AFTER THE WHISTLE

No bull rodeo action is extreme

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— Last year a gentleman by the name of Roach Hedeman told me that fighting bulls may have been one of the very first extreme sports during an interview for a story.

I scribbled the quote down in my notes with little thought. Later, as I started to write, I realized he was right and that these cowboys really do share a common thread with skiers who like to toss themselves off 100-foot cliffs in the name of a good time.

I also found it was hard to argue with a guy who dances with 2,000-pound animals for a living dressed in a clown suit.

This weekend the Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series will open for the season and Steamboat will once again be graced with a chance to watch some of the top extreme athletes in the country. Look quick, however, because when it's done right these extreme athletes work for just over eight seconds and then look to collect a paycheck.

Many of the athletes in the bull riding, bareback and saddle bronc riding events find the same thrill by jumping on the back of a rank horse or bull that skiers get when they cheat nature by skimming down the steep slopes of an untamed mountain.

The other thing that links the sports is that they are both fun to watch.

Lets face it most cowboys were extreme long before being extreme was popular.

These days television has created a whole new realm of sporting events which are classified extreme. Skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, mountain bikes and sky diving have all blossomed into a new trend in the sporting world. Bull riding has been able to capture some of the spotlight, but it hasn't become popular enough to make it onto a Mountain Dew advertisement here in Colorado.

The rodeo offers a unique opportunity for anyone to check out top caliber athletes in action. Unlike watching extreme skiers in action there is no reason to trek miles into the backwoods, bundle up and fight those freezing temperatures.

You can enjoy watching these guys from the comfort of the grandstands and even run down to the concession stands and grab a beer, or Pepsi, whenever the urge hits you.

In the past several years as extreme sports have gained popularity, rodeo has had to fight to be recognized for what it has to offer.

Playing on this attraction to the extreme side of things, promoters with the Professional Bull Riders have been able to build a fan base with bull riding-only events and it would seem that it's appeal with the public continues to grow along with the whole extreme sporting scene.

Some folks have even tried to pull saddle bronc and bareback riding into the profitable equation.

Only time will tell if the extreme trend will hold on, and if a sport like rodeo will be able to cash in on the trend.

I would encourage folks who might differ with Mr. Hedeman's perception of rodeo and bullfighting as an extreme sport to head down to the rodeo arena this summer on a Friday or Saturday night to take in a performance of the Steamboat Springs Professional Rodeo Series.

If watching these guys test fate against a fast-moving bull doesn't get the adrenilan flowing then you are not sitting close enough to the action.

The Steamboat Springs Pro Rodeo Series began Friday night and included bull, saddle bronc and bareback riding. There are also team roping, calf roping, steer wrestling and barrel racing events on the schedule. The series will run for 10 weeks this summer and the cost of admissionis $10 at the door or $9 in advance at one of nine locations throughout Steamboat Springs.

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