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Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Kenny Mayne in awe of bizarre fight

By Kenny Mayne

Our goal in Season 2 of Wider World of Sports was to find unique athletic events around the world that had a deep history. We wanted stories that spoke to the history and culture of the people we were visiting. I give you: bull penis fighting. Don't judge. They've been doing this in Nicaragua for hundreds of years. It all has to do with the Festival of Patron Saints. I am no biblical scholar, but I don't recall seeing any mention of bull penis fighting, not even in the Old Testament. Yet this Nicaraguan tradition continues. We watched in awe as men struck each other wildly with the tendons of bull penises. Then we ate authentic Nicaraguan stew. Then my producer, Matt Doyle, asked where the hospital is. Our guide in Nicaragua steered him away from any emergency-room visits. Those can take hours and hours.

We needed to climb a volcano.

Cerro Negro is the most active volcano in Central America. It could have gone off any minute. But because we didn't think bull penis fighting would be accepted as representative of Nicaraguan sport (even with all that history), we needed to make the climb. It was not easy -- for me.

It was for a group of super fit Canadian girls, whose expressions of pain were reserved only for how many times they had to slow their pace and wait for the old and out of shape to struggle up the hill. Our group of volcano surfers came from all over the world.

There was me. And the Canadian girls. That takes care of North America. But we also had some folks from Israel and the U.K. Our guide was actually from Brooklyn, but his parents were Nicaraguan. Or at least his dad was. He seemed authentic enough. How much more authenticity can one ask for besides the fact we were nearing the top of an active volcano with virtually no monitoring system to warn us of danger? Seemed pretty real to me. Then came the moment of truth: To say we were surfing was an exaggeration. It was a plywood board with linoleum undercoating. Just as they've done for hundreds (or five) years. No one had to hit me with a bull penis. The steep slope was inspiration enough. We were told to use our feet as brakes. Now that I've done it once, I'd use the brakes less often. Not just because my high tops got scuffed.

There was other danger to be found in Nicaragua. Our two bodyguards had to show their weapons one night when we were at a park taking pictures of a sunset. They told us some hooligans had eyes for our camera equipment. The hooligans could have had the camera equipment for all I cared. Just give us back the little digital chip so we could edit our story. But by then, the security guards had pulled out their bull penises.