September 12, 1997

Ira Pilgrim


My dog Rover was hit by a Pontiac and it was done with such skill and artistry that the spectators awarded the driver both ears and the tail.

Tom Lehrer

I think that courage is something to be admired; both the physical and intellectual variety.

A person who enters a burning building to save someone is clearly doing something that is deserving of admiration. Professional and amateur rescuers are people to whom we are all potentially in debt. They deserve to be respected.

There is, unfortunately, a brand of idiocy where someone puts his life in danger for no purpose other than to show others that he is "brave." He may be admired by fellow numbskulls, but not by me. I have no difficulty distinguishing a hero from a fool.

The sport(?) of bungee jumping, in which someone jumps off of some high object, with his leg attached to a large rubber band is a prime example of misplaced courage. Occasionally, the rubber band breaks and the fellow is either seriously injured or killed. He will, of course, land on his head, which would injure his brains; if he had any to injure.

The second so-called sport is riding bucking horses and horned cattle. Now horseback riding is something that takes skill to do well. At one time it was as necessary a skill as driving a car is today. Cattle roping also was a useful skill. As for those rodeo riders, their only hope is to merely break bones or tear ligaments, rather than die in the act. Like professional boxing, it pays well if you get to the top. Whether it pays enough to compensate for the injuries is questionable. The objective in professional boxing is to produce a brain hemorrhage in one's opponent.

It is peculiar that cock fighting, in which two roosters tear each other apart, and dog fighting, are banned in this country; while bucking bronco riding and prize fighting are not. I guess the lawmakers figured that the dumb roosters and dogs needed someone to protect them, while the dumb cowboys and pugilists are supposedly able to defend themselves. If I had to compare the judgment of a rooster or a pit-bull with a boxer or bronco rider, I would be hard pressed to tell the difference. In one case, the cock or dog has no brains, while the fighter and bronco rider were born with brains, but never learned to use them.

Bronco riding is the American equivalent of bull fighting, the supreme idiocy of Spain and the countries settled by Spaniards. In Pamplona, they have something called the running of the bulls, in which a herd of people try to dodge the horns of a herd of bulls. Occasionally the bulls win. The American teen-age version of this is a game called "chicken", which is played with automobiles.

Former president George Bush jumped out of an airplane with a parachute. The press made a big deal out of it. To think that an ex-president would sort-of risk his life by jumping out of an airplane caused many people to admire him, and it made the evening news. An ex-president really has nothing to do, so why not jump out of an airplane? It would have been braver, and much more impressive if he hadn't used a parachute.

Sometimes people who play these potentially-lethal games, grow up and come to their senses. Often they do not until their bodies are too beaten up to practice their craft. What remains is a pain-filled and pathetic life.

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