Among the many things to like about rodeo cowboys is almost all of them have manners. They say “yes sir” and “no ma’am” and most will thank you after an interview. Sometimes you don’t get that with Marshawn Lynch or Steve Spurrier.
Rodeo cowboys usually don’t talk trash, either. Unless you get them behind the wheel on a racetrack. Then they will talk more trash than a mob boss when the feds are tapping wires.
Trevor Brazile is the Michael Jordan of professional rodeo, having at last check won a bazillion gold buckles. But Brazile doesn’t talk smack. He doesn’t repeatedly thrust his fist into the air after roping stuff, the way M-J did when he sank that shot over Craig Ehlo.
Usually the most you’re going to get out of the unassuming Brazile is a tip of the Resistol, as the rodeo announcers say.
But tie-down roping champion Tuf Cooper got a lot more than that out of the perennial gold buckle polisher at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Sunday morning.
Brazile is married to Cooper’s sister, Shada. The brothers-in-law spent the better part of their morning driving stock cars at the Richard Petty Experience, partly because this is National Finals Rodeo Week in Las Vegas, and partly because it is NASCAR Champions Week, too — but mostly because Tuf’s mom, Shari, thought it would be something fun for the boys to do.
So they traded 1 horsepower for 600 NASCAR horsepower, and because they are rodeo stars, they got to go first.
Tuf got behind the wheel of the black No. 28, which had the name of Travis Kvapil, who at last check had competed in 267 NASCAR Cup races, above the window netting. Trevor was assigned the yellow No. 14, which had a “Miss Sprint Cup” decal over the driver’s compartment.
But when Tuf couldn’t get the engine in the No. 28 started, and his car started making a noise that sounded like two cats fighting over a piece of tuna, the smart money was on Trevor.
Meanwhile, Trevor’s son, Treston, who turns 7 today, had managed to crawl into the cockpit of the No. 43 car when the grown-ups weren’t paying attention. Good thing it was only a show car and those toggle switches were turned off.
After Tuf finally got his engine started, Trevor passed him on the first lap with a tip of the Resistol — “just slingshotted by his a$$” is the way he put in on his Facebook page — and so much for having manners and not talking trash.
When Trevor took the checkered flag, Tuf’s car was just pulling out of Decatur, Texas, where they live. The first words spoken when the rodeo boys removed their helmets and balaclavas were by Treston Brazile.
“You got smoked,” the little guy said to his uncle Tuf.
The grown-ups laughed, and then the lap charts confirmed Treston Brazile’s astute observation: His dad’s top speed was 134 mph; Uncle Tuf’s was a pedestrian 127.
The rodeo boys pored over those lap charts as if they were payout percentages at the Frontier Days rodeo in Cheyenne, Wyo. Tuf said he was stuck in third gear the whole time, which may or may not have been true. Trevor said he’d love to come back and do it again, provided they could find him some competition.
Going 134 mph in a stock car seemed like a blur, Trevor Brazile said. It gave him a healthy respect for the men and Danica Patrick who drive in circles for a living without an instructor sitting alongside, telling them what to do should they drift above or below the little white lines, or should Brad Keselowski pull up on their rear spoiler.
Could he rope a stock car traveling 134 mph? Probably, he said. But he wouldn’t want to hang on, even if he was wearing a helmet with a HANS device.
“Honestly, I’ve never been to a race. I’ve seen them on TV,” said Brazile, who, having kept his car off the wall, only needs to show up at the Thomas &Mack Center beginning Thursday to clinch his ninth consecutive all-around cowboy title. “Until you get down here and feel the vibration of the engines … it brings a whole new meaning to it. It gives you a little more insight as to what goes on in the races.”
Cooper was a bit less analytic in describing the experience.
“That was swell,” the Tuf one said.
“The professional level? My job lasts for eight seconds. They’ve gotta go for what, three hours. That’s intense.”
I don’t know what it is about watching athletes and other people enjoying themselves out of their element. But I think this is what makes “Dancing With the Stars” popular, and years before, the “Superstars” on ABC. The primary difference is at the track, you’ll never see Robert Hegyes pull on a tug-of-war rope while wearing tiny shorts.
It was fun to see a couple of cowboys enjoying themselves outside the arena. It smelled nicer, too. It would be a lot more fun to watch Brad Keselowski try to ride a bull, though. Should it ever happen, I’ll bet a lot of those other NASCAR drivers will be cheering for the bull.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski