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At Pamplona, I Root for the Bulls

By Steve Fagin

Publication: theday.com

Published July 18. 2014 4:00AM

Here is what Bill Hillman wrote in the book he recently co-authored about how to survive running with the bulls in Pamplona:

“At its most pure, this is daring street-art, a dance with death and majesty, a chance to come into harmonious contact with one of nature’s fiercest monsters. At its worst, it’s a bunch of panicked tourists falling all over each other in an idiotic stampede.”

Hillman may want to add a new chapter: “How I Wound Up Humiliated and Hospitalized While Participating in One of the World’s Stupidest and Most Repugnant Traditions,” after he was gored in the thigh at the annual event and had to undergo emergency surgery.

While I’m not overjoyed that the 32-year-old Chicago man was one of several men injured during the nine-day Spanish festival that ended this week, I don’t have much sympathy for him or the others, either.

I feel much worse about a 1,300 pound bull that on the festival's final day festival gored a 25-year-old Aussie, puncturing his lung and ripping a gash in his thigh. According to News Corp. Australia, the bull was then killed and butchered, and people have been lining up to pay about $6 a pound for a hunk of its steak.

As you must know, we can blame Ernest Hemingway’s 1925 classic, “The Sun Also Rises,” for perpetuating a barbaric ritual that dates back to the 16th century, which only proves that young men haven’t evolved much in 500 years.

In addition to featuring a half-mile mad dash among stampeding bulls on Pamplona’s cobblestone streets, the San Fermin festival also encourages participants to leap from the top of a fountain in the city’s Navarreria Plaza. Almost as many lunatics are injured by this stunt as by bulls, which reminds me of the joke about a redneck’s last words: “Watch this…”

I enjoy a good laugh at least as much as the next person, but have never found the “Jackass” movies or “America’s Funniest Home Videos” episodes where guys get kicked in the crotch particularly amusing.

The Pamplona event is even more repulsive because it glorifies bullfighting, which, despite Hemingway’s attempt to portray it as elegant and manly, joins cockfighting, dog-fighting, bear-baiting and big-game trophy hunting as repulsive blood “sports” that most civilized cultures have outlawed.

Not surprisingly nearly all the “victims” during the running of the bulls and similar death-defying activities suffer from acute testosterone poisoning, which is to say they possess the dreaded Y chromosome.

Really, guys, is this the best you can do?

I did get a chuckle the other day, though, when reading about a recent University of Virginia study in which volunteers who were asked to spend 15 minutes alone in a room doing nothing but sitting and thinking then were given the opportunity to give themselves mild electric shocks.

Only about a quarter of the women elected to self-administer the jolts, compared to a whopping two-thirds of men. One guy shocked himself 191 times.

On that note, Hillman, the gored, disgraced author, said from his hospital bed that he plans to return to Pamplona next year.

Too bad the bull that nailed him won’t have that option.

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