At Pamplona, I Root for the Bulls

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.

Reader Comments

MORE BLOGS

In Waning Winter, An 'Above Par' Snow-Kayaking Adventure

With snow cover stubbornly lingering and whitewater kayaking season still more than a month away, what’s an impatient paddler to do? Easy: Snow-kayaking.

What Snow and Ice? The Maple Sap Is Running!

Every year about this time, after having spent the past few months shoveling tons of snow from the driveway, lugging tons of firewood from the shed, getting out of bed dozens of times at 3 a.m. to stoke the stove, hauling countless buckets of...

Finally! A Worthy Snowstorm -- Maybe Even a Bombogenesis!

Just when we winter worshipers had resigned ourselves to another snowless season, and only a day after the temperature climbed ridiculously into the 60s, our prayers have been answered not just by an ordinary storm but by a meteorological...

Animal Tracks in the Snow: They All Tell a Story

If you thought most forest animals hibernated in winter, or at least slept through the night, take a stroll through the woods the morning after a snowfall.

What Does the Fox Say? Yip-yip-yip! Chance Encounters With Creatures Great and Small

While I lugged logs from the woodshed the other morning a yip-yip-yip! pierced the still air. First reaction: Did the neighbors get a dog? No, they were out of town for a few days. Yip-yip-yip!

Ringling Bros., SeaWorld and the Columbus Zoo: Pitfalls of Keeping Elephants, Orcas and Gorillas in Captivity

Large, wild animals belong in the wild, not in a circus, aquarium or zoo – a point reinforced by events involving three prominent, unrelated institutions in the last couple weeks.

Our Debt of Gratitude to President Obama, the Environmentalist-in-Chief

As we prepare to inaugurate a president who has repeatedly called climate change a "hoax," appointed as Environmental Protection Agency administrator an Oklahoma attorney general who is suing that agency, named the CEO of ExxonMobil as secretary...

Call of the Wild: A Clash Over Cellphones in The Great Outdoors

"Yeah, I’m standing on the summit now! … The view is incredible – I can’t believe I’m getting a signal up here!"

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year: Plunging into Icy Fishers Island Sound at the Annual New Year's Day Run-Swim

Look, I’m not going to lie: While some longtime participants in one of southeastern Connecticut’s most enduring, challenging and madcap traditions insist that plunging into icy water after a run on Jan. 1 is a refreshing and...

No Such Thing as Too Much Fun: A Great 2016; Hopes for an Even Better 2017

When it comes to adventurous fun my philosophy has always been too much is never enough, so when I look back at the highlights of the past 12 months, as I typically do when the calendar is about to flip, I can honestly say that 2016 was a...

Hey, Has Anybody Else Noticed It's Gotten A Little Chilly?

I guess I first realized the temperature had dropped a few degrees when I went out for a 5-mile run this morning and noticed that my eyelids had started to freeze shut, which loyal readers will recognize as Level IV on the Fagin Frigidity Index,...

Granola Munchers Vs. Snickers Gobblers: Conflict Over Plans for a Hotel on New Hampshire's Mount Washington

The first time friends and I trudged up New Hampshire’s Mount Washington in winter the frozen peak might as well have been Antarctica – hurricane-force winds and blinding snow battered us, the only climbers that day atop the highest...

How to Build a Stone Wall in 14,863 Easy Steps

I realized long ago that you’re never really finished building a stone wall, even after you’ve dragged and hefted into place what seemed like the final boulder, exhaled mightily and stepped back to admire your work.