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Giving rodeo a kick in the chaps with show business
Have you ever noticed the overflow crowds for every night’s performance of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo always seem to especially enjoy the team roping event, but if you go to a jackpot or regional roping there are usually more people in the arena than in the stands?

We’re talking about a sport in which the contestants are every bit as good as the football players who play on Sundays. Team roping is lots more fun to watch than baseball or poker, and which looks more thrilling to you: swooping in and catching a steer’s hind feet with a rope while mounted on a fast horse, or sweeping the ice with a broom?

Yet millions watch poker on TV and curling during the Olympics, while maybe 20 people are sitting in the stands during your typical roping.

One of the more popular sports in America is NASCAR, in which cars go ’round and ’round really fast until they are stopped because of a wreck. Heck, you can see that on any freeway in this country. Yet, the NASCAR drivers are big celebrities with their own tour buses and Lear jets, while team ropers are in pawnshops gathering up gas money.

The difference is marketing. We should have learned by now from cage fighting and pro wrestling that when it comes to sports in America, it’s all about the show.

Ropers deserve an audience as much as bass fishermen and soccer players, but there’s so much competition for people’s time that you really have to liven things up if you expect to be able to gouge them for tickets and a cable bill. I have some ideas.

Vaqueros and cowboys in the old days roped other animals besides cattle – and I think it might spice up team ropings, and introduce an element of surprise, if occasionally a bobcat, wolf or grizzly bear came charging out of the chute instead of a calf.

We’ve all seen the boost PBR gave bull riding. Taking a page from their book, team ropers should have to put up with distractions like music, fireworks and perhaps a pack of misbehaving cow dogs turned loose when it’s their turn to rope.

One of the big draws of football or NASCAR is the possibility someone will get maimed or killed. The occasional lost digit just isn’t enough to satisfy a bloodthirsty public. So, to introduce an element of danger, just think if we could combine team roping with other rodeo events so the team ropers would have to rope a calf while riding a bucking bull or bronc!

A precedent has already been set for combining events like this. Every year in early September, in conjunction with the rodeo in Durango, Colo., there is a Biker Bull Riding and Bikini Contest. These people clearly understand marketing. They know what it takes to draw a crowd and, although Jim Shoulders, Gene Rambo and Casey Tibbs would be twirling in their graves, we can’t do business the way it always been done and expect to be on Facebook.

What if we instituted a rule that teams of ropers must consist of one male and one female, preferably a model, Playboy Bunny or hot movie actress, and that she must be clad only in a pair of chinks. Now there’s something every guy would pay to see!
Granted, I do have an ulterior motive. Team ropers ride great horses, and one of the side effects of the success of the USTRC is that good ranch horses cost a lot more now than they used to because aspiring team ropers are bidding them up. Suppose team ropers had to draw like bulldoggers and bronc riders as to which horse in the bucking string they‘d have to rope from in each performance?

This would introduce even more suspense and ease the burden of team ropers having to haul their horses from one roping to the next. They could just fly in on their jets like tennis players do, and you and I wouldn’t have to pay so much for a good ranch horse.
If we institute all of these changes I foresee a day when team ropers will be just like all other pro athletes – with their faces in the tabloids, their marriages in tatters and their bodies in jail, court or rehab.

The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of Farm World. Readers may log on to www.LeePitts books.com to order any of Lee Pitts’ books. Those with questions or comments for Lee may write to him in care of this publication.
3/6/2013