Roy Exum: Let’s Run With The Bulls!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

Every year in early July, the “Running of the Bulls” is held in in Pamplona, Spain. For many centuries it went unnoticed, with broadband being what it was back when it all started early in the 14th century, but a couple of books written by masterful Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s, soon made the singular event known around the world.

Much more recently, a wine salesman in New Orleans has devised a way to bring the event to the United States. Last Saturday nearly 20,000 people took part in a raucous “Running of the Bulls” in the French Quarter and, if Chattanooga follows his example, we can quickly and easily raise over … say, $200,000 … for the kids at Children’s Hospital, for instance.

What happens in Pamplona, as Hemingway described in both “The Sun Also Rises” and “Death in the Afternoon,” is at 8 a.m. the bulls destined to “co-star” in the afternoon bullfights race through the streets of the city from the corral to the bull ring. There is quite an air of excitement and, over time, hardy young men began to run ahead of the thundering hooves, be it to prove their bravery or their undying love for some girl.

There are strict rules. You have to be over 18 and must run in the same direction of the bulls, as though that needs to be on the list. A runner cannot entice the animals and no one can be under the influence of “the grape,” as it were. Despite this, every year over 200 people are injured, one of the most famous happening just last week when Bill Hillman, a Chicago boxer-turned-author, was gored badly in the leg. (Hillman had written a book, “How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona,” before this month’s surgery.)

Another “first” also happened in Pamplona this year when some deranged runner thought it would be cool to take a “selfie” of himself just ahead of the snorting herd. Spanish police were not amused and the culprit was fined a cool $4,000. Some 15 people have been killed in the last 100 years and, seriously, the 1,250-pound bulls seem to gore a few every year with their huge horns and faster speed.

About eight years ago New Orleans wine merchant Mickey Hanning, who claims he once ran on the cobblestones of Pamplona, spotted a woman at a Marti Gras festival dressed as a bull. Viola! He got some buddies and they met up with members of the Big Easy Rollergirls, a roller derby team, and told the ladies that if they would dress up like Bulls and don their speedy skates, Mickey and his chums would dress in all white with bright red scarfs and matching belts and they would be the runners.

But, wait, cried the girls, what about the horns? With that Mickey pulled out an oversized plastic whiffle ball bat. Yes, each bull gets a whiffle ball bat to go with their speedier skates and, as they approach runners, they can thwack them at will on their fleeing derrieres. While it does seem to take on a bit of an S&M theme, the girls loved it and once a year a lot of thwacking goes on in the Big Easy.

New Orleans has gone nuts over what is now a highly-anticipated and quite hysterical day of the year. Within five years, thousands were getting up before dawn – or staying up all night – to run down Convention Center Boulevard to Poydras Street and then back up Tchoupitoulas Street with the roller girls thwacking everybody they can catch. Last year there were over 18,000 running in fear of getting thwacked. Runners are allowed to shoot harmless cap pistols at the bulls and everybody has fun. The thwacks are not supposed to hurt but the thwackees admit an over-zealous pop does sting for minute or two.

Today there are over 200 bulls on skates, coming from all over the country, and the pre- and post-parties are legendary. This year a runner dressed in her white nurse’s uniform flashed red panties that had a bull motif! Yes, and two guys in red capes wearing white athletic supporters got thwacked a lot. A mock pope dressed in vestments “blessed” the runners and the bulls alike, and a huge pinata, hanging from a tree, showered the runners with green glitter when a bull thwacked it just right. And the thwacking, wow! Thousands got hit because the roller girls are very fast and compete for the most thwacks delved out.

Unlike Pamplona, everybody can – and overwhelmingly does -- drink due to the city’s liberal open container laws. After all, bull ethics decree drinks should not be spilled so runners carrying beverages don’t get thwacked much. New Orleans Times Picayune writer Doug MacCash reported one girl had some sangria (wine) and was telling other runners it had the same essential electrolytes found in some sports beverages. MacCash also noted, “It was a gallon jug.”

Hanning, the funster who founded the New Orleans event, said he doubts other cities can pull it off. “New Orleanians love to dress up. They love to have a great time, especially if they can dress up and drink before 8 o’clock in the morning; that really makes it work. Of course, in any other city you can’t run in the middle of the street with a gallon of sangria strapped on your back.

“It makes everything perfect in New Orleans to have an event like this, and we are lucky to call it home,” he said.

Don’t you wish we could do something as fun as that? And thwacking would be more fun than the way some of us shoot each other. I’m just saying we already have a roller derby team here and we ought to try thwacking instead.

royexum@aol.com


Members of the Big Easy Rollergirls roller-derby team get ready to be the bulls at the annual "Running With The Bulls" celebration in New Orleans, which was patterned after the annual event in Pamplona, Spain. The girls, on their speedy skates, thwack the fleeing runners as 20,000 race through the historical French Quarter every July.
Members of the Big Easy Rollergirls roller-derby team get ready to be the bulls at the annual "Running With The Bulls" celebration in New Orleans, which was patterned after the annual event in Pamplona, Spain. The girls, on their speedy skates, thwack the fleeing runners as 20,000 race through the historical French Quarter every July.


How Is Corker Different Than Trump?

Corker has voted with Trump 90 percent of the time. It's difficult to see how Corker will play the maverick card with a straight face, but he'll try and succeed with those who believe politicians regardless of the facts.   Though it does give one pause. If Trump hadn't been called out on so many positions, does anyone believe Corker would be grandstanding now? What's ... (click for more)

Send Your Opinions To Chattanoogan.com; Include Your Full Name, Address, Phone Number For Verification

We welcome your opinions at Chattanoogan.com. Email to  news@chattanoogan.com . We require your real first and last name and contact information. This includes your home address and phone number. We do not post the contact information, but need it for verification. There is no word limit, but if your article is too long you may lose your reader. Please focus more ... (click for more)

City Seeks To Be Removed As Trustee Of Confederate Cemetery

Mayor Andy Berke on Friday said he has asked City Attorney Wade Hinton, on behalf of the city of Chattanooga, to file the necessary paperwork "to confirm the city is no longer listed as a trustee of a Confederate Cemetery on East Third Street." Mayor Berke said, “Our action today makes it clear that the city of Chattanooga condemns white supremacy in every way, shape and ... (click for more)

Judy Kay Peer, 69, Killed When Train Hits Her Car At Hamill Road Crossing In Hixson

Judy Kay Peer, 69, was killed on Friday night when a train struck her car in Hixson on Friday night. Ms. Peer, a Hixson resident, was driving a 2015 Hyundai Sonata. Police said she  was traveling west on Hamill Road and had stopped at the railroad crossing. The gates were extended with flashing lights and a sounding bell. A train that was traveling northbound on ... (click for more)

Ty Boeck Scores Three TDs As Soddy Daisy Wins 35-32

Justin Barnes had a tough time wiping the smile off of his face late Friday night at Soddy Daisy’s Robert Talaska Field. His Trojans had just picked up a 35-32 victory over arch-rival Red Bank in a non-district game, but he’s been involved in three of these games as a player and now five as a coach.  He won all three as Red Bank’s quarterback before graduating in 1999 and ... (click for more)

Defending Champ Farragut Clips Bears 27-21 In OT

CLEVELAND, Tenn. – Farragut has one of the nation’s top-rated senior tight ends in the country and the Admirals weren’t shy about utilizing their primary offensive weapon against Bradley Central on Friday night at Bear Stadium. Jacob Warren, the super-talented 6-foot-6, 226-pound receiver caught four touchdown passes that included the game-winner in the Admirals’ 27-21 overtime ... (click for more)