Especially if you’re a bull.
Even though no new cases of “Mad Cow” have been documented in fighting bulls — which seems odd, since the whole idea is to get them mad in the first place — Spain’s agricultural ministry insists that an eventual cross-over from cows to bulls to matadors is entirely possible. While some are calling matadors “cowards” for threatening to strike if testing for Mad Cow disease isn’t implemented by the start of bullfighting season in July, others applaud the stance, particularly those within the bovine community, many of whom have started wearing tennis balls on the tips of their horns as a show of support.
What makes this such a volatile situation is the long-standing traditions of bullfighting, which date back to a time when the first matador discovered that, for some reason, wearing a Mickey Mouse hat and a small crimson cape makes bulls REALLY angry.
Since then, even the trappings of a matador — called trajes de luces, which roughly translated means “really tight pants” — have become, like bullfighting itself, an integral part of Spanish tradition.
To help you better understand the sport, here’s a general overview of what happens at a typical fight.
According to the Beginner’s Guide to Bullfighting, six bulls are selected and allocated in pairs to three matadors at noon on the day of the event. This process is conducted by the event’s impresario (promoter) and takes approximately four hours, which allows just enough time for the matador to eventually squeeze into his pants.
When the president of the bullfight signals for the first bull to be released, a brass band begins playing “La Viva Loca” while a team of three assistants enrage the bull by flapping their capes at it and calling it “Geraldo.”
The main reason for this is to see how the animal moves in the ring. The other reason is to allow the matador enough time to change into a fresh pair of trajes de luces after seeing the bull.
Once this has been accomplished, the matador enters the ring with a small crimson cape, a curved sword and a can of Red Bull. It is at this point that he can dedicate the beast to an individual, the audience itself — or his corporate sponsor.
If he performs his task well, the audience waves white handkerchiefs as a sign of approval and affection for the matador; if the bull does well, it waves a small crimson cape and Mickey Mouse hat.
Whichever side you take in this stand-off, given that July and August are the busiest months in Spain’s bullfighting calendar, a strike by matadors could leave millions of fans in search of an alternative to their favorite summer past time — which just goes to show that, no matter how different a culture may appear on the surface, when it comes to the world of professional sports, all fans are used to a certain level of bull.
(You can write to Ned at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)