Jake Barnes: How Low Can Team Roping Times Go?

Jake Barnes talks about the evolution of speed in team roping.
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Jake Barnes talks about the evolution of speed in team roping.

With more and more people roping, team roping just keeps evolving like every other sport. It’s almost getting to the point where I can’t believe how tough it is. These young guys are coming on so fast. At a lot of rodeos here lately, if you weren’t a quick 4 you could forget about it. It makes you wonder how much further it can go. The bar keeps being raised in every sport, and team roping is no exception. Every time I think it’s gotten as good as it can get, it seems like the bar gets raised again. It makes me wonder what else anybody can come up with to make this event faster. The financial opportunities are at an all-time high, but winning your share of it is harder than ever, too. I’ve roped for a living for 35 years. Times have changed, but there still aren’t any salaries or guarantees so you only earn what you win.

If you think you’re going to make it in this sport you have to do what it takes to keep up. And that’s not easy to do. I’ve gone at it the last 35 years trying to be a smart roper. But how do you be a smart roper and take high-percentage shots and be 4 seconds all the time? There are guys who are doing it, and not only at the rodeos. The jackpots are crazy, insane tough, too.

Team roping today is almost like baseball for Babe Ruth. You have to point over the fence and try to hit a home run every time. Father time may have caught up with me, but I’m just sitting here thinking, “Wow. Team roping has gotten so tough.”

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On the flip side, there is so much financial opportunity nowadays that it’s worth working hard to capitalize at the big rodeos and big ropings. The NFR (Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Polaris RANGER) puts up $10 million now. It’s a great time to be young, but it’s also a tough time to be young.

Roping for a living these days is like being a prize fighter. You have to get in the ring, you have to get knocked around and you have to get knocked out. Then you have to get up and go back to your corner, look at the tape, see where you’re making your mistakes and what your opponent’s doing to make it work, then try again.

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As fast as it’s gotten everywhere, it about seems to me like we’re at the point under the current conditions where it can’t get much faster. They might have to consider changing the conditions, like letting the score out further or having stronger steers that are harder to catch. As it is, the team roping times are faster than the bulldogging times sometimes. That’s crazy. How can you head and heel a steer faster than a guy can throw one down?

Well, you young bucks, good luck. It’s been the greatest thing ever to do what I love for a living all these years. But to see it evolve as it has just blows my mind. It’s great watching, but it’s obviously harder than it looks. It’s hard for me to fathom how the players can keep raising the bar. It’s just a numbers game. More guys rope good, the steers are slow and roped out, and there are so many teams that somebody’s going to connect crazy fast. There was more room for domination in my era. It looks to me like it’s going to be hard for anyone to dominate now.

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