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Hey Rube, Page 1

Hunter S. Thompson




  ALSO BY HUNTER S. THOMPSON

  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

  Fear and Loathing in America

  Kingdom of Fear

  SIMON & SCHUSTER PAPERBACKS

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  1230 Avenue of the Americas

  New York, NY 10020

  www.SimonandSchuster.com

  ESPN columns previously appeared on the website ESPN.com.

  Copyright © 2004 by Gonzo International Corp. All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

  “In Memory of W. B. Yeats,” copyright © 1940 and renewed 1968 by W. H. Auden, from Collected Poems by W. H. Auden. Used by permission of Random House, Inc.

  First Simon & Schuster paperback edition 2005

  SIMON & SCHUSTER PAPERBACKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

  DESIGNED BY DANA SLOAN

  Manufactured in the United States of America

  10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  The Library of Congress has catalogued the hardcover edition as follows:

  Thompson, Hunter S.

  Hey Rube / Hunter S. Thompson

  p. cm.

  1. Sports—United States. 2. Newspapers—Sections,

  columns, etc.—Sports. I. Title

  GV583.T56 2004

  796′.0973—dc22

  2004052110

  eISBN-13: 978-1-4391-2691-2

  ISBN-13: 978-0-684-87319-0

  ISBN-10: 0-684-87319-2

  ISBN-13: 978-0-684-87320-6 (Pbk)

  ISBN-10: 0-684-87320-6 (Pbk)

  To George Plimpton and Warren Zevon, who are no longer with us.… And to David Rosenthal, who is.

  Now it is not good for the Christian’s health to hustle the Aryan brown,

  For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles and he weareth the Christian down;

  And the end of the fight is a tombstone white with the name of the late deceased,

  And the epitaph drear: “A Fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.”

  —Rudyard Kipling, “The Naulahka”

  Those who have had a chance for four years and could not produce peace should not be given another chance.

  —Richard Nixon, October 9, 1968

  Contents

  Foreword / by John A. Walsh, Senior Vice President and Executive Editor of ESPN.com

  Author’s Note

  PART ONE

  Chapter 1: The New Dumb

  Chapter 2: The Fix Is In

  Chapter 3: Welcome to Generation

  Chapter 4: The White House Disease

  Chapter 5: Get Ready for Sainthood

  Chapter 6: The Xmas Vice

  Chapter 7: The Curse of Musburger

  Chapter 8: Cruel Twist in the Coaching Business

  Chapter 9: The NFL Sucks…Another League Bites the Dust … Rich Kids with Weapons

  Chapter 10: Slow Week for Sports, in Politics

  Chapter 11: Lynching in Denver

  Chapter 12: Mad Cow Disease Comes to the NBA

  Chapter 13: Death in the Afternoon

  Chapter 14: XFL, R.I.P.

  Chapter 15: The Most Horrible Curse in Sports

  Chapter 16: Urgent Warning to Gamblers: Beware the Ides of March

  Chapter 17: I Told You It Was Wrong

  Chapter 18: Where Were You When the Fun Stopped?

  Chapter 19: Running Away with the Circus

  Chapter 20: NBA and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness

  Chapter 21: Bad Craziness at Owl Farm

  Chapter 22: Can the Three Stooges Save the NBA?

  Chapter 23: Kentucky Derby and Other Gambling Disasters

  Chapter 24: Quitting the Gambling Business While I’m Ahead

  Chapter 25: The Most Dangerous Sport of All

  Chapter 26: Patrick Roy and Warren Zevon—Two Champions at the Top of Their Game

  Chapter 27: Wild Days at the Sports Desk

  Chapter 28: Eerie Lull Rattles the Sports World

  Chapter 29: Olympic Disaster in Utah

  Chapter 30: The Wisdom of Nashville and the Violence of Jack Nicholson—A Football Story

  PART TWO

  Chapter 31: Fear and Loathing in America: Beginning of the End

  Chapter 32: When War Drums Roll

  Chapter 33: Will Sports Survive Bin Laden?

  Chapter 34: Stadium Living in the New Age

  Chapter 35: Football in the Kingdom of Fear

  Chapter 36: Foul Balls and Rash Predictions

  Chapter 37: Getting Weird for Devil’s Day

  Chapter 38: The Yankees Are Dead: Long Live the Yankees

  Chapter 39: The Man Who Loved Sport Too Much

  Chapter 40: The Shame of Indianapolis

  Chapter 41: Failure, Football, & Violence on the Strip

  Chapter 42: Madness in Honolulu

  Chapter 43: Break Up the Ravens

  Chapter 44: Pay Up or Get Whipped

  Chapter 45: Getting Braced for the Last Football Game

  Chapter 46: Sodomized at the Airport: Are Terrorists Seizing Control of the NFL? And Who Let It Happen?

  Chapter 47: Slow Dance in Rap Town

  Chapter 48: Dr. Thompson in Beirut

  Chapter 49: Dr. Thompson Is Back from Beirut

  Chapter 50: The NFL: We Will March on a Road of Bones

  PART THREE

  Chapter 51: A Wild & Woolly Tale of Sporting Excess

  Chapter 52: My 49er Habit

  Chapter 53: Don’t Let This Happen to You

  Chapter 54: Grantland Rice Haunts the Honolulu Marathon

  Chapter 55: Honolulu Marathon Is Decadent and Depraved

  Chapter 56: Public Shame and Private Victory

  Chapter 57: Shooting the Moon with the Raiders

  Chapter 58: The Last Super Bowl

  Chapter 59: Extreme Behavior in Aspen

  Chapter 60: Billionaire Swine and Kiwi Catastrophe

  Chapter 61: Fleeced by Ed Bradley

  Chapter 62: Love Blooms in the Rockies

  Chapter 63: Love in a Time of War

  Chapter 64: A Sad Week in America

  Chapter 65: The Doomed Prefer Oakland

  Chapter 66: The Tragedy of Naked Bowling

  Chapter 67: West Coast Offense

  Chapter 68: Great Fleecing in Woody Creek: Lakers Staggered in Series Opener

  Chapter 69: The Sport of Kings

  Chapter 70: The Good, the Bad, and the Vicious

  Chapter 71: Rewarding the Ugly

  Chapter 72: Killed by a Speeding Hummer

  Chapter 73: When in Doubt, Bet the Dark Side

  Chapter 74: Welcome to the Big Darkness

  Chapter 75: The Nation’s Capital

  Chapter 76: Speed Kills and Other Football Wisdom

  Chapter 77: Nightmare in Hollywood

  Chapter 78: Speed Will Rule the NFL This Year

  Chapter 79: The Bush League

  Chapter 80: Boxing Sucks

  Chapter 81: George Plimpton

  Chapter 82: Victory

  Chapter 83: Wisdom

  Honor Roll

  Foreword

  The first time I met Hunter was in October of 1973 at the California Street mansion home of Jann Wenner, founder of Rolling Stone magazine, where I had just been hired to be the managing editor. Jann accurately predicted that Hunter and I would bond over sports. (It was Jann’s last accurate prediction.) As I walked into the living r
oom, Hunter was watching the Monday Night Football Buffalo Bills–Pittsburgh Steelers game. Within fifteen minutes we had devised a game of chance: Hunter would have the left side of the screen, the light jerseys, the even-numbered uniforms, and all the Caucasian players. I would have the right side of the TV, the dark jerseys, the odd numbers, and all of the non-Caucasian combatants. Add up the points scored for each of our “teams,” and the loser would buy the winner a bottle of Wild Turkey, Hunter’s preferred adult beverage of the day.

  What we had not foreseen was that the critical points that would determine the outcome would be scored by Franco Harris. And, of course, the deciding factor was whether Franco Harris, the son of a mixed marriage, was on the Caucasian or non-Caucasian side of the ledger. Into the room walked George Plimpton, world renowned sports author (Paper Lion), world-class intellectual (Harvard), and diplomat extraordinaire. Hunter and I quickly agreed that George would make the ideal arbiter. No sooner had we posed the issue when George, as only George could, poured forth his ruling with the expertise of Hippocrates and the authority of a Supreme Court justice. Did we get an earful of recessive genes! Hunter listened attentively and watched with bemused amazement until George declared Hunter the loser, at which time Hunter furiously grabbed a full bottle of the host’s very own Wild Turkey, guzzled half of it, stole the keys to the host’s white Mercedes Benz, and pulled out of the driveway, foot to the accelerator, waving the Wild Turkey out the window and screaming, “Vermin, scum, rat eaters!” Why do sports and HST go together? Because Hunter likes to lose his temper over grave matters.

  Dr. Hunter “Sports” Thompson. That’s how I have come to know the Prince of Gonzo. Competitor, sportsman, strategist, champion of the teams that win him wagers. Hunter? Sports?—Why?

  Because sports brings out his giddiness. The trademark “Ho, hos,” the whimsical smile, and the worship of mischief are all elements of HST’s literary persona that easily and conveniently attach themselves to sports.

  Because Hunter’s ultimate goal is to be named the Prime Minister of Fun, and sports is his Proud Highway.

  Because Hunter loves anarchy, domination, power, wealth, dynasty, revenge, and failure. Mood swings are a staple of the Gonzo lifestyle.

  Because sports is full of rebels and rascals, Hunter’s closest friends.

  Because Hunter is genetically predisposed toward uncertainty, adventure, and risk.

  And because sports, for Hunter, are a serious subject to be enjoyed to the fullest and consumed in copious amounts.

  Hunter visited Washington in the fall of 1978 and invited me to a Sunday football feast at his Hyatt Regency hotel suite. Before the first kickoff, Hunter, the always gracious host, ordered room service for the game. “I’d like a fifth of Chivas Regal, three six-packs of Heineken, a half dozen bloody marys, and everything chocolate on the menu.” I was the only other person in the room and informed my host that I was on a diet that precluded sweets and alcohol. One hour later, two waiters delivered the order with looks only cameras could capture. The chocolate tray included a German chocolate cake, a vat of Breyer’s chocolate ice cream, a half dozen chocolate cupcakes, a plate of chocolate cookies, one chocolate sundae, two chocolate cream pies, and a buffet of various chocolate pastries. And of course, the requisite postprandial chocolate bonbons.

  Hunter was ready for some football.

  Normally, Hunter ingests his sports from his command post on an elevated swivel chair in his Owl Farm kitchen next to the leather refrigerator. From his catbird seat, Hunter operates the satellite dish, monitors the phone lines, and directs his domestic staff. Throughout the evening, he regularly hurls creative epithets at the TV screen and digests whatever nourishment gets him through the night to sunrise.

  But the real showpiece at action central is the conversation—in the room and on the phone—a steady stream that flows seamlessly from sports to politics and politics to sports. The tone, on the other hand, scrambles the brain pan.

  Rage—a Dubya press conference response; the missed layup.

  Passion—making the case for John Kerry; stomping on Al Davis.

  Calm reserve—the facts about development on Woody Creek political environmental issues; breaking news about Shaq’s ailing knees before a critical game.

  Doom—Bin Laden’s strategy; the fear of another fixed game—remember B.C. in Good Fellas.

  Advocacy—Free Lisl Auman; cheer the beloved Indianapolis Colts to the Super Bowl.

  Woofing—Pity the fools who expose their political leanings or favorite teams. They quickly become victims of the Gonzo stiletto.

  Elation—Hunter toasts to the victors, thumps his desk at the mention of great wisdom, cheers for the winning wagers, justice, and fun. Good times.

  The conversation cruises comfortably in tone and topic until it’s time for Hunter to go to work writing, sometime around two or three in the morning. The voices of sports and politics come from Nicholson, Douglas Brinkley, Depp, Del Toro, Irsay, the Sheriff, Ed Bradley, et al. The price of entry is knowledge, expertise, and outrageous thinking. Enter at your own risk. And it’s not an either/or proposition. It’s politics and sports. Hunter will remind you that boxing is a sport and can be a factor in political strategy.

  In 1983, as March Madness was about to begin, Hunter found himself in Manhattan again among “the fools and the brackets” as part of the emerging culture of “the sports dumb.” The NCAA tournament was moving along, and Pepperdine was putting the finishing touches on a middle-of-the-road North Carolina State team late on a Friday night. When North Carolina State started fouling to catch up, Hunter quietly murmured, “I’ll take North Carolina State to win the whole damn thing. I like Valvano. He seems to know what he’s doing.”

  So it was a natural in 2000 when espn.com launched an adventurous initiative called Page 2 that I called Hunter and asked if he wanted to take a page from his past and become a sports writer again. Thus began his weekly “Hey, Rube” column that challenged many conventions known to sports, the Internet, writing, and editing.

  —John A. Walsh

  HEADQUARTERS AIR PROVING GROUND COMMAND

  UNITED STATES AIR FORCE

  Eglin Air Force Bose, Florida

  ADDRESS REPLY

  ATTN. BASE STAFF PERSONNEL OFFICER

  Personnel Report: A/2C Hunter S. Thompson

  23 Aug 57

  1. A/2C Hunter S. Thompson, AF 15546879, has worked in the Internal Information Section, OIS, for nearly one year. During this time he has done some outstanding sports writing, but ignored APGC-OIS policy.

  2. Airman Thompson possesses outstanding talent in writing. He has imagination, good use of English, and can express his thoughts in a manner that makes interesting reading.

  3. However, in spite of frequent counseling with explanation of the reasons for the conservative policy on an AF Base newspaper. Airman Thompson has consistently written controversial material and leans so strongly to critical editorializing that it was necessary to require that all his writing be thoroughly edited before release.

  4. The first article that called attention to the writing noted above was a story very critical of Base Special Services. Others that were stopped before they were printed were pieces that severely criticized Arthur Godfrey and Ted Williams that Airman Thompson extracted from national media releases and added his flair for the inuendo and exaggeration.

  5. This Airman has indicated poor judgement from other standpoints by releasing Air Force information to the Playground News himself, with no consideration for other papers in the area, or the fact that only official releases, carefully censored by competent OIS staff members, are allowed.

  6. In summary, this Airman, although talented, will not be guided by policy or personal advice and guidance. Sometimes his rebel and superior attitude seems to rub off on other airmen staff members. He has little consideration for military bearing or dress and seems to dislike the service and want out as soon as possible.

  7. Consequently, it is reques
ted that Airman Thompson be assigned to other duties immediately, and it is recommended that he be earnestly considered under the early release program.

  8. It is also requested that Airman Thompson be officially advised that he is to do no writing of any kind for internal or external publication unless such writing is edited by the OIS staff, and that he is not to accept outside employment with any of the local media.

  W.S. EVANS, Colonel, USAF

  Chief, Office of Information

  Services

  Author’s Note

  It is no accident that this column is titled Hey, Rube. That is what’s called my “Standing Head” in the arcane jargon of Journalism, and it will not change anytime soon. “Hey, Rube” is an old-timey phrase, coined in the merciless culture of the Traveling Carnival gangs that roamed from town to town in the early 20th century. Every stop on the circuit was just another chance to fleece another crowd of free-spending Rubes—Suckers, Hicks, Yokels, Johns, Fish, Marks, Bums, Losers, Day traders in Portland, fools who buy diamonds from gypsies, and anyone over the age of nine in this country who still believes in his heart that all cops are honest and would never lie in a courtroom.

  These people are everywhere. They are Legion, soon to be a majority, and 10,000 more are being born every day. It was P. T. Barnum, the Circus man, who explained the real secret of his vast commercial success by repeating his now-famous motto, “There’s a sucker born every minute,” in this country, and his job was to keep them amused. Which he did—with a zeal that has never been equaled in the history of American show business.

  Barnum knew what people wanted: Freaks, Clowns, and Wild Animals. The Barnum & Bailey Circus came to town only once a year, and those days were marked as sacred holidays on the John Deere calendars of every Rube in America.…. Those dates were Special; many schools closed when the Circus came to town, and not every student returned when the public frenzy was over. “Running away with the Circus” was the dream of every schoolboy and the nightmare of every mother with a bored and beautiful daughter.

  Pearl Harbor was 60 years ago, before we had TV and computers to keep us totally informed. When half the U.S. Navy was destroyed by Japanese bombs, at least we knew who did it and where they lived, and that news was spread all over the world in a matter of minutes, with eyewitness accounts and photos of burning battleships.