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

Blizzard Be Damned – A Great Day To Enjoy The Outdoors

With blizzard-force winds whipping great clouds of snow across the frozen lake and waist-high drifts piled above 2 feet of still-accumulating powder, the only question was: Snowshoes or cross-country skis?

Kill The North Stonington Mountain Lion! (And Other Phrases I Hope People Never Utter)

Every time there’s a report of a dangerous, predatory animal prowling local woods or waterways I fervently wish that two things don’t happen:

A ‘Frozen’ Moment: Don’t Let It Go

This week’s cold snap has spread a shimmering, silken coating over ponds and lakes throughout the region, creating some of the best conditions for skating in years, so you must get out now and enjoy it because who knows...

Hey, It’s Winter — Deal With It! Embrace The Cold, Snow And Ice

First of all, it’s way too soon to start whining about the cold. Let’s all agree that by March, if we’re still getting hammered by ferocious winds, driving snow and frigid temps, then a little complaining might be in...

Eagles, Seals, Swallows, Mountains, Rapids: You Can Never Have Too Much Fun

The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that people, even — make that especially — hard-core adventurers/endurance athletes tend to set the bar way too high: bike across the country, qualify for the Hawaii...

Brace Yourself For The New Year’s Day Run-Swim

When those uninitiated in the longstanding New Year’s Day tradition of running from Mystic to Fishers Island Sound and leaping into the icy water ask, "How can you stand it? Doesn’t it hurt?" we stoic veterans...

Two's Company, Three Hundred's A Crowd – On The Trail Or On A Sidewalk

While kayaking the 341-mile Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany a few years ago I spotted another paddler a mile or so away headed in my direction. Having encountered only one or two other kayaks nearly a week into what turned out to be an...

Wouldn't It Be Wonderful To Hibernate?

When I pried a rock up with a mattock the other day, rushing to finish a small retaining wall before the ground froze, I inadvertently disturbed a hibernating spotted salamander’s winter home.

Happy Days Are Here Again: Cheap Fuel And Gas-Guzzlers!

Isn’t life great?! Gas is so cheap now I can get rid of my puny, poky, fuel-efficient econobox and get behind the wheel of an auto with plenty of ponies under the hood that any American would be proud to drive, just like the good...

Siri To The Rescue!

"Siri, how much farther to the summit?"

A-hunting We Will Go

Blam! Blam! Blam!

Urban Excursions: Finding Adventure In The Big City

A brisk autumn breeze scattered crimson maple leaves that fluttered from trees lining a pond glittering in the morning sun as my friend Bob Graham and I loped along a narrow path the other morning.

My Friend The Log Splitter: Leaf Blowers Notwithstanding, Not All Machines Are Evil

After my overwhelming victory last year in a rake vs. leafblower contest I hoped I’d heard the last of those infernal, noisy, polluting contraptions — but while out for a run the other day, savoring the fall foliage, a familiar whine as...