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Under the Hat: Regular season insanity

September 12, 2017

It’s at this point of the season where I can expect some nerves to surface. Let’s say you’re out of the top 15 by about 10 grand and you’ve got less than three weeks to go. Let’s be honest, 10 grand can be had in those three weeks. Shoot, we’ve got Pendleton this week, 10 grand can be had this week alone.

But it’s not just your horse, calf, steer or bull you’ve got to worry about. What if you earn enough money, but the guys ahead of you keep winning? What if you barely win any money, but the guy below you goes off?

We’ve seen it happen before. Every year there is some sort of last-minute rush toward the top 15 that ends up in a success. Brady and Riley Minor won $9,000 the last week of the 2015 regular season. But on the flip side, there are those late-season pushes that come so close, but not close enough. This is an armchair roper here, a voice from the stands: I’m not in the arena trying to make a living, but boy do I get anxious for the guys that do.

Tyson Durfey barely even made the top 15 last year. The calf roper finished 14th at the end of the regular season and didn’t know until the last weekend of September if he was off to Vegas. I remember talking to him after his runs at the circuit finals in November asking him his strategy for Las Vegas and he said it didn’t matter what position he was in or how he even earned his ninth trip to the National Finals, what mattered was he was there and with so much money to be won nightly, it was almost as though the slate was clean.

Disclaimer here: Tyson is one of my favorites. He turned pro early in my rodeo coverage career so it’s almost as though I’ve known him since his start (from afar at least) and I’ve watched him closely every year. He’s a very positive person, very driven, but I can remember thinking that even as a biased fan of his, even with his positive attitude, even with $27,000-plus to win every night, it still would be difficult. You know what? It didn’t matter what I thought, but what mattered is 10 rounds of consistency and $147,712 later, Durfey was introduced as the world champion.

Some will say that with the increased payout at the NFR, the regular season doesn’t matter as much. Oh yeah? Tell that to the guy who was 16th in each event last year watching from his TV. The regular season gets you there. Deciding whether to count a tiny circuit rodeo will support or haunt your future decisions. Deciding on whether to turn out of St. George, Utah, for a larger possible payday in Albuquerque will frustrate a cowboy this week.

Ask Cesar de la Cruz if the regular season matters. You know why he was happy after he and Brandon Beers picked up the average win here? One, the money. C’mon, $5,000-plus goes a long way. However, it helps him stay close to the top 50 in the world standings, the cutoff for many lucrative winter season rodeos like San Antonio for example, which pays out $1.5 million. That’s insane money. That’s the regular season.

We’ve got just three more full weeks of regular season to go before we’re booking trips. Us fans know if we’re going to Vegas. Those in the top 10 of the standings know they’re going. But those in 11th through 20th are hoping their December includes the Thomas and Mack Arena.

Join me in watching it all play out.

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.