Steven Devadanam for HouStoned Images Ltd., Ulmtd.
Bull riding stud Cody Hancock poses with a bigass Rodeo boot.

Strait to the Topp

At the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo's major press conference today, I got to meet Cody Hancock, a badass who has taken a bull horn to the face and has a plate in his cheek to prove it. Oh, and he also won the 2006 Rodeo. Hancock says he's hyped that he could win as much money as he normally does in dozens of rodeos at this year's HLSR. "You'll have to go to 60 rodeos to make $50,000," he says. "Man, I love Houston. For once you feel like you're a star, with 70,000 people cheering for you."

Hancock and other riders are buzzing about how Rodeo higher ups have upped the rodeo purse to a total $1.275 million (an increase of more than half a million dollars over previous years) for the 75th anniversary event. That's big money for eight seconds of ridin', huh? (Not that it's easy riding a two-ton, angry, deadly bull.)

Each RodeoHouston Super Series Championship event champion will receive $50,000. In short, each night will feature a contest and a winner, rather than the long, drawn-out system of yore. Considering that the old rodeo format featured dozens of contestants riding at all times, with scores carrying over each day (think playoff basketball, with previous days' scores being tacked on each new day), this new bracket system makes it easier to follow the action, if you're into that kinda thing. The 2007 RodeoHouston will feature five "Super Series rodeos, "each with two preliminary rounds and a championship round. There'll be a series of semifinals, a Wild Card round and a Super Series Championship.

"We're revolutionizing the sport of rodeo," said Skip Wagner, HLSR president. "We're going to make it easy for our spectators to follow and to get involved in who's winning." Schafer says people will go home saying "'I saw the best darndest rodeo I've ever seen, and I saw someone win,' and they'll go home and tell all their friends about it. And we'll develop the kind of rodeo fan we've never had before."

Oh, and if you're into maiming, you'll want to attend the 2007 Rodeo's final show, which features "Xtreme Bulls," with 40 top cowboys riding some of the world's nastiest bulls. But now, for what you really care about — the music lineup....

George Strait will open the show, btw, on Tuesday, February 27. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame home boys ZZ Top close the show on Sunday, March 18. In between, you got country crooner Alan Jackson on Thursday, March 8, and "country's hottest new group," Sugarland, on Monday, March 12. — Steven Devadanam

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