Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 | 2 a.m.
Sun NFR coverage
You probably already know which end of the cowboy is up, and which end of the bull is the pointy one. But if you’re like many Las Vegans, you don’t follow rodeo enough to know who’s who among the competitors who have journeyed here to compete in the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Here’s a guide to five cowboys to watch:
He is pro rodeo’s Michael Jordan — or Joe Montana, if you prefer a football comparison. He’s won the National Finals Rodeo all-around champion buckle eight times and 15 world titles. Only two competitors in rodeo history have won more hardware. And the odds are good that Brazile will have to make more room in the trophy case for another all-around title: The Texan arrives with a cash-lead of $140,000 on the next cowboy, Shane Proctor. But he’s trailing the leaders in the two events — tie-down roping and team roping — in which he’ll compete.
He’s a bull rider, an activity that poses all kinds of hazards. The Texan once described his worst injury: “I had a bull crush the left side of my face ... They had to put plates and screws and all kinds of good stuff in there.” But it hasn’t dissuaded him. Harris turned pro in 2005 and is pursuing a fourth consecutive world bull riding title. His recipe for a good ride? “Just keep your hand in the rope for eight seconds.”
The bareback rider is looking to wrangle a fifth world title. Only two other bareback riders have ever accomplished that. Mote, who’s from Culver, Ore., was injured in August while in the bucking chutes before a ride. He didn’t know at the time that he had broken ribs and a lacerated pancreas and went on with the ride. NFR marks his return from that injury. “I was thinking the other day this might be the first time since I have been riding bareback horses that I have given my body three months off,” Mote wrote on his blog recently.
Here’s where we dust off the living-legend cliché, but in the case of Jake Barnes, it’s not hyperbole. Barnes’ first NFR was in 1980 and he’s already in the cowboy hall of fame, which all means he’s old — well, for a rodeo cowboy. If Barnes, 52, and his team roping partner, Walt Woodard, 56, win, it would not only be their eighth world team roping championship, they would become the oldest duo in rodeo history to win. That will probably have all of the old dudes cheering for them.
Saddle bronc riding is rodeo’s classic event, and Taos Muncy has an opportunity for a notable achievement in it. He’s attempting to become only the third cowboy to win a world and Canadian championship in the same year. Although Muncy is from Corona, N.M., the Canadian pro rodeo allows up to five non-Canadians to compete in events at that nation’s finals.