also has earned 14 world all-around titles, three tie-down roping championships and a team roping heading gold buckle.

During the NFSR, Brazile also clinched the average title. He was the only competitor to turn in a qualified time in each of the 10 rounds.  

Brazile earned 69,072 points throughout the NFSR. He clinched the world title with 117,459 points. Scott Snedecor finished second with 110,779.

Brazile, 43, who became a PRCA member in the mid-1990s, roped in enough prize money throughout the 2020 NFSR to become the first cowboy to surpass $7 million in PRCA career earnings, PRCA media officials said.

Meanwhile, four-time world champion Tuf Cooper, who has homes in Weatherford and Decatur, placed in three rounds and came in fifth in the NFSR average race. He finished sixth in the 2020 steer roping world standings with 51,558 points.

Cooper also took the lead in the PRCA’s 2020 world all-around standings. He will attempt to hang onto the No. 1 ranking during the Dec. 3-12 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo at Globe Field in Arlington where he will compete in tie-down roping.

Brett Hoffman, a Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame member, has covered rodeos and horse show events for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for more than 35 years. Email him at bchoffman777@earthlink.net.

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