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We’re more than a week removed from the National Finals and if you’re like me, after a day or two of an NFR hangover, you already miss the satisfaction of 10 straight days of rodeo the NFR brings. My brain is always thinking about rodeo — just the other day I was asking Brittany what the summer schedule looked like while I tried to input rodeo travel plans into her brain — and even though I should be thinking of getting Brittany and the girls just one more gift each for Christmas, it doesn’t mean I’m not also thinking about what the San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo will look like in February or what the Red Bluff Roundup will pay out in April.

This year can take a flying leap. Yes, there were still plenty of great story lines through the year — you might’ve had to look harder for those — but 2020 did no favors to the rodeo community. There’s the notion that we’ll be better off in 2021, but recent actions prove the pandemic of 2020 is trickling into 2021.

Denver and Ft Worth cancelled their rodeos scheduled for next month. To give some insight, Denver pays out $550,000-plus and Ft. Worth is near a million bucks. You win at either one of those rodeos — especially Ft. Worth — and you’ve got some bills paid for a while. RodeoHouston saw the writing on the wall and pushed their usual March million dollar bonanza further into the spring in May. You’ll remember Houston last year where one day the rodeo was in full swing and the next day it shut down. Just like that. Obviously, it was clear something could happen, but it was still a shock when it did seemingly so suddenly. I’m glad that committee is being proactive in keeping the performances on the schedule.

It will be interesting to watch the PRCA, rodeo committees and towns (that so heavily rely on the boost of business from rodeos coming to town) do to not miss another year of rodeo. Watching the NFR on TV, you saw a mix of distancing, masked fans and mask less fans and I expect that to happen at some level during the regular season of rodeo.

What else will we see?

I expect to see Stetson Wright continue to be competitive in both bulls and saddle bronc, which means he’ll be a factor in the All-Around for a while.

He’s got two All-Around’s under his belt – watch out Mr. Brazile – but his youth (he’s just 21) and mastery of two events will keep him in the conversation for years. Let me go one further: Will we see a Triple Crown roughstock rider? That hasn’t been done in more than 60 years when Jim Shoulders did it for three straight years in the late 50s. Plenty of cowboys will get in the way of Stetson’s quest for the bronc-riding buckle it would take to get that trifecta in one year, and two of those cowboys are his brothers. Ryder is now a two-time champion during his five straight NFRs. Rusty is a five-time NFR qualifier himself.

How about Sage Kimzey? Will he get healthy this winter and be unbeatable in 2021 like he was the previous six years? I couldn’t help but make a comparison to Kimzey losing the bull riding title this year to Trevor Brazile losing the All-Around in 2005 to Ryan Jarrett. Trevor had won three straight from 2002 to 2004, but I remember him telling me after placing third in the All-Around in 2005 he was laser focused heading into 2006. He won 10 All-Around buckles in a row (including two of his own Triple Crowns) and quite possibly would’ve won his 11th in 2016 had he not held ownership in Elite Rodeo Athletes which prevented him from competing at the PRCA level.

Will that bounce back happen for Kimzey? Kimzey won six straight bull riding buckles, so he’s commonly looked at as one of the best bull riders of all time. Will he get two more to tie his friend Donnie Gay’s record? Will he get three more to beat him? I’ve read in articles and heard him say it on TV broadcasts: Donnie Gay would like nothing more than to see his record eight world titles be broken.

As for me and my family, we’re hoping for a prosperous year of rodeo in 2021. We try and get to a new rodeo each year, sometimes that doesn’t happen, this year was certainly one of those times where we came up short. But we can’t wait for 2021’s rodeo season whether that’s the California Run in the spring, 4th of July’s Cowboy Christmas, our Northwest Run in the Northwest or Labor Day weekend right here at home. I’ll put the good word in with Santa for that to happe

Merry Christmas to all. May your barrels never tip, barriers never break and your qualified rides be 85-plus.

Jon Guddat covers rodeo – from the kids to the kids at heart – with a weekly rodeo column in the Daily Record. Contact Jon with story ideas at jonguddat@yahoo.com

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