By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Ernest Hemingway wrote in The Sun Also Rises, “Each time he enters into the terrain of the bull he is in great danger.” The novel was America’s first glimpse into the exotic practice of bull fighting, what some consider art and others consider savagery.
For those not privy to the sport, it is not merely the waving of a red cape that somehow a bull cannot resist attacking, only to repeatedly fail as Looney Tunes would have you believe. It is ritualistic, and it is bloody. A bull involved in la corrida is antagonized by several men—not just one guy dressed like Liberace as American culture has somehow misrepresented it—and stabbed several times by them throughout in an attempt to weaken it, though certainly angering it as well. During the theatrics, a bull ultimately becomes focused on a single target rather than attempting to confront all those around it. This leads to the final showdown where either it or someone may die.
In their loss to the Indiana Pacers Wednesday night 95-90, the Chicago Bulls stepped into the arena wounded. Missing key players like Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and John Lucas III, coupled with a hurting Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, the lance wounds from los picadores showed from the get go.
They were erratic early on, if not wild and confused for the most part. Anger and frustration were evident as the game progressed, and the Bulls appeared seriously weakened in the second half in what showed traces of a late May game more so than a January one. Entertaining as it was, the opponent had control of the situation most of the time, flapping its cape as it pleased, waving its sword, inciting the audience. The bull did not know what to do. There was no single target it seemed with the unusual lineups head coach Tom Thibodeau was forced to employ.
The biggest and maybe most unlikely constant was Ronnie Brewer (20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals), and it was in his tenacity, his imperviousness to the stabs and pricks of the Indiana toreros, and his best game of the season that the Bulls were able to establish some semblance of direction, to focus on that one target as the clock funneled toward the late fourth quarter.
The Bulls made a final charge in the face of death, and were ultimately defeated by an opponent that was just the better team that night. But unlike the regal matadores that Hemingway made famous, the Pacers did not take their victory in stride, did not act like this was their professional duty.
“I will never forget how they celebrated just from winning this game,” said Rose, who led the Bulls with 24 points. “I can’t wait to play them again.”
Joakim Noah echoed Rose’s anger. “You always feel like [expletive] after you lose,” he said.
So the Bulls are angry, as they should be. They not only were upstaged but also watched a team act like a Game 7 was just conquered.
An angry bull might not usually pose too much of a challenge for a bullfighter. An angry yet focused, tactical bull is a different animal, though.
“As soon as you start feeling good about yourself,” Thibodeau said after the loss, “you’re going to get knocked on your ass.”
He was referring to his own team, but that may ironically apply to the Pacers now.
It’s unfair to compare Rose to the great Michael Jordan, as they are very different players in terms of style, body, and other aspects. But one common trait between them that Bulls observers have come to learn in Rose’s brief career is that as an opponent, you do not want to instill a vendetta in either player.
The Pacers made that mistake Wednesday night after the final buzzer sounded. They made Rose, who takes losses perhaps harder than anyone in the league, see the reddest of reds in their jubilation. And this team feeds off of Rose and was reportedly very angry as a whole in the locker room after witnessing the Indiana celebration.
A defeated bull is often killed in the arena or just outside of it. These Chicago Bulls were not killed Wednesday night; instead, they were left wounded, perhaps as much emotionally as physically. And that may be a great thing.
Thibodeau suggested that the team had become comfortable in its recent success. When that happens it often takes an embarrassment to regain the drive to dominate. Thanks, Pacers.
No doubt the other Bulls opponents are thanking the Pacers, too, for yanking their tails and riling them up (have fun Friday night, Milwaukee Bucks). Expect the Bulls to now combine that which is artistic and savage of la corrida.
When a bullfighter starts feeling good about himself, that is when he becomes most vulnerable. It’s certainly not good to be vulnerable around an angry bull. That’s when someone gets gored.
“In bull-fighting they speak of the terrain of the bull and the terrain of the bull-fighter,” wrote Hemingway. “As long as a bull-fighter stays in his own terrain he is comparatively safe.”
Hopefully lucky for the Chicago Bulls, a line was just crossed.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.