Big Eight is quite right in criticizing the commercialization of cherished cultural traditions such as the Rodeo. Rodeo shows started as a form of entertainment and show of expertise among horse-owners. When it started, players’ skills were truly tested, for no two horses are the same and they have to adjust to the vagaries of each horse that they take on. Those who performed well were respected for their skillfulness among both peers and the general audience. As Big Eight understandably laments, in the early days of Rodeo, players performed for the sake of pride and not for earning money or gaining popularity.
But commercialization of the sport is not necessarily a bad outcome, for it has brought its reach to a wider audience through television broadcast and event-managed shows. The names of most accomplished Rodeo players would have remained anonymous had the sport been restricted to traditional gatherings. While it is true that businessmen got involved in Rodeo purely for profit motives, they also indirectly helped successful performers get rich and famous. This also applies to rustic/rural practitioners like Big Eight, who probably deserved to get more monetary reward for their expertise in riding a horse. The intrusion of commercial sponsors like Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola and Marlboro can be distracting, but it is a small price to pay for other benefits that commercialization brings.
Looking back at the history of American culture can be instructive for analyzing this conflict. Games of Native American cultural origins such as Rezball, Cherokee marbles and Lacrosse are also commercialized and modernized to an extent; and as a result these games continue to survive and attract interested audiences. These games are encouraged and preserved through collegiate championships across America, which would not have been possible without corporate sponsorship. Even in the case of Rodeo, which also has its roots in Native American tribal tradition, it is fair to say that its commercialization has significantly contributed to its preservation. With games such as Basketball, Baseball, Ice Hockey and Tennis gathering mass audiences, traditional sport such as Rodeo might have been relegated and marginalized to country festivals and competitions had it not been for corporate support.
While Big Eight’s concerns are born out of her genuine love for the sport, an endeavor to look at the broader picture is likely to change her views. Her worries about the lessening of standards (as in using a mechanized horse instead of a real one, thereby diminishing the element of unpredictability associated with a live animal) and add-on attractions (as in employing Minnie Mouse and Donald Duck giant replicas in the show arena) are legitimate, for they add up to dilute the cultural significance of Rodeo. But with other sports and television programs competing for audience attention, the present packaging can be tolerated as a necessary evil.
Hence, in conclusion, while Big Eight’s feelings of nostalgia for a traditional sport and her lamentations about its present commercialization are quite valid, there is probably a blessing in disguise. In other words, without commercialization, Rodeo might not have gotten the widespread recognition and following that it now gets. Also, while it was purely confined to the countryside previously, it’s commercialization is now encouraging many city-dwellers to take an active interest. As a consequence, the talent pool for Rodeo is increasing, indirectly improving the quality of performance.
Martin, Jane. ‘Rodeo’. Reading Literature and Writing Argument. 4th ed. James, Missy, and Alan P. Merickel. Pearson Education, Inc., 2011.