“Church is never out until they stop singing” is a saying that has been popular since the late 1800s. “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over” is a similar saying that has been used in baseball.
Ralph Carpenter, sports information director at Texas Tech University, supposedly invented an expression at a Texas Longhorns football game in 1975—“The rodeo ain’t over till the bull riders ride.” One year later, at a close Texas Tech basketball game against Texas A&M, Carpenter declared, “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings,” and this was recorded in the Dallas (TX) Morning News on March 10, 1976. Sportscaster and San Antonio (TX) Express-News sportswriter Dan Cook used the “opera ain’t over” expression in a television broadcast, in April 25, 1978, before a Washington Bullets-San Antonio Spurs playoff basketball game. Bullets coach Dick Motta heard the broadcast and repeated the “opera ain’t over” expression, which became popular as the Bullets won the 1978 NBA championship.
“The rodeo ain’t over till the bull riders ride” has been only infrequently used, in great contrast to the similar “the opera ain’t over” expression that followed.
10 March 1976, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “A Cakewalk This Time” by Sam Blair, sec. B, pg. 2, col. 2:
Despite his obvious allegiance to the Red Raiders, Texas Tech sports information director Ralph Carpenter was the picture of professional objectivity when the Aggies rallied for a 72-72 tie late in the SWC tournament finals. “Hey, Ralph,” said Bill Morgan, “this Morgan the league information director, is going to be a tight one after all.” [sic] “Right,” said Ralph, “The opera ain’t over until the fat lady sings.”
3 June 1978, Washington (DC) Post, “Signing a Free Agent for a Song” by Nina S. Hyde, pg. B1, col. 4:
One day three years ago, Ralph Carpenter, who was then Texas Tech’s sports information director, declared to the press box contingent in Austin, “The rodeo ain’t over till the bull riders ride.”
Stirred to top that deep insight, San Antonio sports editor Dan Cook countered with, “The opera ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.”
23 February 1986, Hutchinson (KS) News, “A big clue as to who made the fat lady sing” by Lydel Sims (Scripps-Howard News Service), pg. 16, col. 3:
It began, he (Dan Cook—ed.) said, at a Texas Longhorns football game a number of years ago when several sportswriters in the press box were trying to dream up a catchy phrase for a team that was behind with only a short time left to play. One of them offered, “The rodeo ain’t over till the bullriders ride,” and Cook countered with the fat-lady quote.
Much later, in early 1978, Cook used the same expression during a telecast when the San Antonio Spurs were trailing in a basketball series with the Washington Bullets.
New York (NY) Times
By WILLIAM SAFIRE
Published: February 15, 1987
I have long been searching for the origin of ‘’The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings.’’ Coach Dick Motta of the Chicago Bulls, who popularized the phrase in 1978, has been noted here as a possible coiner, but Daniel S. Knight of Philadelphia, who styles himself spokesman for the ‘’Fat Lady Sings Society,’’ cites the Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs: In 1975, Ralph Carpenter, information director of Texas Tech, told a contingent of sportswriters in the Austin press box that ‘’The rodeo ain’t over till the bull riders ride.’’ Dan Cook, a sports editor for The San Antonio Express-News, responded with ‘’The opera ain’t over till the fat lady sings.’’
In searching for the origin of this gem, I came across the simpler and even more frequently cited ‘’It ain’t over till it’s over,’’ which I presume is a shortening (and philosophic extension) of the adage ‘’The ball game isn’t over until the last man is out.’’
Did Yogi Berra actually say that, or was it a concoction of some anonymous attributer? Reached at his Montclair, N.J., home, Mr. Berra acknowledges the coinage: ‘’Yes, I said that. It was during a pennant race for the Mets.’’
The Gigantic Book of Horse Wisdom
Edited by Thomas Meagher
New York, NY: Skyhorse Publishing
The rodeo ain’t over till the bull riders ride.
-- RALPH CARPENTER
6 October 2009, Dauphin (Manitoba) Herald, pg. 19 ad:
“The Rodeo is Not over till the Bull Riders Ride!”
(Ste. Rose Kinsman Rodeo.—ed.)
Darryl Matthews, Sr.
“The rodeo ain’t over till the bull riders ride.”
9:44 PM - 6 Nov 2012
The rodeo isn’t over till the bull riders ride. Ralph Carpenter (1978) http://ow.ly/i/7R0je
12:02 PM - 31 Dec 2014