GREAT FALLS — It was 1987. A 19-year old Flint Rasmussen put on the greasepaint, stepped into the arena in Superior and performed as a rodeo clown for the first time.
At the time, it was just a part-time gig to help with college expenses before he started his career as a high school math and history teacher.
But he kept getting calls from rodeo promoters and committees. His act was a hit. So at age 25, he quit teaching and made rodeo his full time job.
Flash forward to 2023.
Rasmussen is synonymous with rodeo entertainment. Over four decades, he’s reinvented what it means to be a funnyman in the can. He’s an eight-time PRCA Clown of the Year, eight-time Wrangler National Finals barrelman and a seven-time Coors Man in the Can Award winner.
And that was all achieved before 2006 when he signed a deal to be the exclusive entertainer for the Professional Bull Riders organization.
He’s entertained crowds all over the world, from tiny cities in Montana, to the largest rodeo events in the world. The Choteau native has seen and done it all.
But last week through a PBR press release, Rasmussen announced he’s retiring from his on-the-dirt entertainment role and transitioning to the broadcast booth at the end of the PBR Unleash the Beast season.
“It’s not like all of a sudden I got up on Monday morning and said, ‘Man, I’m tired of this.’ It’s been in the works for a while,” Rasmussen told MTN Sports ahead of a PBR stop in Sacramento, Calif. “ I have one knee that started to bother me just from bounding up and down and beating it up for 30 years. I used to get really tired after shows and now I just hurt.”
Pushing through physical pain is easy. But Rasmussen says it’s the emotional and mental part of the job that’s making it harder to perform.
“I’ve had just the most wonderful job in the world and I think people look at it and go, 'He just gets to go out and screw around and be happy and dance every week’ — and, well, yeah I do,” he laughed. “But it wears off. And I’ve been catching myself walking out of a tunnel and there’s a 11,000 people and I need to take a deep breath. And it shouldn’t be like that. It’s supposed to bring me joy, and it still does. But if I can’t give it everything, then it’s probably time for a change.”
The years and the injuries have taken a physical, emotional and mental toll. But to Rasmussen the investment is always worth it. Despite his accomplishments, he’s never considered himself an influential figure in rodeo.
He views his role as that of an ambassador, for a lifestyle that is rapidly vanishing.
“I’m an advocate and spokesperson for our western lifestyle because in traveling to cities across the country, I see how close it is to disappearing,” Rasmussen said. “To many people in the country, the closest it exists is in a fictional TV show where Kevin Costner played the governor. That’s wonderful, but it’s a lie. And I think part of my job going forward is be an advocate in order to preserve the Western lifestyle.”
Make no mistake, Rasmussen's impact is immeasurable. He changed the way fans look at rodeo as a sport and a form of entertainment. And since last week’s announcement, the response from friends, coworkers and even strangers has been overwhelming.
“I got a text message from Kynan Vine, a guy that used to be my boss at the Calgary Stampede,” Rasmussen explained. “He said, ‘You were the start of a new era in your job and you are the end of the era. And in that era, nobody touched you.’ And I took a screenshot of that. I never thought of that. That one meant something to me.”
And the admiration goes both ways.
Rasmussen spent some time joking that he, Tom Brady, J.J. Watt and Ozzy Osbourne all plan a get together to celebrate their respective retirements. But the truth is, Rasmussen didn’t really want the attention from a retirement announcement.
He only decided to make his decision public so that he could bid farewell to the people and places that made him who he is over the next few months.
“I wanted to do it before Sacramento because that event means so much to me. And then of course later in the spring — places like Billings and Napa, Idaho, and Albuquerque," he said. “Just those places I've gone to for so many years, that mean so much to me. I just wanted to do that.”
The PBR is planning a farewell party for Rasmussen at the World Finals in Fort Worth, Texas, in May. After that, he’ll shift into full-time broadcasting mode. But the new role will open up some time in his schedule. And he’s already teasing some appearances in the treasure state.
“Just keep an eye on my schedule because I have some little summer stuff around Montana that I'm committed to,” he said.
We asked Rasmussen to sum up his career, and in true Flint fashion he ended the interview with one more quip.
“Bottom line: my knees hurt.”
Soon he’ll have a little more well-earned time to ice them.