Archive for January, 2011

postheadericon They’re Amazing … again

Jet, left, and Cord McCoy will be part of Season 18 of "The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business." The Oklahoma brothers finished second in Season 16 of "The Amazing Race" and return to chase the $1 million first-place prize. (CBS-TV PHOTO)

Jet, left, and Cord McCoy will be part of Season 18 of "The Amazing Race: Unfinished Business." The Oklahoma brothers finished second in Season 16 of "The Amazing Race" and return to chase the $1 million first-place prize. (CBS-TV PHOTO)

The cowboys from Season 16 of “The Amazing Race” are back for the 18th edition of the CBS-TV reality TV series.

I plan to keep you as up to date as possible concerning the goings-on of Jet and Cord McCoy and their run at $1 million. Based on last year’s experience, I can tell you that the McCoys will be hush-hush about their racing escapades. Through the CBS promotions department, they’ll be able to conduct media interviews until the first show airs, then they won’t be able to speak until their time on the show concludes. It’s CBS’ way of protecting the integrity of the show, so it’s understandable, especially since the show was recorded this past November and December.

The series begins Feb. 20.

So what do you think of the globetrotting cowboys? Will Season 18 of “The Amazing Race” end with them holding the $1 million check? How do you think Jet and Cord did on this race?

postheadericon This is Justin time

I love the power of a people working together, and thousands of Professional Bull Riders fans are uniting in a single effort to get announcer Justin McKee his job back.

Justin McKee

Justin McKee

I’m not sure it’ll work, but I applaud the effort.

Justin is a rodeo announcer turned TV commentator who still loves the life on the rodeo trail. He got the job as a play-by-play commentator when the PBR became its own producer a decade ago and hired McKee and Tuff Hedeman to call the shots, replacing Dan Miller and Don Gay.

The truth is, Justin and Tuff took their lumps in those early years, but each broadcast showed the two were getting better at being TV stars. McKee used his years of knowing the cowboys and understanding the bull business to continue to progress. When Tuff moved away from the PBR, Justin has teamed with a handful of others.

By the time producers promoted Craig Hummer to the role of play-by-play commentator, McKee was handling the role of color analyst. He excelled at the role, even though there were a host of color analysts on set, from Ty Murray to Justin McBride to J.W. Hart. Even though he was the best analyst on each show, he was being weeded out in favor of former bull riders.

PBR fans are a little miffed, as you might expect. They say the production is lacking, and they’re probably right. But it’s also the world of change, and most of us don’t like change. I watched Sunday’s final performance from Anaheim, Calif., and I will admit that there are several pieces of the puzzle missing to make a high quality production.

But probably the most telling sign that fans are upset with McKee’s absence in the PBR telecasts is the Save Justin McKee page on Facebook, which has more than 1,600 fans already, including Josh Peter, author of Fried Twinkies, Buckle Bunnies, and Bull Riders, a novel about the PBR.

The truth is I’d love to see Justin doing what he loves, whether explaining things on a PBR telecast or calling the action at a small rodeo in Kansas. He’s earned the right to be happy.

postheadericon Done in Denver

Shane Proctor is a talented bull rider. During his run at the National Western Stock Show rodeo in Denver, he was dominating, winning all three go-rounds and the average championship.

It all added up to $17,350 for the Mooresville, N.C., cowboy, who won the 2008 Toughest Cowboy competition. The No. 2 money-earner was Bo Casper of Fort Scott, Kan., whose 254 points earned him a split of the bareback riding title with three-time world champion Will Lowe of Canyon, Texas. Casper also split the opening go-round victory and collected $12,728.

There were plenty of big payoffs in Denver, which is the case every January. It’s just another example of why it’s such an important event in ProRodeo.

National Western Stock Show rodeo champions
Bareback Riding: (tie) Will Lowe, Canyon, Texas, 254 points, $8,964, Bo Casper, Fort Scott, Kan., 254 points, $12,728
Steer Wrestling: Darrell Petry, Beaumont, Texas, 13.4 seconds, $8,264
Team Roping: Clay Tryan, Billings, Mont., and Travis Graves, Jay, Okla., 15.6, seconds, $8,458.
Saddle Bronc Riding: Heith DeMoss, Heflin, La., 252 points, $12,310
Tie-Down Roping Justin Macha, Needville, Texas, 24.1, $11,073
Barrel Racing: Susan Kay Smith, Hodgen, Okla., 45.66, $9,081
Bull Riding: Shane Proctor, Moorseville, N.C., 264 points, $17,350
All-Around: Trevor Brazile, Decatur, Texas, $7,304 won in tie-down and team roping

postheadericon One round remains

We’re just a few hours away from the final go-round of the National Western Stock Show’s rodeo.

As I write this, I’m still awaiting final word out of Denver about the championship-round qualifiers, the top 12 contestants in each event through the initial two rounds of competition. That news release will include the first- and second-round payouts.

So keep track. Once I know what happens in Denver, I’ll post it here. Best of luck to all the cowboys and cowgirls.

postheadericon Cade and the cowboys

Three-year-old Cade Hemphill poses for a photograph with three of the top saddle bronc riders in ProRodeo, from left, Chad Ferley, Cort Scheer and Chet Johnson.

Three-year-old Cade Hemphill poses for a photograph with three of the top saddle bronc riders in ProRodeo, from left, Chad Ferley, Cort Scheer and Chet Johnson.

My favorite thing about rodeo is the people, and I have hundreds of examples why.

A long day at the National Western Stock Show was met with much needed rest when Cade got to the family car.

A long day at the National Western Stock Show was met with much needed rest when Cade got to the family car.

The most recent is when I wanted to have 3-year-old Cade Hemphill meet real professional cowboys, so I contacted saddle bronc rider Chet Johnson, a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier. He was competing at the National Western Stock Show in Denver on Friday afternoon, and I knew the Hemphill family was heading to the rodeo that night.

Not only did Chet agree to meet with the youngster’s family, he took with him two bronc riding friends, 2006 world champion Chad Ferley, a four-time NFR qualifier, and Cort Scheer, the fourth-ranked bronc rider at the conclusion of the 2010 season. Here are three elite athletes in their chosen event, and they take time to meet with a young fan and his family.

Mom Karla Hemphill said the gathering made young Cade’s year, which is a pretty strong sentiment considering today is just Jan. 22. But the reality is, Cade has proven his love for rodeo at a very young age.

I hope the meeting just fosters that hunger into a lifetime passion. Ride on, Cowboy Cade; ride on.

postheadericon It’s the start of something good

The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo has a long history as one of the biggest and best indoor events of the ProRodeo season.

Competition began Tuesday with two nights of Bulls Night Out, while the rodeo began in earnest with slack Wednesday and Thursday mornings – the first of 30 performances took place Thursday evening, and it featured some young guns and longstanding stalwarts in the game.

The competition is already proving to be quite tough. In tie down roping, for example, each of the top eight times so far in the first round are in less than nine seconds, led by Tim Pharr’s 8.1. 

Steer wrestlers Casey Martin and Jake Rinehart have 3.6-second runs, leading a pack outstanding times among the leaders – Brad McGilchrist and Trevor Knowles have 4.2s to round out the top eight.

If those kinds of times are signs of what’s going to happen in Fort Worth this year, fans will be treated to outstanding competition through the stock show rodeo’s championship round Feb. 5.

postheadericon Rodriguez’s ‘Radical’ comedy a hit for bull riding fans

Ryan Rodriguez has two passions: Making people laugh and spending time with his family.

"Radical" Ryan Rodriguez works a rodeo with his son, Rad Rain Rodriguez.

"Radical" Ryan Rodriguez works a rodeo with his son, Rad Rain Rodriguez.

Now he’s living the best of both worlds, sharing his entertainment for audiences all over the world while working with his 5-year-old son. Welcome to the world of “Radical” Ryan Rodriguez, a rodeo clown who will be part of the Professional Championship Bullriders events this year.

“When I got into the business, all I wanted to do was go from one rodeo to another and make people laugh,” Rodriguez said. “Then when I had my son, I was all about that. That was the greatest thing in the world. As he got old enough to walk and talk, he wanted to start helping out with the act. When he put on the greasepaint and walked into the arena, he was a natural entertainer.”

That’s the life of Rad Rain Rodriguez, who this past December announced his presence before the rodeo world during a featured specialty act at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.

“You put him in front of one or two people, he’s kind of shy,” Ryan said of his son. “You put him in front of 17,000 people, and he just shines.”

The act is part of the “Radical” repertoire, something he’s worked at since beginning his career two decades ago.

“We started the act, then pretty soon it was an act that everybody was requesting,” Rodriguez said. “Pretty soon we got a call from the NFR. He’s just a showman. He loves doing it. He made 17,000 people laugh and roar and stand up to do the wave.

“There’s no prouder feeling than to do something you try to do all your life, and your son does it in five years.”

Rodriguez has a lot to be proud, from his son to his own accomplishments. He’s worked some of the biggest events in rodeo, from regional championships to tour finales in Las Vegas and Omaha to the National Western Stock Show in Denver and the prestigious Calgary Stampede. He’s also been the featured barrelman/funnyman at Professional Championship Bullriders events for several years.

“I watched this PCB grow from a little bull riding to a huge following,” he said.

That following will likely grow with the entertainment package that features country artist Jake Owen, who will present a concert after the bull riding competition concludes, and Don “Hollywood” Yates, one of the elite bullfighters in the sport who has expanded his talents into other areas of entertainment. He was the character “Wolf” in the 2008 version of “American Gladiators.”

It’s all the brainchild of Robert Sauber, a former bull rider who runs the PCB.

“Everything I saw Bob was trying to do was top shelf,” said Rodriguez, who grew up in Clayton, Mich. “Bob has taken an event like this and put it into this area of the United States. He brings quality bulls and quality bull riders. It’s something nobody else has done.”

Sauber sees the tremendous benefits of having a class act like Rodriguez as part of the show.

“Radical has been a big part of any success the PCB has had over the years,” Sauber said. “He’s one of the best acts in all of rodeo, and he’s sees what we’ve been trying to do. I’m happy to call him my friend.”

Rodriguez has colored his face with greasepaint for nearly 20 years and has traversed the country presenting his brand of entertainment to the masses. He does so because he loves to hear the roar of the crowd, whether it’s in Denver or Calgary or Las Vegas.

“Getting to go to the NFR is like every football player’s dream to go to the Super Bowl,” he said. “It’s what you dream about and what you strive for. It’s a sign you made it.

“But I get to go to work I quality buildings like we have with the PCB. I’ve gotten to work the PCB Finals the last four years, and me and my son wear our PCB buckles proudly.”

postheadericon ‘Hollywood’ Yates bringing his ‘Wolf’ persona to PCB events

His name is Don, but he answers to other monikers.

Hollywood Yates

Hollywood Yates

That’s the life of an entertainer, which defines Don “Hollywood” Yates, from his Elvis impersonations as a youngster to his over-the-top behavior as “Wolf” on the 2008 season of “American Gladiators.”

Don, Hollywood and the Wolf will come together as another piece of the entertainment puzzle that is the Professional Championship Bullriders event at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22, at DECC Arena in Duluth — he will also be part of the action Jan. 29 in Grand Forks, N.D., and the PCB World Finals on Feb. 4-5 at the Sears Centre in Chicago.

The competition will feature the top cowboys in the PCB and some of the toughest bulls in the sport, but it will also feature top musical talent in country artist Jake Owen and other athletes like Yates, one of the top rodeo bullfighters.

“There’s the element of danger that everybody wants to see,” said Yates, who began entertaining folks at 7 years old. “When people see (rodeo) freestyle bullfighting, they see the fact that it’s a big bull that’s basically trying to kill a guy. Putting a human being into that mix is like being back in the days of the gladiators, like throwing Christians to the Lions.

“People like to see blood. It’s like watching NASCAR; people don’t want to see anybody get killed, but they want to see the wrecks.”

That’s one of the drawing cards to bull riding events produced by the Professional Championship Bullriders, an organization that has events all across the northern Midwest. But having great entertainment like Yates as part of the show is something the PCB likes to offer fans.

“I believe in giving fans as much entertainment as possible when they want to come to one of our events,” said Robert Sauber, president of the Chicago-based PCB tour. “Jake Owen brings great music and an awesome show, which is why we love having him at our events. With that in mind, we wanted to bring Hollywood in and show everybody that kind of entertainment.

“You have to see Hollywood to really understand what he adds to the show. He’s a champion freestyle bullfighter, which means he’s a heck of an athlete. He just adds a lot of flavor, a lot of personality. He’s awesome.”

Yates’ main job will be cowboy protection, getting in the middle of the action once a bull rider gets off the animal.

“Whether you make the ride or don’t make the ride, you need somebody to help you,” Yates said. “That’s what we’re there for. It kind of started out as a necessity to have somebody out there as an extra target, but guys have gotten very good at protection. I study tapes just like a football player would, and I’d do things to help me be better at it.”

That’s the job he’s paid to do inside the arena, and it takes incredible athleticism to be within arm’s length of a 2,000-pound bucking beast and have everyone in the arena come away unscathed.

“I’m an adrenaline junky, and the adrenaline itself drew me to rodeo,” Yates said. “Then there’s the fact that this is the first thing I wasn’t great at. I’m not trying to be cocky, but the truth is football and baseball and that sort of stuff came easy to me.

“But bullfighting … for me to get good, I really had to work at it. Plus it’s different every time. That’s appealing to me.”

So what’s it like to go nose-to-nose with a snorting, muscular bull?

“It’s almost like transference, like when you’re getting bumped around by the bull,” he said. “I don’t get scared or nervous in that situation, but it’s more like a transfer of energy from you to the bull. You almost feel like you’re becoming one with the animal. It’s just that transference of energy, that transference of respect.”

Yates has seen it all in the arena. In freestyle events, bullfighters are matched one-on-one with the athletic animals. Bullfighters are judged on how close they get to the animal and their athletic maneuvers around the beasts. Protection bullfighting is about keeping the bull riders and others in the arena out of harm’s way.

That doesn’t mean Yates has gone unharmed, though. In fact, he’s broken more than 130 bones and has had other injuries and the surgeries to repair them. He doesn’t exactly crave injuries, but he doesn’t fear them.

“As you’re taking the beating from the bull, and as long as it’s not something that’s super painful, you’re kind of laughing at it, kind of digging it,” Yates said. “That’s what made me great in ‘American Gladiator,’ the fact that I thrive on that part of the fight. It’s what made me a great gladiator and what makes me a great bullfighter.”

And just like he did on national television, Yates allows his alter ego, Wolf, to make an appearance and handle the trash-talking that comes with competition.

“I’m the secret service of rodeo,” Yates said. “I take the bullet, or in this case, the bull. Now come watch me eat a bull or see how I can make a bull spin into the ground.”

Whether it’s Don, Hollywood or Wolf, Yates brings plenty to the show.

“There are a lot of people that may have never seen a bull riding like this, you’re competing for that entertainment dollar,” he said. “Hopefully they can see something in this wild, long-haired guy that likes to have fun.”

postheadericon Winning despite the pain

Four-time and reigning bareback riding world champion Bobby Mote was scheduled for surgery Tuesday to repair a sports hernia – a hernia in the abdominal region just above the groin.

It’s an ailment Mote has suffered with since last summer, yet he rode through the pain in through the latter half of the season – including those tough 10 days at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – to win another world title. Now he expects to be out of competition for at least a month, according to the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

“This is the type of injury that if you don’t get it taken care of can be career-threatening,” Mote told the Odessa (Texas) American. “I’m going to the top doctor in the country for this surgery, so I feel pretty good about it.”

It’s great that a champion is doing what he can to chase another gold buckle, but it is further proof to the toughness of these cowboys. While most professional athletes would’ve had the surgery midway through their regular season, Mote continued to play his game.

And he won his fourth world title because of it.

postheadericon The Cade of the West

Cade Hemphill sits on a live bull, looking quite ready to spur one to victory.

Cade Hemphill sits on a live bull, looking quite ready to spur one to victory.

Karla and Kevin Hemphill looked at their youngest child, wondering what 3-year-old Cade had in mind for Halloween.

Cade Hemphill

Cade Hemphill

They asked the rodeo-loving youngster if he wanted to be a cowboy, much to Cade’s dismay.

“Why?” he asked. “I’m already a cowboy.”

The Hemphills and their three children – including daughter Josie and another son, A.J. – live in Strasburg, Colo., a mere 35 miles east of the National Western Stock Show near downtown Denver. The stock show is one of the first big rodeo events of the new year, and it’s where Cade wants to be.

Cowboy has defined Cade for a good portion of his young life. Just before his second birthday, the Hemphills attended the Jayhawker Roundup Rodeo in Hill City, Kan., the youngster’s first experience involving bucking broncs, athletic horses, the speed of barrel racing and the drama of bull riding.

“He sat through the whole rodeo and was mesmerized,” Karla said. “He never moved.”

Take a moment to consider that. Still in diapers with an attention span of a needle, and rodeo had the boy mesmerized. That’s the kind of fan rodeo needs.

“From that day on, he was hooked,” Karla said. “I think he loves boots, hats, his herd of stick horses and stick bull and, of course, his rope.”

Cade’s favorite events are steer wrestling and bull riding, and he obviously keeps up with it pretty well – his favorite bull is the Professional Bull Riders stalwart Chicken On A Chain. Oh, and this is his favorite time of the year, when the rodeo comes to Denver.

“The day after Christmas he said, ‘Santa came, Christmas is over; now I can go to the stock show,’ ” Karla said.

That’s the kind of fan every sport needs. Now those of us in rodeo need do what we can to enhance Cade’s rodeo experience so he’s a fan for life.

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