By Hunter S. Thompson
Page 2 columnist

"SEPPUKU" is defined in my huge leather dictionary as "ceremonial suicide, by ripping open the abdomen with a dagger or knife, formerly practiced in Japan by members of the warrior class, when disgraced or sentenced to death."

That is the word I was looking for when my boys from Kentucky went belly-up and disgraced the whole state by losing ugly in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. It was a terrible shock to every cell in my body. My heart went limp and the air rushed out of my lungs for 20 or 30 seconds when I saw the final score, and I fell sideways into a plate of watermelon. It was like being whacked from behind with a baseball bat.

UAB
AP Photo
The shot that sent Kentucky home and the Good Doctor into a state of shock.

I blacked out momentarily, but the room had already emptied except for two girls who were snickering at me as they backed out the door. I was so swollen with shame that I felt like a Japanese Fugue fish in heat -- and that was when I thought about Seppuku. It was the only honorable way out, so I reached for my gold-handled Samurai sword.

Just then, the telephone rang and I heard the angry voice of my friend Curtis. A chill went through me. He was moaning and jabbering hysterically about his aged mother shooting herself with the heirloom family shotgun.

"She'll be better off dead, anyway," he moaned, "and so will I."

I said nothing about what I was about to do when he called. It seemed like the wrong thing to say at the time, and I didn't want to be blamed for his death.

So I hung up on him and cried for a long time. Then I decided to dress up in a proper costume for the ceremony while I listened, dreamfully, to Dean Martin croon a teenage love song with the lyrics, "He's got you ... I've got your picture, he's got you."

* * * * *

I come from a long line of warriors. I have officially died many times in my life, but never with the proper respect for my ancestors -- so I have never paid much attention to these cowardly quacks who call themselves "doctors of medicine" in this country, and constantly harass me with their medical advice. They are scum.

I am put in mind of this passage from the jacket copy of a book titled, "The Reluctant Surgeon" by John Kobler.

John Hunter was a gruff, unlettered Scotsman whose supreme genius brought medicine out of the Dark Ages and earned him the title of "the founder of scientific surgery." Practicing in 18th-century London, he combined a gift for observation with an astounding originality of thought to become a pioneer in countless fields of science. He has been described as "the most important naturalist between Aristotle and Darwin ... the Shakespeare of medicine ... one of the greatest men the English nation has produced ... "

The Reluctant Surgeon
AP Photo
Wonder if he could've performed a heart transplant for the 'Cats?

Hunter was generations ahead of his time. His work in surgery and urology has only been fully appreciated in recent decades. He and his brother William were the first to trace the lymphatic system. John devised an operation for aneurysms still used today. He performed the first human artificial insemination. A hundred years before Freud, he grasped the psychic factors in disease. And in several respects, he anticipated Darwin.

He was perhaps the first dissector and collector of anatomical specimens in history. This involved him in the murky art of body snatching, but won for his museum such oddities as the skeleton of a man eight-and-a half-feet tall. As a teacher, he had enormous influence, spurring Edward Jenner to his discovery of vaccination, and profoundly affecting the development of medicine and surgery in America through his students, including John Morgan, who established the first medical school here, and Philip Syng Physick, the "Father of American Surgery."

... Boswell appears as one of Hunter's patients, as does the infant Lord Byron (it was Hunter who prescribed the orthopedic shoe that allowed the boy Byron to walk), the painters Joshua Reynolds and Thomas Gainsborough, and Benjamin Franklin. Illustrious company, but none of whom overshadows John Hunter in long-range importance to humanity.

And that was when I decided to chop this damn, rotten, evil CAST off my leg and get rid of it once and for all. I have dragged it around like a death-anchor for lo these last 99 crippling, filthy, painful days, without writing or even talking about it. I am a warrior and I felt ashamed for being so crippled and helpless. I was not in fighting condition, as they say in the killing business, and feeling crippled made me nervous.

There is a morbid Bedouin proverb that says: "As the camel falls to its knees, more knives are drawn."

A proverb is a proverb because it speaks to a permanent truth ... Which may or may not be exactly how I felt when I was suddenly strapped into a wheelchair with a 40-pound fiberglass cast on my leg that reached from the base of my big toe all the way up to my crotch.

That was more than three months ago, and now I am learning to walk all over again for the second time in one year. Ho ho ho. Try that some day when you get bored enough to need a truly demoralizing experience. Snapping your tibia and your fibula like two broken stalks of celery will do it every time.

The painful truth about Kentucky's defeat at the hands of UAB is that the Wildcats played like drunkards trapped in a frozen hockey rink. They committed 16 turnovers, three in the last two minutes, and missed three life-or-death shots in the final 12 seconds. They couldn't even get the ball in-bounds, much less take it to the other end of the court and score like the champions they used to be.

Tubby Smith
AP Photo
The committee tabbed Kentucky the team to beat. UAB did just that Sunday night.

It was disgraceful, and Tubby Smith should be run out of Lexington.

Any No. 1 seed that blows a four-point lead in the last two minutes of any game -- and especially in the early-exit stages of the NCAA Tournament -- is a team with a second-rate coach. That is well understood in Kentucky, and Tubby Smith will be fired before Labor Day.

Where he goes after Lexington, I don't care, just as long as it's not in the state of Kentucky. Not after embarrassing the school, the state, his own players and everything Kentucky stands for, by not preparing his team for this Tournament. The team was lazy and slow and careless -- more like a family of obese morons than big-money athletes. It was sickening. I felt humiliated and betrayed by a gang of losers with no pride.

These bums couldn't even advance to the Sweet 16, much less beat a finely coached team from Duke in the Final Four. Coach K would never have allowed such a disgrace to happen. He has known from the start that the price of losing at this level is professional Seppuku.

And so do I. Res Ipsa Loquitur. UAB looks pretty good to me now, but not good enough to win six straight games in this Tournament. I wish them good luck, but Duke still looks like a winner -- but as a gambling fool and a certified loser, I must take a wild risk and double up on Vanderbilt at 15-1. Why Not?

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.




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