On a vacation trip to Spain in the 1920s, Hemingway became fascinated by the running of the bulls at the annual Festival of San Fermin in Pamplona - where participants try to stay ahead of the massively horned, two-ton creatures running wildly through narrow cobblestone streets seeking to gore any human being in their path. Hemingway included those bull-running adventures in The Sun Also Rises, his first, and perhaps most brilliant, novel.
It is, maybe, a similar sense of adventurousness that makes Jason Babin such a good football player. The Eagles defensive end does play a little as if his hair were on fire - he is a quick-twitch muscle covered in tribal tats blasting off starting blocks, a hard-from-the-outside rushing lineman who, much like a heat-seeking missile, zones in on a scoped-out target: the quarterback. Then again, maybe Babin seeks adventure just so he can brag to his buddies.
Last week we learned that Babin missed the Eagles' recent first edition of organized team activities because he had been snowed in on the Alaskan tundra, where he was glacier-climbing and bear-hunting and where he had no connection to the outside world since cell phone reception is, well, kind of nonexistent. See, that's the thrill of it.
Babin also revealed that in early July, just a couple of weeks before the opening of an Eagles training camp that is expected to spawn an NFL championship contender, he is scheduled to run with the bulls in Pamplona.
Babin last week labeled the Festival of San Fermin another punch in his "man card," which I assume is a bucket list for younger men. (I've always thought that folks who needed to punch a "man card" and go to great lengths to publicize that they are doing so are covering up some insecurity, but I digress.)
Perhaps he didn't fully think this thing through. Besides the fact that it really wouldn't be ideal if Babin got hurt running with the bulls a couple of weeks before training camp, it would appear that if he were injured, he would lose the rest of his salary.
The clause dictating the situation is paragraph three of the standard NFL player contract. Under the heading of "Other Activities," it reads: "Without prior written consent of the Club, Player will not play football or engage in activities related to football otherwise than for Club, or engage in any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury."
Now, I'm not the Adjustment Bureau, but it would seem to me that running with the bulls is an activity that may involve a significant risk of personal injury. And I can't imagine that the Eagles would have approved all of the items on Babin's "man card" when he signed that big free-agent contract last year. The other-activities clause permits the Eagles to prevent Babin from running with the bulls. Now that they have notice of the trip, and they have several Eagles on the record expressing their displeasure - including quarterback Michael Vick, who said on Thursday that he would try to talk Babin out of going - I would think the Birds front office would shut this down quickly.
If Babin defies them and gets injured, he would have breached his contract and wouldn't receive another Eagles check.
For the record, the odds are in Babin's favor not to get injured running with the bulls. About 140,000 people run through the streets of Pamplona over a seven-day festival, with only about 40 getting injured per year. But two years ago, a man was gored to death.
Besides that, Babin doesn't seem to have been properly briefed on the event. The Eagles defensive end said the other day that bulls can't take corners on the cobblestone streets as well as human beings and that if he just "stays in the inside lane," he will be fine. I heard from a local lawyer who has run with the bulls more than 50 times that bulls take corners faster than any human can, even the most well-conditioned athlete. This lawyer told me he was only a few feet away from the man who was gored to death. And, oh by the way, Jason, there aren't any cobblestone streets in Pamplona anymore. They have regular pavement now.
Jason Babin is 32 years old and in the prime of his NFL career. My message to him would be this: Dude, I couldn't care less if you have the desire to do a one-legged riverdance on a unicycle in the middle of the street in midtown Manhattan during lunch hour. Do it after your career is over. After football, there will be plenty of time to be Ernest Hemingway.
In the meantime, Babin got me thinking about my own bucket list. Here are the things I want to see before I kick the bucket:
The Flyers win a Stanley Cup. Yo, Ed Snider, does your calendar say it's been 37 years? Mine does.
The day when national sports pundits no longer use the phrase "they threw snowballs at Santa Claus" when referring to Philadelphia fans. It's so tired now.
The Sixers draft a guy with a pick in the teens that turns into something like Dirk Nowitzki rather than Marreese Speights.
During a TV timeout, the jacket part of Jay Wright's suit flares out and we see a Macy's logo on the inside pocket.
The end of the one-day-contract retirement thing. It's ridiculous now (see, Burrell, Pat).
Under Bill O'Brien, Penn State averages 45 points a game with a shotgun offense and a quarterback who looks like Tom Brady, the Nittany Lions beat an SEC team to win their first national championship since 1986, and the Jerry Sandusky scandal becomes an evaporating ugly memory.
Mike Missanelli hosts a show from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays on 97.5-FM The Fanatic.
Contact him at email@example.com.