Mrs. McG and I have taken to watching rodeo on TV lately, and we've already learned to recognize names and faces of some of the top contenders.
The other night we watched a rerun of last March's RodeoHouston "Super Shootout," which features winners of eight top rodeos (including Houston's final rounds the previous night) in five of the most popular events -- bareback and saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, barrel racing, and bull riding.
Actually most of what I've been watching is Championship Bull Riding, which is on every week and is only a few weeks old when it airs, so I've become familiar with quite a few of the top bull riders in the 2016 season.
Anyway, the first round of the Super Shootout eliminates four of each set of competitors, and in two of the events the cowboys who won last year's Cheyenne Frontier Days went into their final rounds after having scored highest (those scores don't carry over into final rounds) so they were favored in the finals. One of these was the bull riding.
As tends to be the case at most regular rodeos, the bull riding finals were the last competitive event, with the highest-scoring bull rider from the first round, Aaron Pass, riding last. So there he was in the chute, getting set for the opening of the gate, but he didn't like how he'd gotten his rope tied and had to redo it.
And one of his competitors, Sage Kimzey -- the one who'd scored highest so far in the final round and had the most to lose if Pass had a good ride -- climbs up on the chute rail and helps him tie it down. When the gate opened you could see Kimzey sitting on the rail cheering Pass on. And Pass won the night. His CFD teammate, steer wrestler Nick Guy, had also won his event.
In a really fairly short time since I've been catching rodeos on TV I've been impressed with the sportsmanship among rodeo competitors. These guys aren't raking in megabucks, they're responsible for their own equipment and for getting to their events, and they're in a dangerous sport that can and does claim lives. Yes, they get sponsorships, and many come up through the high school and college circuits where it's easy to make contacts, but money from a family-owned hardware chain with only three stores isn't going to buy a jet.
You'd think they'd be hungry, and they are -- but they're not on each other's menu. These are hard-working, good-natured, polite men and women doing what they're good at and loving it.
I'll choose the rodeo over the NFL or the NBA just any damn time.