Why I Chose To Run With The Bulls, Again

Bull ay113788345pamplona-spain-e1373278494309Ernest Hemingway wrote in an introduction to Men at War (1942): “Cowardice, as distinguished from panic, is almost always simply a lack of ability to suspend the functioning of the imagination.”

Many of the people who step into the street in Pamplona, Spain, to run with bulls fail to suspend their imaginations. They think about being gored. They think about being gutted by a horn. They fall apart.

I’m just back from my third trip to run with the bulls—the San Fermin festival in Pamplona finishes this week. My first run in 2007 went like this. (I wrote about this and much more in my book The Ultimate Man’s Survival Guide.)

Each of us stood alone in an anxious crowd. There were so many of us filling the narrow street in Pamplona I had to turn my shoulders and push against the other runners to move. We were all wearing white clothes with red sashes and bandanas bought from street vendors in the small city. The veteran runners sashes and bandanas were washed-out red and they had patches sewn on them and shiny pins of bulls and runners clustered over them like Boy Scout bandanas. Most of the people in the street had new and clean red bandanas and sashes.

Morning sunlight was touching the tops of five- and six-story buildings that rise up like walls along the narrow streets in this ancient city built on a plateau in the Pyrenees. At each floor above the first are balconies. These were overloaded with people also dressed in white and red, though the people on them had blood and wine, not fear, in their eyes.

Outside the packed street music was building and falling as marching bands moved down the canyon streets closer, then away twisting with the curving byways back into the city founded by Romans.

The bulls run every morning at 8 a.m. for eight days in a row. You have to get in the street before 7:30 a.m., as that’s when the police close the entrances through the wooden barricades to the narrow streets where the bulls run. You think about when you’ll begin to run. Mostly you stand and wait. Thirty minutes is a long time to ponder riding the horns. It had almost been thirty minutes already.

Each minute loudspeakers hung up and down the street were doing a countdown to the planned stampede. They were giving advice in Spanish, English, and French: “If you are knocked down. Stay down. Don’t stand up in front of a bull….”

Click here to read the rest of my column at Forbes.com.

Happy Birthday Clint Eastwood

1. afistfulofdollarsHe was born on May 31, 1930, the son of Clinton Eastwood Sr., a steelworker and migrant worker who settled in Piedmont, California. Clinton Eastwood Jr. was hardly an instant star, but when he found his stoic style after years of stiff acting in the television hit “Rawhide” (1959-1966), he would give us “the Man with No Name” and Dirty Harry; antiheros who used dialogue more sparingly than they did their revolvers.

In 1951 Eastwood planned to go to Seattle University, but the Army had other plans. They drafted him, as the Korean War was then in full swing. But he never did have to carry an M1 Garand into battle like his character Walt Kowalski did in “Gran Torino” (2008). The Army appointed Eastwood lifeguard and swimming instructor. In the biography Clint: The Life and Legend, Patrick McGilligan wrote that Eastwood avoided being sent to combat by “romancing one of the daughters of a Fort Ord officer….”

After many un-credited parts, “Rawhide” gave Eastwood the time to develop as an actor. By 1963 Eastwood was ready for a bigger opportunity. It came when his co-star on Rawhide, Eric Fleming, turned down a part for a western called “A Fistful of Dollars” that would be directed in a remote region of Spain by the then little unknown Sergio Leone. When asked about the transition from TV western drama to playing the lead in a “A Fistful of Dollars” Eastwood said, “In ‘Rawhide’ I did get awfully tired of playing the conventional white hat. The hero who kisses old ladies and dogs and was kind to everybody. I decided it was time to be an antihero.”

The film started the “spaghetti Western” phenomena with Eastwood’s antihero changing the American image of the Western hero from one with a white hat and altruistic intentions to one with a morally ambiguous foundation and selfish goals.

Eastwood, when asked about playing the Man with No Name character, said “I wanted to play it with an economy of words and create this whole feeling through attitude and movement. It was just the kind of character I had envisioned for a long time, keep to the mystery and allude to what happened in the past. It came about after the frustration of doing ‘Rawhide’ for so long. I felt the less he said, the stronger he became and the more he grew in the imagination of the audience.”

The Man with No Name had a gun, and he was snake fast and deadly with his revolver, but he wasn’t good or bad. He was a new kind of hero for the Western genre. He didn’t have John Wayne’s moral code, he was out for himself, not some greater good. The post-antihero, old-school hero would patriotically go to war and believe, despite the messiness and gross immorality of war, that somehow he was fighting for something good and so he was good. This Man with No Name antihero was apart and above those old values; he was going to get his.

In fact, John Wayne declined a role in “High Plains Drifter” (1973), a film directed by Eastwood, and after the film was released Wayne sent a letter to Eastwood in which he said, “The townspeople did not represent the true spirit of the American pioneer, the spirit that made America great.”

Click here for the rest of my article at Range365.com.

Manny Pacquiao Went Down Swinging

manny-pacquiao-redemptionManny Pacquiao was beaten by Floyd Mayweather Jr’s perfect form. Mayweather won like mongoose does with a cobra. I thought Mayweather had slowed just enough, but he defied age and time and was too cagey for Manny’s fists. Mayweather, as sports star and later legend, will forever overshadow Manny Pacquiao’s fearless assault in the ring. I’ve long thought that a man steps into a ring or field and his reality shrinks to the ropes or lines. His allotted time begins to audibly tick. His life struggle is simplified to the rules of competition. The yards gained or lost, blows struck or received of every play or round are felt as profoundly as life’s jolting tragedies and joyous triumphs. He knows the game, match, or race can make a humble man bold, a sinner a saint. He grits his teeth for the finish line, the goal, the last bell, the checkered flag. All along spectators cheer or jeer and he knows he’ll walk off the field, or be carried off, a loser or a winner; though, either way, he’ll retain his pride only if he fights like the game is a real struggle of life and death. And in the end, if he’s more than just an athlete, he’ll know to leave his blood and ego on the field, because men don’t gloat or point fingers, they walk away tall, content they tried, knowing they’ll strive again on and off the court. I see that in Manny’s charisma and style in the ring. I hope he retires now. I hope they both do. Only a rematch could reignite the flame, though even then it wouldn’t burn as hot.

For more see my article at Forbes.com.

The Vegas Bookies Are Wrong: Here’s How Pacquiao Will Beat Mayweather

11179968_627821794022010_8088605260542944733_nThe day after Buster Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson in 1990, Floyd Patterson said to a bunch of us who trained in his gym in New Paltz, New York: “Some fighters just have their day.”

Now I think Manny Pacquiao is about to have his day. The Las Vegas sportsbooks disagree with me. They have Floyd Mayweather Jr. as the favorite to defeat Manny Pacquiao on Saturday, May 2 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. As this was being written Bovada, for example, had Mayweather as the -225 favorite. They said Pacquiao is a +175 underdog for the bout that will reportedly make well over $100 million. (Meaning that for every $2.25 someone bets on Mayweather to win they can win $1; and for every $1 someone bets on Pacquiao they can win $1.75.)

Okay, Mayweather has a 47-0 record with 26 knockouts, while Pacquiao is 57-5-2 with 38 knockouts. It’s hard to bet against a guy who has never lost.

The bookies also say that this high-money bout isn’t going to be a quick knockout, as Mayweather doesn’t have a knockout punch. They say it’s going the distance—as in 12 rounds. As this was being written the odds from Bovada were 33-100 for the fight to last the full 12 rounds.

Fight promoter Eddie Hearn even Tweeted: “I know he isn’t a huge puncher, but I’ve had a feeling all along Mayweather wins by late stoppage.”

Here’s why my money is still on Pacquiao.

A year ago, Mayweather’s scorecard-win over Marcos Maidana showed Mayweather is slowing. CompuBox, a computerized scoring system, has tracked 38 of Mayweather’s 46 professional fights. According to Compubox, the 221 punches Maidana landed were the most leather any fighter has ever gotten through Mayweather’s defenses. Mayweather still lived by the old boxing adage “hit and don’t get hit” but not as much as in previous fights.

Maidana was busier. He threw 858 punches over the 12 rounds and landed 26 percent of his punches. Mayweather threw 426 punches—half as many as Maidana.

Though Mayweather doesn’t throw as many punches as many other fighters—and not nearly as many as Pacquiao—he is and has always been very accurate. According to CompuBox, Mayweather landed 41 percent of his punches on average over a 10 fight period ending with his win over Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2013, while his opponents hit him with just 17 percent of their punches.

Click here to read the rest of the analysis at Forbes.com.

Are Men Really Urban Monsters?

1024px-Times_Square_0210Last month The New York Times ran a story with photos of men caught “manspreading.” Manspreading is defined as man who sits on a public bus, subway or park bench with his legs splayed open. Some men who do this take two seats on crowded public transportation. The Times said, “It is the bane of many female subway riders. It is a scourge tracked on blogs and on Twitter.”

There is also “mansplaining,” a term UrbanDictionary.com defines as: “delighting in condescending, inaccurate explanations delivered with rock solid confidence of rightness and that slimy certainty that of course he is right, because he is the man in this conversation.”

Now TheAtlantic.com tells us about “manslamming,” a term coined to describe men who don’t step out of other peoples’ way (especially women) on crowded sidewalks.

Some call these actions “microagressions,” a form of unintended discrimination that has the same effect as conscious, intended discrimination—in this case, men discriminating against women in what they might soon call: “managressions.”

Perhaps the most heinous microaggression (though it could also be outright aggression) are men who call women “bossy.” This would be a “microagression” if the man doesn’t think too deeply (being a man) about how aggressive a woman might perceive this label, but it would be clear aggression if he did.

Hmm, are the people coining and using these new words tacitly agreeing to the premise that some large percentage of men are guilty of talking down to women, shoving women out of the way on sidewalks, demeaning women by calling them “bossy” and refusing to give women space on crowded public transportation? Might this same logic then lead people to surmise that, by comparison, women much less often spread out over two seats on a bus or subway (or put their bags on the seat next to them), talk down to men (don’t these new words talk down to men?) and commit other microaggressive acts?

Click here for the rest of my column at Forbes.com.

Very Strange Video Goes Viral

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 10.58.11 AMSo an Italian video posted on YouTube has gone viral that shows boys being asked to slap a girl. They won’t do it, of course. Boys aren’t monsters. No matter what some today say about men, boys aren’t natural misogynists. Heather Wilhelm does a good job outlining this in an article at realclearpolitics.com. Wilhelm says, “The video features several adorable, dewy-eyed Italian boys, aged 7 to 11. After a few introductory questions from an off-camera interviewer—and following the dramatic musical flourish of, yes, a harp—each boy is introduced to a girl named Martina, a willowy reed of a preteen with a delicate face, red pouty lips, sparkly braces, and blonde flowing hair. Martina, apparently, is a magical creature, and each boy, in a perfectly charming way, is somewhat enthralled.” But then they are asked to slap her. They don’t. A few touch her face with a sort of awkward caress. They seem embarrassed. This video is a weird byproduct of a very odd belief from some that men by their very nature have an aggressive animalism that needs to be suppressed. Boys surely need to be taught to be mature men, but they are not fiends.

Some Men Are Now “Lumbersexuals” … Really?

lumberjack-treeAn article at The Atlantic by Willa Brown, a doctoral candidate in history at the University of Virginia, says a “crisis in urban masculinity created the lumberjack aesthetic” now making a “comeback.” She says some urban men are growing beards, wearing plaid shirts, jeans and work boots to pretend to be something they’re not and likely don’t even comprehend. She says these effeminate urban men in flannel can be seen sipping lattes at the local Starbucks as they type text messages with their moisturized and un-callused thumbs. She calls these wannabe men a new name coined by Tom Puzak at GearJunkie: “lumbersexuals.”

Puzak writes, “He looks like a man of the woods, but works at The Nerdery, programming for a healthy salary and benefits. His backpack carries a MacBook Air, but looks like it should carry a lumberjack’s axe. He is the Lumbersexual.”

No doubt a few such fake men exist. Many have noted that a lot of urban men seem to have something earthy, and therefore masculine, missing from their metropolitan identities.

Being caught, as they are, in an image-stricken culture, perhaps a few such urban men shop for a new and manlier image as they grow a little facial hair to complete the Paul Bunyan part. They then look in the mirror and see a man. In appearance only, but who can say? Maybe next they’ll pick up a copy of Field & Stream. Maybe they’ll go and catch a fish or shoot their own dinner. If so, in each outdoorsy step along the way, they just might become the masculine men some part of them is seeking.

Okay, maybe that’s a leap too far for many. But maybe they’ll at least read some Raymond Chandler, Jack London, Ernest Hemingway or Robert Ruark as they find other ways to get some dirt under their nails. Maybe they’ll camp out and so have to chop wood for a fire or maybe they’ll start mountain biking, rock climbing or canoeing.

For all Brown knows, maybe a lot of them have done many of those things, but now they’re working in a land of asphalt, concrete and corner coffee shops. Maybe they happen to like what both the urban and rural environs offer different parts of themselves.

The point is Brown is judging from appearance.

Click here to read the rest of my article at Forbes.com.

America’s Oldest Gun Maker Avoids a Political Fire Sale

Christmas has come early in Ilion, New York, site of America’s oldest factory still making its original product—guns. George Kollitides, chairman and CEO of Remington Outdoor Company, Inc., (ROC), a group formerly known as Freedom Group, Inc., sent his employees a memo to let them know they’re buying out unhappy stockholders instead of selling ROC under political duress. No more making guns under the threat of an imminent sale, no more wondering what might happen any moment to this little town living around the beating brick heart of a gun factory since 1816.

Cerberus Capital Management, L.P., ROC’s owner, has been looking for a buyer for the firearm group since December 2012, after a sociopath used a semiautomatic rifle made by Bushmaster, one of ROC’s subsidiaries, to murder students and others at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. The California State Teachers’ Retirement System, which then held 2.4 percent of Freedom Group, threatened Cerberus to sell its gun makers or they’d pull their funds.

ROC, whose many products have been in high demand, hasn’t found a buyer. To end the uncertainty, a group of investors, including Kollitides, decided to buy out the discontented investors. The memo from Kollitides said, “The $175 million loan proceeds will be used to repurchase $150 million of shares from exiting investors, with the remaining $25 million in cash being placed on ROC’s balance sheet, which will be used to grow our business with capital equipment, facility and acquisition investments.”

Of course, this move does not mean ROC still can’t still be sold; it just makes the sale seem less likely.

Teddy Novin, ROC’s public affairs director, confirmed that the memo sent from Kollitides to employees is legit. Kollitides memo also explained that his investment group intends to follow the initial equity move with more transactions to grow and solidify the ROC.

ROC is a diverse company with facilities spread across the U.S., including an ammunition manufacturer in Arkansas—a facility ROC is currently investing $32 million in—and many other facilities. The plant in Ilion, however, has been a focal point for speculation and rumors because of its iconic history and meaning to America’s 100 million gun owners. In the past two years, as gun sales have continued to surge, the Remington Arms factory in Ilion has doubled its workforce from 700 employees to about 1,400 and ROC has invested $20 million in the factory.

The men and women making guns in America’s oldest gun factory in Ilion are members of United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local Union 717. They’re mostly blue collar. They wear jeans and work boots to the factory. Many of their fathers and mothers, grandfathers and grandmothers and generations more before them worked in this factory.

I visited this facility again in October 2013. Located near Utica in Upstate New York, the old brick factory is the beating heart of Ilion and nearby Mohawk.

For the rest of the article click here for my column in Forbes.

Of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday

Were Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp really friends? I wondered and did some research. Original sources show that in the Wild West the line between outlaw and town marshal were sometimes blurry. Such was the case with John Henry “Doc” Holliday and Wyatt Earp. Holliday was born 1851 in Georgia. His mother died of tuberculosis shortly after his 15th birthday. The disease would take other family members and finally Holliday as well. He was educated at the Pennsylvania College of Dental Surgery and practiced for a short time as a dentist. When Holliday was diagnosed with tuberculosis he headed west. He found he had a talent for cards. Perhaps his tuberculosis made him a fatalist, but whatever the reason Doc Holliday wasn’t afraid to fight with guns or knives. He drifted about the West earning a bloody reputation until, in Shanssey’s saloon in Fort Griffin, Texas, he met the only woman who mattered to him: Big Nose Kate, a doctor’s daughter who had become a frontier dance hall woman and prostitute. In the same saloon he soon met Earp.

Earp rode in from Dodge City, Kansas, on the trail of a train robber. They hit it off. Doc even helped Wyatt hunt for the bandit. Doc later rode to Dodge City to play cards with Earp; however, he discovered that Wyatt had gone to a new silver strike in a place called Tombstone, Arizona. Doc followed Earp there. All of the Earp brothers were bound for Tombstone, too. Morgan was coming in from Montana, Wyatt and James from Dodge City, and Virgil from Prescott, Arizona.

When they arrived they found that a gang in Tombstone had things their way. This gang resented the arrival of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday. Old Man Clanton, his sons, Ike, Phin, and Billy, the McLaury brothers (Frank and Tom), Curly Bill Brocius, John Ringo, and more were soon to famously butt heads with the Earp family and Doc Holliday.

Events exploded in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. The gunfight took place at about 3 p.m. on Wednesday October 26, 1881, in Tombstone. On one side was the law—Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holliday. On the other side was gang the Cowboys—Ike Clanton, Billy Claiborne, Billy Clanton, and Tom and Frank McLaury. The shooting lasted about 30 seconds. Ike Clanton and Billy Claiborne ran from the fight unharmed. Billy Clanton and both McLaury brothers were killed.

Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday would later ride together against the Cowboys in what is known as the “Earp Vendetta Ride.” The best movie that follows the complex series of gun battles and personalities is Tombstone (1993) with Kurt Russell as Wyatt and Val Kilmer as Doc; however, no movie has been completely honest about the historical events. But then, a lot of the history is in dispute. What we do know is that for better or worse, Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday had such a profound friendship it passed into legend.

Mr. President, Don’t Pardon Another Turkey

Mr. President, withhold your pardon. It’s time you dined on your Thanksgiving turkey. After all, would the starving pilgrims have pardoned a tom on the first Thanksgiving? Don’t millions of Americans settle around tables each autumn, thank the Lord for providing, and feast on turkey in celebration of the nation’s sacrifices to earn its bounty? Don’t millions of American hunters still kill their own gobblers each year, and thereby celebrate our connection with nature and our heritage? Why are you shirking all this?

It’s time, Mr. President, you broke the precedent, sharpened your axe, took that tom out to the figurative woodshed behind the White House and secured a fresh turkey dinner. Maybe even have a few foreign dignitaries over for the feast. In fact, invite anyone who needs to learn America still means business, such as Mr. Putin perhaps. Have them come along as you sharpen your axe, kill and pluck the night’s main course, and they’ll certainly learn America is still a country of men.

Besides, the precedent of padoning a turkey on Thanksgiving hardly goes back to George Washington—no old George would have carved a new set of teeth for the feast. Though live Thanksgiving turkeys have been presented intermittently to presidents since Abraham Lincoln’s administration, some say the current ceremony dates back to President Harry Truman in 1947; however, according to the Harry S. Truman Library, no records are known to exist that indicate he ever “pardoned” a turkey. President John F. Kennedy, however, is said to have spontaneously spared a turkey on Nov. 19, 1963. The tom was wearing a sign that read, “Good Eatin’ Mr. President.” And Kennedy, the old softy, reportedly said, “Let’s just keep him.”

President Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t so effeminate. Documents in the Eisenhower Presidential Library say he ate the birds presented to him. So there’s your precedent Mr. President. After all, the tom is a commercial turkey and so can’t live on its own. And, come on, do we really need another turkey on the public dole? Instead, let’s put this one to good use.

Eating the turkey would even be an act of mercy. The pardoned birds used to be sent to Virginia’s Frying Pan Park—talk about a hint. However, they’re now thrust, unbeknowest to them, into showbiz. Starting in 2005, the pardoned turkeys have been drafted to serve as public officials at either Disneyland or Disney World where they’ve been honory Grand Marshals of Disney’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Don’t we already have enough turkeys employed as politicians? And don’t we already have enough people living under Disney-inspired fantasies?

Just think what a statement chowing down on the tom would be. With every bite Mr. President, you’d be making all your adversaries swallow their tongues.