After bluffs are called, of course NFR is staying


He is from Wisconsin, and if truth be known, his sports uniform of choice probably would be a wrestling singlet, given he once was an All-America grappler at the university in Madison. But come the first week of every December, Las Vegas Events president Pat Christenson dons a cowboy hat to celebrate the National Finals Rodeo coming to town. He has been donning that cowboy hat for so long that he almost looks good in it.

By 2024, I’ll bet he’ll look as good as Gene Autry wearing that hat.

After much wailing and gnashing of teeth, the Las Vegas Events board of trustees and its counterparts from the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association on Friday announced they had reached a unanimous agreement to keep the NFR in Las Vegas until 2024.

Yee-haw! Yippie-yi-yo-ki-yay! Cowboy Up! Or Re-Up, in this case.

Maybe those pardners from the PRCA wanted to create the illusion they were serious about moving to Osceola County, Fla., when they voted 6-3 in December to reject Las Vegas’ latest contract extension offer and instead signed a Memorandum of Understanding with some proposed new pardners.

You see how it turned out.

So the next time somebody offers you a Memorandum of Understanding, you should just hand them a deed to some swampland. Apparently, they are worth about the same.

In his statement to the media, Pat Christenson used the word “relieved” to describe getting signatures on a bottom line that actually matters. So perhaps the wailing and gnashing of teeth over that Memorandum of Understanding was at least a little legit.

I happen to think it mostly was a negotiating tactic.

I, too, once had a Memorandum of Understanding: to stay married to my first wife until death did us part. After 4½ years, her attorney took one look at the paperwork and declared it a hill of beans. She also got to keep our dog.

So, no, I don’t think the PRCA was serious about moving the NFR out of the Thomas &Mack Center, even if there’s sometimes not enough room inside to keep them doggies movin’. Our gambling tables and honky-tonks that never close more than make up for the lack of furlongs in our arena.

Osceola County supposedly was going to build a rodeo arena with 24,000 seats and lots of furlongs. Las Vegas supposedly is going to build at least two NBA/NHL arenas, an on-campus football stadium with a retractable roof and a minor league baseball park. And someplace with a frozen pond for the Wranglers to skate, lest they move to Flagstaff, Ariz.

That sound you hear is not the sound of shovels breaking ground. It might be the sound of crickets, or the sound of feasibility studies, and the cha-ching! of consultants being paid for rendering such studies.

There also was talk about the NFR moving to Texas, where an arena with thousands of bells and whistles already exists. But Texas Gov. Rick Perry was said to be the point man for those talks, and Perry sometimes forgets things.

In the end — as in any poker game where stakes are high — bluffs were made and then they were called.

Las Vegas probably was no more serious about holding an alternative rodeo using Mr. Ed, My Friend Flicka and any cast members of “Rawhide” that still might be alive than the PRCA was of moving its Super Bowl from here to Florida.

So instead of in the newspapers, it might have been better had the sides just negotiated as they usually do: behind closed doors, or out back by the bullpens over a couple of cold Coors Lights in the easy-pouring cans. Much less wailing and gnashing of teeth that way.

As expected, the new deal includes a bunch of dollars signs and zeros. But the only dollar sign that probably ever mattered in these negotiations was the one followed by an 8, a 7, a point and a 9.

It is said the NFR is worth $87.9 million in nongaming revenue for Las Vegas, and Las Vegas simply was not going to let that kind of money leave town.

It also is said that what happens here, stays here. It might be even more apropos to say that what Las Vegas wants, Las Vegas almost always gets.

Las Vegas wanted the NFR back. It got the NFR back. Pardners on both sides will get dollar signs and zeros, and Pat Christenson will get to keep wearing his cowboy hat in December.

Can I get a yee-haw?

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski.