The Vault: Hunter S. Thompson, Part V
Since the 1960s, Hunter S. Thompson made his bones by writing about Fear and Loathing when it comes to politics, motorcycle gangs, guns and Las Vegas. So it's really not fair that he was also a top-rate, mad-dog sports columnist, even in the twilight of his fevered career. Here is a sampling from ESPN.com's Page 2 Vault:
This essay on the dynastic fortunes of the Oakland Raiders on the eve of their Super Bowl against the Bucs almost has the feel of what an HST-produced "30 For 30" special on Raider Nation might look like. Working title: "Straight Outta Gonzo."
"The Last Super Bowl" (Jan. 20, 2003)
"How many draft picks did the Raiders get for Jon Gruden?" I wondered aloud. "Many," said a voice from behind me. "They also got enough money to pay off many signing bonuses. Al Davis will rule forever."
Which may be true. The Raiders dynasty is already a fact, whether they win or lose on Sunday, and the dynasty is moving in full harvest mode. Stand back. Prepare to salute and pay tribute ... That is how Davis and his people are seeing it, anyway, and I think I agree with them. This is a serious football team, folks.
Maybe someday the Washington Redskins will do something on the field that would make sports writers praise owner Daniel Snyder's leadership. But given the team's geographic proximity to the D.C. power structure, Thompson imagines a man who is operating the team as a means to a larger end.
"Stadium Living in the New Age" (Oct. 2, 2001)
The Redskins owner has been called many things -- from a treacherous greedhead to a savage jackass -- but he is rarely called a fool. Snyder is a high-rolling businessman in Washington D.C., the crossroads of power and politics in a nation of dangerously frustrated warriors who love football and hunger for personal Security. It is a nervous climate for businessmen: They crave a solution -- and Daniel M. Snyder thinks he has one. All he needs now is a proper market for it.
That is where the Redskins come in. The team itself is a loss leader, a pawn in Snyder's larger scheme -- which is to lure confused rubes into his futuristic football stadium and sell them highly secure space, where they can relax and be entertained in peace and personal comfort for as long as they feel afraid.
Can Hunter watch the Yankees-Diamondbacks World Series in peace with his friends in his Colorado compound? The answer is no.
"The Yankees are Dead; Long Live the Yankees" (Nov. 6, 2001)
That evil warpo from up the road appeared at my door on Sunday night and asked if he could watch Game 7 of the World Series with us. He said he wanted to bet big money on the New York Yankees, because he felt so sorry for them. "They are incredibly brave men," he said "But there is no dishonor in losing to better and braver men."
Whoops, I thought, welcome to the night train. This is the same suspicious pervert I've been watching 24 hours a day for the past month with nothing to show for it -- why is he suddenly knocking on my door and begging to gamble on baseball?
Thompson has offered many a cautionary tale about how his sports gambling can go awry. But when pulling a "Scared Straight" on his readers, there's no better mark to lecture about than Ol' Saint Nick.
"Gambling Fever" (Dec. 25, 2000)
If Santa Claus had a gambling habit, he would have been dead a long time ago. There are a lot of Criminal Psychos between here & the North Pole, and they would show no mercy on a goofy old man who gets loaded one night a year and drives around through strange neighborhoods with a truckload of jewelry & furs & gold Rolexes. What if the Hell's Angels got their hands on him? They would set him on fire & stuff him head-first down a smoking chimney. Which is not much different from how Professional gamblers treat their victims at Xmas time, which also happens to be the end of the football season & the start of Playoff frenzy that will build & grow & throb like a Shark's heart for 33 more days until Super Bowl Sunday.
Yes sir, this is Harvest time for Bookies, and Fleecing time for Rubes. When a gambler looks down on a hotel lobby crowded with whooping football Fans, he sees a flock of bleating Sheep -- dumb beasts, ready for fleecing & slaughtering. It makes him crazy with hunger. He throws back his head & howls like a Jackal in heat.
Greg Hardy is a Page 2 contributor. It's all pop culture all the time at Twitter.com/HardyVision.