|Love in a time of war|
By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist
-- Oscar Wilde
I smiled when Marquette trounced Pittsburgh in the Sweet 16 last week, but my smile soon turned to wax. My bracket selections were murdered in the Regional finals, and I was forced to abandon all hope of victory in the office pool. It was the worst gambling disaster I'd suffered since the Super Bowl. Ho ho -- but so what?
My prevailing mood has taken a drastic turn for the better since my engagement to Anita was first announced in this column only eight days ago. Saturday was our first anniversary, which enabled me to survive the rude shock of Kentucky's shameful collapse against Marquette. Jesus, 14 points. My people should have stayed in bed that day. It was humiliating.
So I will have to go with Marquette in the Final Four, which may or may not be a curse on them. This tournament has turned into a Harvest Festival for underdogs -- sort of like the War in Iraq -- and a long, relentless beating for the book-making business. There is nothing like a sudden rash of underdog victories to raise serious hell among professional gamblers. You bet. Obscure teams like Butler, Marquette, Gonzaga and Wisconsin are not supposed to win monster games in March, not at this level -- and superpowers like Kentucky and Arizona are not supposed to Lose.
Gonzaga did lose, in fact, and so did Wisconsin, but they might as well have won, considering the damage they did. The Zags took mighty Arizona to two overtimes and almost to three, before losing by a whisker and one missed final shot -- but not before draining all the zing out of the top-seeded hotrods from Tuscon. They shot their wad against Gonzaga, then lost to Kansas, which should be favored to seize the national championship in New Orleans this weekend. That Collision boy is a tall walking bitch of a basketball player.
But so is that human wrecking ball, Dwyane Wade from Marquette, who almost single-handedly destroyed Kentucky, which was so weakened and brutalized by it's narrow escape against Wisconsin that they didn't have a chance two days later against that Jesuit gang from Milwaukee -- despite being a bullish 11-point favorite, which I nervously gave and almost immediately regretted, when Kentucky's team-leader and court-quarterback, Keith Bogans, went down with a high ankle sprain after 15 minutes and only five points. Bogans was finished after that, and so was Kentucky. The Great Wall of bluegrass collapsed like cheap plaster. Without Bogans ... needless to say, I took a nasty beating. Mahalo.
On any other day, a tragedy like that would have plunged me into a coma for three or four weeks, or even years, but this time, I was over it in less than 20 hours, and now I can barely remember the score.
Which is not true, alas. I am a Romantic by nature, and a gambler by instinct -- and I can tell you for sure, little Xania, that Losing goes with the territory, in my business. All gamblers lose regularly, but they rarely discuss it in public. Losing is bad for the image, dude. Nobody buys Hot Tips from Losers. Remember that.
This has been a spectacular tournament so far, with a true abundance of wild and shocking games, right from the start. Barn-burners, many overtimes and many desperately close games and staggering, ruinous defeats, most of them tragic in nature.
Failure in the Sweet 16 leaves a permanent scar on the hearts and minds of these innocent, once-magic athletes who suffer it this time of year. It will hurt forever. There is no forgiveness, never. It is a sin to lose in the Big Dance ... and remember that 64 out of the original 65 teams are doomed to failure in the NCAA Tournament, and that only one can succeed. There is only one winner of the National Championship. The rest will be Losers. That is how it works in the U.S.A. -- especially in times of War, and this incredibly mis-managed War on Iraq will not be going away anytime soon. This one is a Tar-baby, sports fans.
It has already shot damaging holes in our national confidence and made dangerous Fools of whoever is running the Pentagon -- not to mention the stunning $1,000,000,000 we are squandering every 24 hours to bomb Iraq back to the stone Age and starve millions of helpless, un-armed, terrorized civilians to death, in the name of some hateful, ill-advised, ill-fated military Crusade on the other side of the world. How long, O lord, how long? We used to be smarter than that.
Indeed, we are truly the sqanderers of what was once the American Dream, and our own dreams, for that matter. In two disastrous years, this Waterhead son of Texas has taken this country from a prosperous nation at peace to a dead-broke nation at War, and that is a very long fall.
How could it happen? you ask -- and I'm damned if I can give you a sane answer in anything close to the average nine-second time of a hard-hitting, high-tech marketing message of today's average sound-byte. Anything over nine seconds is wasted energy, they say in the White House these days.
That is pure chickens---, of course. That gang of born-again geeks wouldn't know a Message from a poison meat-whistle, on the sum of all the ignorant, wrong-headed evidence thus far in this dismal conflict. It is hard to ignore the prima facie dumbness that got us bogged down in this nasty war in the first place. This is not going to be like Daddy's War, old sport. He actually won, and he still got run out of the White House nine months later.
That is the dark silver lining in this blood-spattered cloud we have brought down on ourselves, and it leaves a lot to be desired. It is almost impossibly morbid to brood on how many young Americans will have to come home in bodybags before the great American voter catches on to the fact that it's the same greed-crazed yo-yo who slit the throat of the U.S. economy in the name of Tax Cuts, who is responsible for all the feverish war-mongering gone wrong. The whole thing sucks. It was wrong from the start, and it is getting wronger by the hour. George W. Bush is doomed to the same cruel fate his papa suffered only 10 years ago.
Whoops! Dawn is up in the Rockies, and I am late again for my deadline. The bell is ringing, and I must end this thing at once. My beautiful fiancè is wandering around in a champagne hangover, and I have to put her to bed. I am still hypnotized by the flash and glow of her elegant diamond ring. I have never paid much attention to diamonds, until now, but this one is very different. I am utterly fascinated by it.
Right. I am wildly high on everything I see or touch. We laugh a lot, and we fondle each other constantly, even in front of the Sheriff, who recently got married himself, so he should be familiar with this kind of madness. True Romance is always exhilarating for us addicts, and I like it.
Bang! And that's it, for now. There is no more. Aloha.
Dr. Hunter S. Thompson was born and raised in Louisville, Ky. His books include "Hell's Angels," "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," "Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72," "The Great Shark Hunt," "The Curse of Lono," "Generation of Swine," "Songs of the Doomed," "Screwjack," "Better Than Sex," "The Proud Highway," "The Rum Diary," and "Fear and Loathing in America." His latest book, "Kingdom of Fear," has just been released. A regular contributor to various national and international publications, Thompson now lives in a fortified compound near Aspen, Colo. His column, "Hey, Rube," appears regularly on Page 2.