1. Opinion

Ruth: Florida's running of the fools

When you hear the words Dade City, the elegant, old-world charms of Pamplona, Spain, do not immediately leap to mind.

Pamplona was forever engraved in literary history when Ernest Hemingway wrote about the annual running of the bulls through the city's streets in his 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises.

And ever since, certified morons have been flocking to Spain to see if they can be among the 200 to 300 people who get trampled yearly, or, if they are looking for that special distinction of stupidity, one of the 15 or so who have gotten themselves killed over the decades. Good times, good times.

Memo to the self-destructive: Very, very large bulls have no sense of humor.

Still, people with too much time and not enough sense insist every year on putting themselves in the way of a 2,700-pound, royally annoyed animal with a full head of steam on the narrow streets of Pamplona.

If that isn't a good reason to take up golf, I don't know what is.

Yet if things work out, countless Americans with a death wish who can't afford to get to Spain for their goring will have a wonderful opportunity to risk death or maiming right here in Tampa Bay. And no, we're not talking about Tampa's annual Gasparilla Festival tribute to debauchery, where no liver is safe.

Scheduled for Feb. 1, The Great Bull Run will take place at the Little Everglades Ranch and feature satisfied customers running in terror from highly piqued beasts. Fun for the whole family — if you're the Bumpkins from (with apologies to Papa) William Faulkner's Yoknapatawpha County.

Organizers of the event are anticipating thousands of people will show up in Dade City to plunk down $40 to preregister to be crushed while scampering for their lives and as much as $85 if you wait until the date with the emergency room gets closer.

This probably explains why Saks Fifth Avenue couldn't make it in Tampa.

The Great Bull (don't you think we need one more extra word here) Run is an idea cooked up by Rob Dickens, the chief operating officer for a company called Rugged Maniac, based in (no surprise here) North Carolina.

Dickens acknowledged that putting 1,000 people in the path of six pile-driving ton-plus animals with anger management issues is probably not the safest way to spend an afternoon. "Yeah, it's dangerous," the Irwin "Bag O' Glass" Mainway of extreme sports explained to the Tampa Bay Times' Alex Orlando. "And you know it's dangerous, but that's part of the thrill."

Dickens equated hosting an event where people might die or wind up drooling the rest of their lives with skydiving, bungee jumping or climbing Mount Everest. But each of those challenges, while certainly potentially harmful, also requires some training.

In the case of the Dade City bulls, one need only to be able to out-scamper a half-dozen somewhat dour critters, who by the way, are capable of running a four-minute mile. Uh-oh.

Of course, Dade City's Running of the Fools is some months away. Dickens must secure permits from various Pasco County government agencies and law enforcement. If the organizers plan to serve beer, that too requires some additional permitting. And let's face it, what goes better with being in the middle of 1,000 people trying to avoid being stomped to death by a snorting animal than a few brewskies beforehand? What could possibly go wrong?

Dade City is a pleasant enough place. Its downtown is a quaint assemblage of antiques shops and family eateries. Does the community now want to be known for an annual yahoo-fest of thousands of people plunking down money to be squashed by a literal raging bull?

I could be mistaken. The Dade City running of the silly people could be a huge success, only encouraging Dickens, the Ron Popeil of Puckered Panic, to conjure up other death-defying spectacles.

It wouldn't be long before Rugged Maniacs starts organizing The Taunting of the Sharks, or The Tickling of the Cobras, or perhaps The Swimming With the Piranhas.

All in all, nothing but good clean fun.