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Friday, August 23, 2013
The “bull run” being planned for Petersburg on Saturday is an incredibly stupid idea. Ten years ago, I spent the entire festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, and was able to see the running of the bulls from a different viewpoint each day, from the start to its end in the arena. I interviewed dozens of people who ran, and a couple who were hurt.
Now, Pamplona has had decades and decades of experience in putting on these extravaganzas, while we in the States have had none. Even so, every year in the Pamplona run, people are gored and sometimes killed. Being a student of the game, so to speak, I’d like to offer a few suggestions to the sponsors here in the U.S.
I do this knowing full well that danger is part of the mix, and to make the spectacle completely safe would ruin its appeal. So these suggestions represent a sensible balance.
1. Don’t prohibit alcohol. It would be impossible anyway, since botas (wine skins) are a tradition and excessive boozing will produce an abundance of stubbed toes, skinned knees and maybe a few broken fingers. This alone might be enough to maintain interest.
2. Diapers for the bulls. While I appreciate the sponsors’ sensitivity in planning the run on grass and turf, it is not the cobblestones that cause bull slippage. It is what the bulls leave behind them in their enthusiasm. Eliminate bull poop and you eliminate sliding and falling bulls and, at the same time, huge dry cleaning bills for participants.
3. NASCAR starts. In Pamplona, they release the bulls in batches. Admittedly dumb, it presents a wall of tardy runners as targets of opportunity for the next batch of bulls. My solution: Start ’em all out together. Mix and mingle before the starting rocket goes off. Try a cocktail party atmosphere (with cocktails, of course), a chance to make new interspecies friends, perhaps.
4. Ban runners’ newspapers. It’s a fallacy anyway that a waved newspaper can distract a charging bull and a silly mistake that started the whole fad in the first place. A substantial number of the people actually gored wound up so by, in their terror, whacking a bull on the nose. While it does distract a bull momentarily, it actually produces: a. a bull blinded by tears; b. a disoriented bull; and, c. a very annoyed bull who wants to punish someone very badly.
5. Fix the “horn problem.” I should mention that while having your foot stepped on or even being slammed into the side of a barricade by a ton-and-a-half bull is painful, it is nothing compared to having a blunt horn slice through your groin, into your lower abdomen, destroying your liver, intestines and tickling your lungs. Dare I suggest large rubber balls (I mean bowling ball sized) glued to the horns? Thus, nothing more serious than those male injuries presumed hilarious by women viewing prime time TV.
6. Use “calmer” bulls. In Pamplona, the really dangerous fighting bulls run with a crowd of belled, castrated steers. This enforces the herd mentality, contributing a sense of security and relative calm. Not good enough. Nor are littler bulls. I’d try Thorazine or maybe some kind of rhinoceros tranquilizer. I’d use enough so that during the run, a bull might turn to a runner and mumble, “Hey, Dude, mellow out, it’s a fun run.”
7. Employ “herders.” In Pamplona, they have learned that having very experienced runners mixing with the crowd can solve a myriad of problems. These runners’ job is to keep the bulls moving toward the arena and not hanging back in the crowd causing maiming and mayhem. Thus, while I had originally considered a pre-run seminar for runners to educate them on the finer points of self-defense in the run, I now feel that herders are the solution.
No, not for the bulls, for the runners. The cognoscenti agree that the best position in a run is in the center with the bulls, not off to the side where one could be squished against a wall. The herders’ job, perhaps made easier with cattle prods or other electrical shocking devices, would be to keep the people, not the bulls, running hard and not bunching up. A sluggish runner, feeling a quick blast to the buttocks, would thus have greater incentive to keep up with the pack.
For first-time runners, as an addendum, I’d suggest a second set of underwear.
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