Courtesy of Boyd Polhamus / Mark Stalling
Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Rodeo announcer Boyd Polhamus is bringing his A-game to Las Vegas.
The 47-year-old former college roper and rider has been picked for the 17th time to call the events for the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, today through Dec. 15 at the Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV.
“It’s our Super Bowl,” said Polhamus, who announces about 275 days a year at smaller rodeos across the country, from New York to New Mexico.
“The National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas is the biggest and most prestigious and iconic event in our industry,” Polhamus said. “To be affiliated with it, to have a job there to explain the action is really very complimentary. It’s humbling. You realize you are surrounded by the best this industry has to offer in every aspect. From the contestants to the livestock, to the production staff and crew, there are none better anywhere than those who produce it.”
Polhamus will be joined in the booth by two other longtime NFR announcers: Randy Corley and Bob Tallman, who, like Polhamus, have won Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s Announcer of the Year awards multiple times.
The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Polhamus is known for announcing from atop a horse with a wireless microphone, as he did at the Helldorado Days rodeo in downtown Las Vegas and at the Clark County Fair and Rodeo in Logandale.
But Polhamus’ horses, Limo and Rolex, won’t be in Las Vegas this time.
The setup at the NFR is different. Although he was on horseback during an opening ceremony at the NFR about 10 years ago, no announcer is in the arena during the high-stakes, world-class competition.
But being in a booth won’t make calling the rodeo that much easier. The fans who attend the annual event in Las Vegas are passionate about the sport.
If they don’t like how he’s doing, Polhamus said, they aren’t bashful about stopping him in a hallway, an elevator or a restaurant to offer their critiques.
“The criticism is a lot higher in Las Vegas: what you should have said, what you didn’t say. They listen with a much more critical ear,” he said.
He said that’s what he loves about rodeo fans: “They don’t say things behind your back. They’ll tell you what they’re thinking straight to your face.”
Despite being in competition with other events for an audience, rodeo is still bringing in the fans, he said.
“Nostalgia for the Old West is part of it,” he said. “But I think rodeo has done a great job of changing with the times in order to remain very entertaining for the average person who doesn’t follow it. You don’t necessarily have to understand rodeo or know all our champions to go sit down at one and absolutely love and enjoy it.”
Polhamus has been part of the professional rodeo scene since 1985, when he decided to make the switch from college rodeo competitor to professional rodeo announcer.
At the time, the Sparta, Wis., native was a student at Southwest Texas State University — now Texas State University — where he had won a rodeo scholarship for his roping and riding skills. He was studying organizational communications, which involves improving workplace productivity.
One day, in the college rodeo practice pen, he was pretending to be a rodeo announcer, calling the play-by-play, when his coach overheard and invited him to announce a college rodeo event.
That led to making contact with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and announcing his first professional rodeo.
“I didn’t realize, even when I was pretending to be a rodeo announcer, that there was a career to it,” he said, laughing.
But after almost three decades in rodeo arenas across the country, Polhamus said, it couldn’t have turned out better.
“You get to experience a variety of different cultures, a variety of different geographic locations. It’s kind of cool because you see such a diversity of the United States,” he said. “To see America through that lens is pretty much a blessing.”