SPORTS

I Hereby Resolve…the Aficionado’s Guide to a Better 2015

January 9, 2015

By Mark Schwarz

bullfight3According to some studies, over 30 percent of New Year’s Resolutions are broken by the end of January, since the season doesn’t begin until spring, at least I won’t fall into that category. None the less, the following goals are fraught with challenges and I fully expect that one or more of us will break them “en un suspiro” when (if?) the season begins again in…May?, June?, July?…

1. I solemnly resolve to NEVER willingly participate in requesting or sanctioning an indulto—no matter the bull, my state of inebriation, or the present company. The indulto —the official pardoning of a bull’s life following a (supposedly) magnificent defense, has become the “selfie” of the taurine world. Time was that an indulto was nearly unheard of; in the entire history of Plaza Mexico—68 years—only 27 indultos have been given; 25%, (8 to be exact, 4 in 2008, 2 in 2012, and 2 this year…so far) have been given in the last 6 years. One famous Spanish ganadero is quoted as saying that “the bull who deserves the indulto should be almost in-toreable” (Loosely translated—unfightable). While that might be an exaggeration, the unprecedented pardoning of bulls worldwide in the last 25 years (including that of “Arrojado” of the Nunez del Cuvillo ranch in Sevilla’s Maestranza ring—the first such event in that great plaza’s 200+ year history)…has become suspiciously routine, a way to avoid the potential messiness of a botched kill and send everyone home happy…except uptight traditionalists who wonder about “indulto-inflation” and the “dumbing down” of the exact quality that makes this animal, and this spectacle, unique in all the world…

2. I solemnly resolve to NEVER willingly participate in the request for any sobreros de regalo (gift bulls)—EVER (EVER!). This may be the single most overused tactic in Mexican toreo (it is rarely used outside of Mexico)—the bad bulls didn’t behave, I couldn’t triumph, so I buy another bull. The crowd gets a free bull, which predisposes it to a ridiculously generous stance toward the matador in question who, not strangely, often ends up cutting an ear, or two, or even a tail. Everyone’s happy again—or not. While certain toreros have been reported to actually select, purchase and ship a specific animal from a favored ranch for just such an occasion, more often is the travesty of an animal left over from last month’s (or last year’s) corrida—disqualified from starring roles in those affairs for some significant reason, now stale, stir crazed from the extended stay, whose only goal is to run, run, run off all that standing around. The spectacle is closer to a horse race than toreo and frequently serves to emphasize the dismal nature of all that has preceded it, leaving the already annoyed crowd even angrier as it now has to forego dinner reservations, pay extra child care, and miss the latest episode of “Casos de la Vida Real” …both indultos and toros de regalo should be outlawed and punishable by 20 years of watching “Ferdinand the Bull” in an endlessly repeating loop…

3. I solemnly resolve to not get my hopes up that Jose Tomas will appear in any ring within 500 miles of the border; or that he will perform more than a dozen times, or in any plaza of any importance. I will repeat “Jose Tomas is NOT God, Jose Tomas is NOT God…” as many times as is necessary to remind myself of his humanity, all the while realizing, to modify an old adage, “what’s good for Jose Tomas, is good for toreo”…

4. I solemnly resolve not confuse trapio with size. Size is, well, size. Big horns, many kilos, bulls measured in hands; think Madrid in San Isidro (or almost any other time of the season; even novilleros face toros in Madrid)—trapio is one of those devilishly hard words to interpret, even when you do see it; trapio is size, yes, but size related to age—a four year old bull will be larger, in most cases, than a three year old bull—but also to particular bloodline characteristics; Mexican bulls tend to be smaller, Spanish bulls larger and “deeper” through the chest and shoulders; even among different ranches there are different characteristics of trapio—animals of the Santa Coloma line tend to run smaller, animals of the Miura, Cebada Gago and Cuadri ranches are larger by nature. But trapio is also seriousness; a function of maturity, which, of course, only comes with age and seasons of sparring with siblings on the ranch, learning how to use nature’s defenses. No amount of steroids or force feeding can replace that. Trapio can be increased or decreased by the type of charge an animal offers; consistent, focused, enthusiastic, purposeful, or not. Finally, trapio is contextual; what passes for trapio in Madrid (to cite an obvious—and extreme—example) would not in Sevilla, or even Bilbao; different fans have different ideas in this regard and that influences trapio, too.

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