It seems everyone is posting about the Olympics.  So what am I going to post about?

Why rodeo should be an Olympic Sport (and never, ever will be).  Yup!

Why it should be an Olympic sport:

  • The Olympics are about two things: universality and consummate sportsmanship.  Hello rodeo!
  • Rodeo isn’t just about getting on an animal and hanging on for dear life.  Those who think it is end up getting hurt.  A lot.  Concussion or worse hurt.  The competitors in this sport practice hours every week when weather permits.  When weather doesn’t permit: they practice anyway.  Roping dummies and mechanical horses/bulls (sometimes manual with another competitor making the dummy buck–it’s not super effective but it’s much better than nothing) are some of the most vital equipment pieces for any rodeo practice grounds.  And that level of dedication is from the people who rodeo part-time.  The people who are lucky enough to do it for a living?  When they’re not on the road, they’re in an arena.  It doesn’t matter if that arena is for a school or for a show, they’re there and improving their craft (sometimes as the student, sometimes as the teacher).  There is no such thing as a “day off” in rodeo. Most cowboys aren’t in one, but multiple associations so they can compete as often as possible, and learn from the competition while they’re at it.  As for those schools, there are so many different styles of roping and riding that it makes my head spin.  I know each cowboy tries out a handful of styles before finding the one that clicks.  And sometimes after years of doing it one way, they change everything up and try something else because these men and women are doing everything they can to rope better, ride better, and be better.  One of the best headers in the world (the person who catches the front end of the steer in Team Roping) recently decided to start heeling (catching the back feet of a steer).  Why?  Because he knew he could improve as a competitor if he did.  The last thing he wanted to do was do the sport of rodeo a disservice by getting lazy in his competing, so he decided to challenge himself again.  And guess what?  He’s doing really well.  Scarily well.  Headers should not be able to heel like that!  On top of dedication to sportsmanship in individual events, many competitors go in multiple events.  Those cowboys are called All-Around cowboys.  Each event takes a distinctly unique set of skills.  To compete in one is amazing, to compete in two or three is downright phenomenal.
  • Rodeo is also all over the place.  Some of the best cowboys are from Brazil, Mexico, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.  One of the best bareback riders currently competing: from France.  We have competitors from Japan.  We have kids from the East and West Coasts here in America.  The West doesn’t make up the entire body of rodeo competitors by a long shot.  Some of the biggest rodeos are in Texas, yes, but many of them are on the coasts as well (Atlantic City, NJ being one–seriously).  There are more countries that would be able to pick up and participate in rodeo than you might think, and it wouldn’t be terrible hard to find a few more countries willing to participate.

Why it never will be:

  • Hello logistics: stock.  Oh my goodness.  Can you imagine the nightmare it would be getting rodeo quality stock across international borders?  Or to convince breeders in the host country to start breeding animals that would be used (essentially) one and done?  It’s not like you can train the rodeo out of an animal.  I shudder to think.
  • Hello legalities.  There are some events that are illegal in certain states in the US, not to mention internationally.  Tie-Down (or Calf) Roping is the event most commonly banned.  Countries who put in a bid for the Olympics would either have to spend the next several years getting exceptions to laws (it can be done, London did for the shooting events this year) or not have the laws in the first place.
  • Hello logistics: arena.  Rodeo arenas aren’t exactly easy to put together.  The dirt has to be just right (too deep and it’s a danger to the animals and people, too shallow and it’s a danger to the animals and people), it has to be a certain size and there has to be ample room for stock pens, not to mention loading and unloading the stock or grazing areas or . . . you get the idea.  A rodeo arena is much different from an equestrian arena.  They would not be able to double up, so there’s one more event venue that would have to be found, approved, and/or constructed.
  • Hello animal activists.  I’m sure someone protests the Olympics every year on some level.  But adding rodeo?  We’re talking picketers and angry animal rights people condemning the USOC if they were to join.  Who knows?  Some countries who have strong animal rights sensibilities might refuse to go at all if rodeo were included on the program (countries have certainly refused to attend before for other reasons, though those have been mostly political)
  • Hello logistics: events.  There are, currently, seven events for Professional Rodeo and one Women’s Professional Rodeo event recognized at the National Finals Rodeo (females are welcome to compete in PRCA events, but they don’t do so often).  However, on the high school and college levels, there are several more women’s events and one less traditionally men’s event.  Many competitors in the Olympics are of those younger ages.  Which event would the USOC run?  Which ones would they say weren’t qualified?  How would teams be determined as rodeo, on the professional level, is very much so an individual sport, but, on the college level, is a team sport as well?
  • Hello misconceptions.  This is the one that breaks my heart the most.  There are so many misconceptions about rodeo: that it’s just a bunch of dumb hicks from the US that compete, that we hurt the animals for our enjoyment, that it isn’t a sport in general.  None of these are true.  I can’t make any arguments that haven’t been made, so I won’t try.  Rest assured that this rodeo fan is educated, cares for animal rights, and has witnessed the athleticism and commitment it takes to be a rodeo competitor.

So, while I’d love to see rodeo be recognized, I’m afraid it’ll be several lifetimes and then some before it the possibility could even be brought up.

Sigh.

P.S.  This post is written about rodeo, but understand there is also an underlying rage about the exclusion of baseball and softball.  Come on, people!  Just because the US is pretty consistently the winner does not mean it doesn’t have international appeal.  Sore losers.

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