There are no losers at NFR

Tonight puts a wrap on the 27th year we've been able to celebrate our Western heritage with 10 glorious days of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

It's a fun, wild and busy time.

And like ol' Buck, the NFR gets better every year.

Heading to tonight's last go-round, as many as seven categories have yet to be decided. A dozen or so contestants must have dreams of winning one of the oldest and most prized championship awards in any sport.

It's that giant, gold buckle.

Each of this year's 119 contestants leaves our city winners regardless of how well they rode, roped or bulldogged.

When they left the traditional Las Vegas Events welcome party on the eve of opening night, each was given $17,884 -- equivalent to winning a go-round paycheck -- so if they never earned a penny in competition they could leave town with extra jingle in their britches.

The official NFR hotels provided each with a free hotel room for their stay.

They're sportin' special NFR jackets worth at least $600.

And who knows how many other freebies they got.

With one more ride for each to take, they've provided memories that will last a lifetime.

From NFR barrel racing rookie Carlee Pierce winning a round with a time of 13.46 seconds that is the quickest in the 27 years of the NFR in the Thomas & Mack, to Kaycee Feilds tying the record for most NFR bareback riding round wins in a year with five after just nine rounds.

Expect more stunners tonight.

Each year our hotel neighbors put on more and more parties and other stuff that lets fans share in the NFR experience event if they don't go inside the T&M Corral for the rodeo.

By the time all cowboys, barrel racers and others in the PRCA family hit the trails for homes across the country, Finals promoter Las Vegas Events will have contributed more than $9.8 million to make the NFR one of the greatest sports events in the country.

That includes $6 million in prize money for the rodeo athletes.

And the NFR will have left about $52 million in nongaming revenue in Southern Nevada coffers.

No matter how great a marriage is some always wonder how long it will last.

The current contract with the PRCA for Las Vegas to host the annual shindig runs through 2014.

Even horses, bulls and steers know the grass isn't always greener on the other side of the fence.

The real green in Vegas are greenbacks, and no other city can match what Las Vegas has invested in the NFR and rodeo or what the city has to offer.

Thanks all for another great run.

Keep followin'

Cowboy up, y'all. 


My ol' buddy Jeff Wolf, a Las Vegas Review-Journal reporter since 1999, tells me tonight is the last time he works a rodeo.

Wolfman is moving to Indianapolis to join Don Schumacher Racing. He tells me it's the biggest, baddest team in NHRA drag racing.

He asked ol' Buck to pass thanks to those who have read his stories and share some thoughts about taking his last ride tonight:

"I'd never been to a rodeo or gotten within 20 feet of a live horse when I was sent to report on the 1999 NFR. The only thing I knew was that Ty Murray was a famous cowboy but didn't know why.

"My first lesson was rodeo athletes are the most polite in sports and the most cooperative with media. They patiently explained the most basic aspects of rodeo to me, and still do.

"Other reporters were helpful but none more than Ed Knocke, who has covered rodeo for half a century and will be here working today. The former Dallas Morning News reporter should be in the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame.

"I've watched the PRCA media effort go from minor-league in 1999 to today when its staff is as professional, knowledgeable and helpful as any in sports I've encountered.

"That first year, the media center was more like a closet or bunker. But that, too, has progressed beyond my wildest dreams thanks to Las Vegas Events.

"Today will be my last go-round as a reporter, but it won't be my last rodeo.

"I'll be back next year as a rodeo fan, to see my friends compete and work.

"My heart and soul never will lose the Western heritage I adopted 12 years ago."

"I'll always remember to 'cowboy up' and show a lot of 'try.'