by Jim Harris

So I was in Spain last week, just having a good time, running with the bulls, when, out of the blue, I got gored! It ruined my whole vacation. I needed 99 stitches. And get this: my insurance didn’t even cover it! Oh well.

All right, I admit it. None of that really happened. I was just trying to get your attention, but the fact remains that every year thousands of people do indeed travel to these bull-running festivals, sometimes at great expense, to careen along narrow streets with terrified animals who are on their way to being slaughtered by men in sequined tights. And not only do these spurious sprinters NOT take performance-enhancing drugs; they drink alcohol. Lots of it.

By way of illustration, if this were an entirely human event, it would be like having a bunch of unarmed drunks harassing a knife-wielding, condemned prisoner as he made his way to the gallows. “Hey, dead man walkin’! Over here! Woo hoo!” And you can bet, if the government allowed that, people would volunteer. There’d be so many applicants they’d have to hold a lottery.

Anyway, these bull-running “festivals” are held in towns and villages all across Spain, Portugal and southern France, the most famous being the seven-day Festival of San Fermines in honor of Saint Fermin in Pamplona, Spain. Every year, it begins with the runners singing a benediction; “We ask Saint Fermin to guide us through the run and give us his blessing.” And every year, dozens of people are injured. Remind me not to pray to Saint Fermin.

Just last week in Pamplona, a 35-year-old American from Cleveland, identified only by the initials “I.L.,” suffered what was described as a “rectal perforation” due to being gored. One can only imagine how uncomfortable that must have been. Here’s hoping that those “crack” surgeons in Spain don’t sew up the wrong “perforation.”

Regarding these unfortunate participants who get pierced, trampled and otherwise deflowered in the process — how can I put this tactfully — they’re nuts, right? Of course they are. And therein lies the great redeeming social value of their misadventure; it brings the rest of us together in abiding disdain for their reckless stupidity. People of all races, religions and political persuasions can read about these poor slobs and say, as one, “What a bunch of boneheads!”

Therefore, I believe we should celebrate them and their testosterone-driven, self-immolating achievements. They should be memorialized by action figures, trading cards and cartoons depicting them flying through the air with the greatest of ease. McDonald’s could put pictures of them on the Happy Meals boxes. Then, no matter how badly we’ve screwed up our own lives, we can always look at them and say, “At least we’re not THAT pathetic!”

Of course there are numerous other pointless dangers in which people wishing to demonstrate great bravado could participate. Skydiving or bungee jumping, perhaps, but those are activities in which you’re not actually expected to get hurt. They don’t have satellite operating rooms or surgeons standing by as they do at the bullrings.

Or, right here in Pennsylvania, you could go to a “hunting ranch” and pay thousands of dollars to shoot a fenced-in buffalo, but there’s not much chance that the buffalo will attack. The only way you could get hurt at one of these places is if you were accidentally shot by Dick Cheney, so it’s not really a machismo-boosting event, even though the customers seem to think it is. If you look at the websites of these “guaranteed kill” establishments, you’ll see pictures of unsmiling idiots posing with dead animals, trying hard to look like Ernest Hemingway but looking more like brain-dead slimeballs.

No, it’s clearly the running-with-the-bulls gang who most blithely risk life and limb so that others around the world may laugh condescendingly and feel good about themselves. For that, we should be truly grateful. Thank you gentlemen, and thank YOU, Saint Fermin.

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