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Charlie Daniels recalled as one of NFR’s biggest supporters

The Devil Went Down to Georgia, for a fiddlin’ contest. Except, of course, when the big rodeo was in Las Vegas, when his musical antagonist Charlie Daniels went down to the Thomas & Mack Center instead.

Daniels was perhaps best known for writing and playing mean fiddle on the 1979 crossover hit song “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” When he died this week at age 83, his passion for the National Finals Rodeo also was recalled.

A few years back when organizers were hoping to add pizzazz to the rodeo’s pre-performance show, they asked Daniels to play the fiddle. He wound up writing an entire song about the NFR called “It Don’t Get No Better Than That.”

“I’m pretty hip to what’s going on in the arena; I’m pretty into what happens,” he said during a 2015 interview with the Review-Journal about his knowledge of pro rodeo and its performers. “During the NFR, there is an atmosphere in Vegas that doesn’t exist any other time of the year. It’s a big old friendly town.”

Las Vegas Events president and music enthusiast Pat Christenson, a fan of Daniels long before getting to know him, said the same could be said of the leader of the Charlie Daniels Band.

“I remember a concert he did at Milwaukee Summerfest on the lakefront,” said Christenson, a former NCAA wrestling champ at the University of Wisconsin. “Fireworks went off over the lake as he was playing.”

Maybe it was part of the show. Maybe Charlie just played long.

“It’s really a symbolic memory for me because Charlie was so patriotic, ” said Christenson, who spoke fondly of kibitzing with the Country Music Hall of Famer (with contributions to southern rock, bluegrass and multiple Bob Dylan albums) during his many NFR appearances. “He would perform, and then he would stay for the whole rodeo.

“What Hank Williams Jr. was to the NFL, Charlie Daniels was to the National Finals Rodeo.”

Around the horn

— Here’s an official word from Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association CEO George Taylor about December’s NFR proceeding as scheduled amid the coronavirus pandemic, per a Friday telephone conversation:

“At the end of the day, I don’t think there’s a decision if (we have the) NFR. Think for a moment about baseball and basketball and football — they’re not if, they’re more about the hows and wherefores, right? And what they look like. I think that’s where we — both Las Vegas and the PRCA — are at.”

— Remember the Jackie Robinson West Little League team from Chicago that defeated the Las Vegas Mountain Ridge kids in the 2014 U.S. championship game, only to have its title revoked for using ineligible players?

An Illinois Appellate court ruled this week that if Little League Baseball did not follow its own regulations — i.e., verifying the Chicago roster before the tournament instead of disallowing it afterward — a lawsuit seeking reinstatement of the championship could proceed, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.

— After the Merriam-Webster dictionary recognized “irregardless” as an official (albeit nonstandard) word, former UNLV backup quarterback (and longtime ESPN sports personality) Kenny Mayne weighed in on social media.

“Our running backs coach, Roy Shivers, corrected everyone who tried to use this word,” Mayne wrote.

Shivers, a former Utah State star who spent seven years with the NFL’s St. Louis Cardinals and still makes his home in Henderson, is better known for becoming the first Black man to be named general manager of a pro football team when the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders appointed him to that position in 1999.

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— It has (already) come to this: The first baseball COVID-19 All-Star team, comprised of players who have contracted the virus or are suspected carriers, has been compiled. Two of the names on it were Las Vegans Tommy Pham and Joey Gallo, who since have been cleared to resume batting practice.

Here’s the team as it appeared on the Twitter account of Iowa Cubs broadcaster Alex Cohen (who also had the virus but has since tested negative): Salvador Perez (C), Freddie Freeman (1B), DJ LeMahieu (2B), Scott Kingery (SS), Miguel Sano (3B), Gallo (LF), Charlie Blackmon (CF), Pham (RF).

The good news is the team apparently still needs a pitcher.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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