Well, as I was saying, the last phase of bullfighting is the most complex and certainly the most perilous for the bullfighter (not to mention for the bull). This is truly where just man and beast confront each other. The word “bullfighting” has always been an unfortunate term in my opinion because there really isn’t a “melee” between the person and the animal at all. You don’t see the toreador with a switchblade in his hand taunting the bull to bring it on, nor will you see him attempt to pin its shoulders to the ground for three seconds. Years, more like centuries ago, that was not the case, but today many unnecessary risks have been removed. After all, bullfighters are celebrities too, and they’re of no good to anyone dead.
By no means do I wish to suggest that the bullfighter is home-free. They get gored, and get gored a lot. Matadors like José Tomás have been perforated so many times that whenever they have a glass of water, the drink pours out of their bodies in all directions. Obviously, that is not true, but many have come to look as if they have been pulled from a grave and sutured by a mad scientist named Dr. Frankenstein. If you don’t believe me, look at what happened to Julio Aparicio a year ago when he lost his footing in a bullfight in the San Isidro Fair in Madrid.
Yes, that’s a horn going in his throat and coming out his mouth. Gross. This photo made several trips around the internet world. It is truly one of the most spine-chilling images in the history of bullfighting. It seems almost the figment of some gore-flick director’s imagination. And yet it was very real. Miraculously less than two weeks later, he was released from the hospital and on the road to recovery, with dreams of returning to the ring again some day.
Still, for all the hoopla about the ever-present dangers of the profession, for all the severe injuries inflicted on these brave individuals, all things considered, death is remarkably elusive. If there hasn’t been a fatality in some 15 years, it is due, in part, to vastly improved medical care at the bull rings and, this is especially worth noting, a hell of a lot of luck. It really baffles the mind sometimes. All it takes is for a horn to go through the heart for even the world’s best surgeons to be rendered useless.
In fact, if you look around, you see that compared to other otherwise innocuous activities, bullfighting could almost be considered safe. Just the other day I read a tragic story about a 13-year-old boy who was killed while playing baseball when a pitch hit his chest just above his heart causing it to stop right there and then. Death was instantaneous, as it usually is. The boy was a victim of what is known as commotio cordis, which is a disruption of the heart beat due to a direct blow over the area. After a little research, it turns out that, though this is a rare physical reaction requiring numurous unfortunate factors to converge at the very some moment, it can and does occur and it does take the life of about two dozen people every year, most of them young boys. In this sense, you could argue that stepping up to the plate at a Little League baseball game is statistically far more life-threatening than standing alone dressed in tights in front of a full-grown menacing bull.
Just a thought.