Perfect. After he whirled his rope and wrestled his calf, there was Trevor Brazile astride a horse on the Stampede Park dirt waving his white cowboy hat.
It was a freeze-frame moment, much like the end of a western movie when the hero, after saving the day, rides off into the sunset.
The world’s greatest rodeo cowboy may have delivered his valedictory address to Cody during the 100th anniversary celebration of the Buffalo Bill Cody Stampede Rodeo.
Brazile, 42, has 24 world championships on his resume. He has nearly $7 million in the bank. And with a wife and three children under 12 at home in Decatur, Texas, the winningest rodeo competitor of all time is spending more time home on the range in more than two decades.
Unlike athletes in professional team sports who conclude careers when seasons end, Brazile is living the second coming of Gen. Douglas MacArthur, an old soldier just fading away.
On his own terms, to be sure. This is the twilight of a god.
During his former 130-rodeo-per-year tour of America, Brazile was a dominating tie-down and team roper. He entered only tie-down in Cody. He finished third for the night and didn’t make the money list for the whole rodeo.
Though no one reminded the crowd, Brazile shares the tie-down Stampede Park record of 7.2 seconds from a 2009 performance.
Brazile repeated his December statement that he is done competing in the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. He is reducing his old, full schedule to 20-25 rodeos annually.
“It’s getting harder to leave home,” Brazile said behind the chutes at Stampede Park as rain began falling during the July 3 performance. “I don’t do the little ones. It takes a rodeo like this.”
Aging athletes, they do get weary. Often, after competing for many years, they cite time away from family, too many nights in hotel rooms, and too many hours on the road, as much as diminishing skills or desire, for why they wake up one day ready to shelve such a meaningful part of their life, indeed perhaps all-consuming.
No one says aloud Brazile’s talent is waning, though even he was a bit surprised to pluck that one last All-Around crown in Vegas in 2018.
Some cowboy could catch Brazile in prize money before the Texan applies for Medicare, but it might be the end of the century before someone surpasses his world-title mark, if ever. It might be like Cal Ripken surpassing Lou Gehrig in consecutive baseball games played decades later.
Just as Brazile tipped his hat to Cody fans, announcer Boyd Polhamus declared they were watching “the greatest cowboy in the history of our sport.”
The Rodeo Capital of the World knows rodeo and Stampede attendees didn’t really need to be told. They knew what they were witnessing on a confluence of unique occasions: Brazile’s likely farewell to the town and the 100th commemoration of the revered rodeo.
“We were honored that he was here,” said Mike Darby, co-president of the Stampede Board of Directors. “He is a legend and he has been a legend for a long time.”
If not being afflicted with dwindling passion, Brazile could continue roping anywhere a rodeo is scheduled, an early career habit.
“I’m trying to wean myself off it,” he said.
When cowboys are young and hungry, seeking to brand a name and breaking into their first NFR field they keep those wild If-It’s-Tuesday-It-Must-Be Belgium travel schedules.
Brazile didn’t say outright he is tired of winning, but it is obvious he is sated. There is a difference.
Las Vegas has been very, very good to Brazile. Given his long-term good fortune in the desert maybe he can keep winning – at the tables.
Chatting with Brazile this year, he seemed mellower than during some past Cody pauses, even in his outlook on the NFR in Vegas.
“I’m going back in a different capacity,” he said.
Given his long-term, almost mystical good fortune in the desert, Brazile could key in on blackjack or poker, though Texas Hold’em aside that may not be in the cards.
“Fan,” he said.
The simplest of roles may be Trevor Brazile’s future in rodeo.