Rodeo Insider: Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee discusses his love of sport
Former Arkansas Governor lived in Fort Worth in the 1970s
Huckabee enjoys ‘extraordinary’ athletes at National Finals Rodeo
Candidate compares similarities of rodeo and campaigning
BY BRETT HOFFMAN
Special to the Star-Telegram
At the closing performance of the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo earlier this month in Las Vegas, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee talked about his admiration for the western riding sport and his ties to Fort Worth — which often is labeled as Cowtown.
The 60-year-old Huckabee is a Hope, Ark., native who served as the state’s governor from 1996 through 2007. But he also lived in Fort Worth in the 1970s, when he attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and served as a staffer for Christian televangelist James Robison.
“We went to the Stockyards many times,” Huckabee told the Star-Telegram. “I get my boots at M.L. Leddy’s, and my favorite restaurant in America is Joe T. Garcia’s.”
Huckabee, a candidate in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, has made multiple trips to the NFR, the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s championship that runs 10 straight days each December.
“There’s nothing like it,” Huckabee said. “Having grown up in Arkansas and seeing rodeos, I thought I had seen a rodeo until I came to the NFR. Then you realize this is comparing the World Series to Little League. It’s extraordinary cowboys and cowgirls who are at the top of their profession.”
The NFR features the top 15 competitors in each event based on prize money earned during the regular season.
"TREVOR BRAZILE, JUST AN INCREDIBLE ATHLETE. I’VE NOT ONLY SEEN BOBBY MOTE AT THE NFR, BUT I’VE BEEN IN STEPHENVILLE WHERE I SPOKE AT AN EVENT AND BOBBY AND HIS FAMILY MEMBERS ATTENDED. THERE’S SOME TERRIFIC ATHLETES AT THE NFR, SOME TERRIFIC PEOPLE."
Mike Huckabee on local cowboys
Huckabee said he and his wife, Janet, are captivated by the NFR’s performances.
“During every event, I want to stay glued to my seat,” Huckabee said. “There’s not an event that makes me want to get up and go to the concession stand. But some of the events are amazing because I cannot imagine getting into that arena on top of a bull.”
Huckabee attended the NFR’s 10th performance on Dec. 12 at UNLV’s Thomas & Mack Center. Three days later, he was among an array of Republican candidates who congregated at Las Vegas’ Venetian Hotel & Casino for a GOP presidential debate.
Asked to compare rodeo to a political campaign, Huckabee said: “At least in campaigning, most of the wounds are deep within the emotions — they are not physical. These guys come out with broken bones and busted up bodies in ways no candidate would want to experience.
“But there are some similarities because with a bull, you never know what a bull is going to do. You never know what voters are going to do. Politics is a bunch of bull and so is bull riding.”
MIKE HUCKABEE LIVED IN FORT WORTH IN THE 1970S WHEN HE ATTENDED SOUTHWESTERN BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AND SERVED AS A STAFFER FOR CHRISTIAN TELEVANGELIST JAMES ROBISON.
Huckabee also compared bull riding to pro football.
“I don’t know that the NFL football players take any hits harder than these rodeo guys do,” Huckabee said. “NFL players at least are operating against human beings. A referee can throw a flag and you can stop a human being. Stopping a bull, that’s a whole different thing.
“The biggest lineman in the NFL is about a fourth or a fifth of the weight of any of those bulls out there. So it gives you a perspective that when any of those bulls are coming after those guys, it’s like the entire front line of the biggest NFL team coming after you at one time.”