Beware the Banderilla of Fire!

Nursing my torn quadricep, I muse on how bullfighting is most similar to professional basketball. Both can be viewed as the noblest expression of a man’s soul…or as revolting spectacles involving crowds and blood!

In Spain, bullfights grew popular as a more humane entertainment than public executions. During the Inquisition, heretics were said to be “relaxed” into the arms of the Church as they burned at the stake. And with so many present to witness the deaths, who could be held responsible for the executions. Everyone? No one.

But with the Inquisition’s passing, jostling crowds were no longer able to seek entertainment at the auto-da-fé. So a ritualized drama that could replicate that horror became popular: Bull fighting! The manners in which the bull was dispatched were sometimes fantastical. (Take the banderilla of fire, a barbed harpoon loaded with lit firecrackers!)

After the matador gave the bull a final blow, the blood of the bull and whatever it represented (guilt? remorse? desire for ribs?) was symbolically washed off society’s hands. With so many present, who was really responsible for the bull’s death? Everyone. No one.

Now travel with me from the blood-soaked bull-fighting arenas of Barcelona to the blood-soaked pavilion called the Rose Garden here in Portland, Oregon. Our trusty general manager, Kevin Pritchard, may soon be fired for the heresy of choosing the oft-injured Greg Oden instead of Kevin Durant. Should this take place, Pritchard’s fate will be that of the bull: He will be relaxed into the arms of the crowd, a sacrificial symbol of failure.

Pritchard’s theoretical unemployment would thus be externalized as the fault of everyone…and no one. (But at least we will be grateful that the deed was committed without resorting to a banderilla of fire!)
Fotos from the AP, Getty Images, the Sporting News.

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