The Vault: Hunter S. Thompson, Part IV
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:
Years before Los Suns suited up in the 2010 playoffs, Hunter Thompson wondered whether political protest could peacefully coexist with sports. Call him paranoid, but Thompson was on the lookout for fallout from riot police and thought police.
"Extreme behavior in Aspen" (Feb. 3, 2003)
In a matter of hours, just as the X Games were peaking, I was scheduled to make a speech to thousands of cranked-up anti-war protesters who had swarmed into Aspen from all over the state of Colorado to protest the looming war in Iraq and march through the center of town at the same time the X Games were happening. Indeed, it had the look of an action-packed day coming up, and some people even feared violence. ...
What would happen, for instance, if Michael Jordan made a glitzy anti-war commercial for Nike that appeared on nationwide TV about nine times a day? Think about it.
Rare is the sports columnist who can get away with railing against the day's political headlines. But in times when everything seems off-kilter, Thompson was able to draw parallels between the political climate and its dreadful equivalent in the non-partisan world of sports.
"Prepare for the Weirdness" (Nov. 20, 2000)
We have seen Weird Times in this country before, but the year 2000 is beginning to look super weird. This time, there really is nobody flying the plane. ... We are living in dangerously weird times now. Smart people just shrug and admit they're dazed and confused.
If this were the world of sports, it would be like playing a Super Bowl that goes into 19 scoreless Overtimes and never actually Ends. ... or four L.A. Lakers stars being murdered in different places on the same day. Guaranteed Fear and Loathing. Abandon all hope. Prepare for the Weirdness. Get familiar with Cannibalism.
The televised football debacle known as the XFL lasted but one season -- hardly enough time for Thompson to work up much of a lather against it. But he knew the look of terror worn by those who orchestrate a failed experiment when he saw it.
"XFL, R.I.P." (Feb. 21, 2005)
Out of personal loyalty to Jesse Ventura, I tried to watch the XFL "clash" on Saturday, but by halftime my heart was swollen with Hate. It was like watching a Festival of Shame taking place in a blinding rainstorm.
The weird thing about the XFL is that nobody except Vince McMahon was anxious to see it born, and nobody except the cheerleaders will miss it when it's gone. There is no way to explain why it ever happened at all, except that some cluster of corporate thugs in the TV business figured they were in desperate need of a tax writeoff. It was not even good entertainment, much less good football.
Not all of Hunter Thompson's wagering hunches came from the tail-end of a bender. In this case, losing a massive amount of blood from cutting himself on a broken window at the Chateau Marmont led to this rant, which included him correctly predicting that year's Heisman winner.
"A wild & wooly tale of sporting excess" (Oct. 28, 2002)
Try Carson Palmer from USC, who has a bitching arm and a nice habit of lulling a defense to sleep with normal stuff, and then breaking their backs with long weird strikes to the heart. ... Sudden death: WHACK! Right down the middle -- so fast that it catches you flat-footed, two steps behind and stupid.
Miami's hot-rod QB, Ken Dorsey, is truly impressive, and no doubt the favorite, but only as long as Miami keeps winning. Dorsey is fast, strong and scary confident. He is a winner -- just like I would be if I played QB behind that offensive line. That is what makes Miami so daunting. They have the horses. It would be nice to believe in a Miami-Notre Dame finale, but that is probably too much to ask for in these bleak and deadly times.
Greg Hardy is a Page 2 contributor. It's all pop culture all the time at Twitter.com/HardyVision.