Running away from the bison could be windfall for Utah

Jul 16 2013 - 6:29am

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Today we turn our attention to the world of sports -- specifically, those athletic competitions involving my alma mater, the University of Utah.

Joining the PAC-12 hasn't exactly been a cakewalk for the Salt Lake City-based school. Stepping up to a major athletic conference has resulted in some definite growing pains; playing against high-caliber competition week in and week out means the victories have been fewer and farther between.

And apparently, that trend continues this summer, with Utah athletes taking yet another beating in yet another sport. The final score in this latest competition?

Bulls, 1; Utes, 0.

That's right, a 20-year-old University of Utah student was one of three people gored on Friday at the annual Stupid Is as Stupid Does Festival in Pamplona, Spain.

The event, glorified in Ernest Hemingway's "The Sun Also Rises" (the acclaimed sequel to his lesser-known "The Moon Rises"), is more commonly referred to as the Running of the Bulls. Called the "encierros" in Spanish, it comes from the verb "encerrar," meaning "to lock up" -- something that should seriously happen to anyone even remotely considering such a feat.

Don't get me wrong: I'm not advocating a life devoid of risk -- where's the fun in that? But running among a bunch of dangerously unpredictable 1,200-pound animals simply for the sake of some romantic, Hemingway-esque fantasy? That's not adventure, it's Russian roulette. With horns.

Just ask the now-spleenless Patrick Eccles, the Logan man gored on Friday. Or the 35-year-old man from Cleveland, understandably identified only by the initials I.L., who was gored on Saturday and underwent surgery after suffering a "rectal perforation." Oh, yeah. It's going to take a better writer than ol' Ernie himself to put a romantic spin on THAT one.

Of course, this is all coming from a man whose bucket list contains none of the typical items, like skydiving or mountain climbing. Truly, the most adventurous I get is hoping one day to be that annoying guy waving his arms in the background behind the Channel 2 anchorpersons during their 10 p.m. newscast -- preferably while they're doing a story about the idiots whose bucket lists landed them in a Pamplona emergency room.

I must confess, reading about this annual exercise in stupidity, I've often wondered why somebody hasn't tried to up the ante on these types of events.

Like, for instance, how about Australia hosting an annual Swimming With the Great White Sharks Festival? (Or, as the locals would affectionately call it, "chumming.")

And speaking of Down Under, there's always the very real "Running of the Sheep" event in the small New Zealand town of Te Kuiti, wherein up to 2,000 sheep are released down the main drag of a small farming town. Frankly, that one sounds a bit more my speed. I mean, you participate in that one and what's the worst that could happen? You pick up some sort of wicked Berber rug-burn. Or you start counting them and fall asleep.

Where am I going with all of this? Well, I do believe that there is a real economic void to be filled here in the Top of Utah with the idea of a similar festival, featuring tourists running with some sort of indigenous fauna.

Namely ... wait for it ... the Running of the Bison.

What, are you kidding me? Combine the excitement of a bull run with the annual bison roundup out there on Antelope Island and you've got yourself a definite winner. Running with bulls? Sissy stuff. But running with a thundering herd of bison?

Hemingway would be proud.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, msaal@standard.net, or follow him on Twitter at @Saalman.

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